It is fair to say that Coventry is one of the provincial cities that provides plenty of entertainment for the local residents but, so far at least, is not a destination that attracts people to it for its night-life. With two universities in the city, during the academic term time the city is generally livelier than when the student population isn’t around. That said there are plenty of good bars, restaurants, theatres and clubs available in the city. Also, within 15 minutes of the city is the NEC arena (National Exhibition Centre Arena) and the touring shows it brings to the West Midlands.
Bars and Pubs:
One of the oldest pubs in Coventry, with a history dating back to the 1620s is the Malt Shovel on Spon End, not far from the Ice rink at the western edge of the city centre. It has three serving areas and you can choose whether to sit in a ‘traditional’ area or something a bit more modern and cosmopolitan. The pub usually has live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, but currently only serves food at lunchtimes and on Sundays. It’s not surprising, given the proximity of Coventry to the town of Rugby, that there is a pub in Coventry with a strong rugby theme. The Gatehouse Tavern, on Hill Street near the Belgrade Theatre, is that pub. Rebuilt from a derelict mill building it features stained glass windows depicting the six nation’s rugby, such is the landlord’s devotion to the sport. Guest beers form the local Church End brewery are available and a large garden area makes it an even more inviting pub to visit in the summer. A member of the Scream chain of pubs, the Aardvark on the Butts in the city centre is very popular with the student population. Describing itself as the perfect place to relax and chill out in funky unpretentious surroundings, ideal for meeting up with friends for a drink or something to eat. However, locals variously describe it as; dirty, a dive, a good pub ruined and other comments that really can’t be printed here! Despite being close to Coventry University on Far Gosford Street the Beer Engine is popular with both students and locals, indeed it is seen just as much as a local pub as one frequented by students. Under new management the pub serves guest beers and has re-installed a piano in the bar for an occasional impromptu sing-along.
A good place to eat in Coventry is Fillini’s Restaurant, in the Ramada Hotel at the Butts at the western edge of the city centre. Whilst you can have an admirable lunch for under £10 a three course evening meal here will cost anything between £30 and £40, excluding drinks. The menu has a mixture of British and Italian cooking, which mainly has a Venetian theme to it. The Coombe Abbey Hotel in Binley to the east of the city centre also has a fine restaurant. The A La Carte menu here follows a more traditional British cuisine, featuring several steaks and fish dishes. The prices here are quite expensive, budget up to £50 per person for a three course dinner, before adding on any wine or drinks. The wine list is probably the best in the city; it has classic ’94 Burgundy wines like Chanson Gevrey Chambertin at £46.50 and a 1990 Chablis ler Cru Fourchume at only £37.50 a bottle, as well as a range of new world and non-vintage wines. If you’re there to celebrate something it also has the 1995 luxury Grande Cru champagne - Dom Perignon, Moet & Chandon - at £110 a bottle. Back in the city centre, on St Martins Lane is Brown Restaurant - which incorporates the Bar Covent Garden as well - this provides a better than average eating out experience in Coventry. Opened in 1973 it has a magnificent frontage onto the lane and has been mentioned in the Good Food Guide. Its menus have a distinctly Italian and French influence and a three course meal, excluding drinks; will be around £20 -£25 per person.
Careys Nightclub and Bar, at the Butts in the city centre, is a popular venue for a night out in Coventry. It has two floors and is used as a venue for touring bands, comedians and all sorts of dance evenings. Usually on Saturday nights upstairs is the main dance venue, but it is also open on Thursday and Friday evenings. Downstairs is used mainly for live bands, but at least once a fortnight it’s given over to a guest appearance or ‘open mic’ comedy club. The Warwick Arts Centre is in the campus of Warwick University, to the south of the city centre. It has four performance areas that cater for theatrical productions, a concert hall capable of seating 1200 people, a theatre with seating for just over 500 people, a studio with about 85 square metres of performance space and a small cinema. Theatre productions are staged by small touring professional or local amateur groups; whilst musical productions feature classical orchestras, rock and folk bands as well as contemporary international musicians. The centre is also a venue used by many of the county’s top touring comedians and poets. The Belgrade Theatre, in the city centre, was opened in 1958 and is one of the buildings that was part of the post-war re-building programme. The building is partly constructed from timber donated as a ‘thank you gift’ by the citizens of Belgrade, in what was then Yugoslavia. The auditorium holds over 850 people and is the place where such luminaries as Trevor Nunn, Michael Crawford and Joan Plowright initially made their names. Now a Grade II listed building it has recently been refurbished, reopening in September 2007.