As regular readers of this site will know, Matt and Cat sometimes like to ‘stress-test’ a venue. This usually means visiting during peak times, often with some children in tow. Another high-intensity eating out experience is the works Christmas dinner. Having already had a civilised lunch at Burrs the day before, Cat once again donned her novelty antlers and, with her scrubbed up colleagues, went for an evening meal at the newly opened William Coppin (Lloyds No 1) bar in Newport.
Those of you with memories will know that this latest in the Wetherspoons portfolio used to be another chain pub – the Chicago Rock Cafe. Matt and Cat ate at this previous incarnation as a prelude to trips to Cineworld. However, as the service got more haphazard and the film-watching experience was frequently ruined by fidgety mobile phone-obsessed teens with bladders the size of peas, they gave up going to both venues. But that was then and this is now.
It was a chilly night and, as the doors of the venue were persistently open, Cat sat in her coat for a while, gawping around the place wondering how it had changed. The big screens showing pop videos were still there and the bar was in the same place, although the ladies’ toilet was now a baby-changing room. The place was buzzing with staff, both behind the bar and also preparing a vast table for another in the Christmas party production line. Hoovering and laying out places, employees busied themselves distributing paper napkins and scattering glitter snowflakes. Cat’s party’s table was already waiting for them so, having collected their price-inclusive drinks, they sat down. Although it was early in the evening someone managed to knock a drink over but this was rapidly attended to by the waiting staff. Perhaps this keen level of service (and increasing clumsiness of Cat’s colleagues) was an indication of the night to come?
Three course Christmas dinner including one drink £10.99
As they had pre-ordered, it wasn’t long before the waiting staff arrived bearing starters. With about 20 people to feed, they did well to get the right food to the right person. Cat had pate as her first dish and, although its presentation was a bit flat (like the sightly dehydrated lettuce), it was entirely functional and the pate was nice and fresh – not at all dry around the edges. Others in the party had tomato and basil soup, which was declared to be very nice indeed.
Throughout the meal the lights were incrementally dimmed and the music gradually cranked up, easing the diners into the nightclub experience. The party-goers entertained themselves between courses with gossip, talk of laser hair-removal plus snapping their crackers. Cat’s joy was complete when Jonathan’s cracker joke was revealed to be a blank piece of paper. Presumably a joke so rubbish that the people in China hadn’t even bothered to print it!
Flimsy paper hats perched atop their heads, Cat’s colleagues welcomed the main course. With a non-existent level of foresight, Cat had ordered salmon fillet – which is what she had eaten the day before. The pink fish bore little resemblance to the spectacular fillet at Burrs but then, with the disparity in prices, why should it? Think of the contrast in meals in terms of ‘Finest’ (Burrs) and ‘Value’ (William Coppin). Nonetheless, the fish was moist and the sauce lovely; just the thing for dipping the competently-cooked chips into. Sprout-phobic Cat did not try the “soggy” sprouts and the carrots were a bit bland but presented a nice visual contrast. The turkey dinner was a vast plateful of traditional roast – the trimmings of which included disturbingly toe-sized chipolatas – and those that had this gobbled it up.
By now the venue had transformed into full-blown nightclub, and the final course was eaten to the warblings of Shakira’s ‘She Wolf’. Cat, who had finally shrugged off her winter coat, was agog to see several newly-arrived patrons of William Coppin, confidently shaking their oversized humps in croptops and indecently short bleached-denim minis. She shivered involuntarily and jauntily hummed along to Shakira with her alternative chorus of ‘There’s a she-pig in the Coppin’ whilst chomping on her artery-bothering cranberry and white chocolate cheesecake. This final course was very sweet and infinitely improved with the tempering addition of vanilla ice-cream, kindly donated by Kelly.
With the food eaten, it was hard to avoid the lure of the dance floor and so, as the wise men to the star of Bethlehem, Cat and her colleagues were drawn to the twinkling mirrorball. Throwing shapes like a maiden aunt at a wedding, Cat’s evening was endorsed with a shout-out from DJ Stuart.
The contrast between the sophisticated lunch at Burrs and the mass-market William Coppin was pronounced. But without turning the events into a competition, both had their merits. The William Coppin’s food was excellent value – if a little work-a-day. The staff were very attentive and the atmosphere was brilliant. If the venue could pull it out of the bag during the office party stress-test, it bodes well for less extreme circumstances. Get on down!