“We want to be a place where people feel they can belong”.
That is what Gareth Dore, co-owner of the Cellar Club in Leamington, told me when I visited his bar in the Parade last Friday night.
Gareth and his business partner Ben Philpotts - formerly of the Clarendon - have relaunched and rebranded what was Wilde's in the Parade and have added an innovative twist to breath new life into the Regency basement venue.
I tried the food, which was great and I’ll get to that shortly, but the first thing that stands out about Cellar Club - and the feature which sets it apart from other bars in the town - is the card operated machines for which customers can leave their payment card behind the bar for a tab and then serve themselves clearly-priced measures of wine or a fine selection of craft beers.
In regard to the wines, small samples can be paid for about 60 pence allowing people to test what their favourite is before they buy larger amounts with servings going up to a half glass.
The beers are set up in a similar way with smaller measures available in order for drinkers to savour the flavour of different varieties in the way craft drinkers like to do.
There is, of course, still a staffed bar at the venue serving - for example - craft beers in 330ml cans, pints and an interesting selection of gins and cocktails.
It’s this focus on allowing the customer various options in how they get their drinks that offers something different to the experience of a regular bar - maybe you don’t like the wait to be served?
Maybe you’d like to try a smaller measure of a drink which interests you before you spend more on a larger serving?
Following suit from its alcohol offering Cellar Club also took a different approach to its bar food menu.
As opposed to catering first and foremost to omnivores , the bar launched a menu for vegans straight off the bat and has only recently started serving dishes for meat eaters.
Wanting to try something different to what I’d normally have, I ate the fried plant based fillet burger from the “Don’t Call Me Chicken” section of the vegan menu.
It was tasty and hearty - a veggie burger with bells and whistles.
My partner also enjoyed her Mexicano burger from the “Where’s The Beef” section of the menu.
What also caught my eye and impressed me was that a separate pop-up Vegan Chip Shop menu was being offered for Fridays - again yet more choice and variety.
Cellar Club clearly has many tastes covered when it comes to good food and drink but Gareth was also keen to highlight that - with its giant screens - it’s also a “nice place” to watch sports and somewhere people can have a dance and some fun with DJs playing in the later hours at weekends and weekly quiz nights.
It’s more than just a bar, it’s a club many are going to want to be a part of.