Cosmic Cow Café is an odd beast, in an odd habitat. Tucked away off the Kirkstall Road, hemmed in by the rusted façades of four decades of industrial decline, the Full Circle bar/restaurant that hosts the cabaret night has established itself well as an exclusive dive for the more adventurous city explorers, famed among the privileged few for its jazz and roast evenings. The décor is a sort of industrial take on the Kit Kat club: cabaret tables sporting tea lights and sofas nestle on its a factory floor, with a glorified staff kitchen at the back somehow managing to cater to three dozen or so patrons, while a repurposed sandwich cooler serves as a bar.
It’s endearingly amateurish, giving the space an air of a student house party rather than haute cuisine. You sink into a low-slung sofa at the front of the stage, as knowingly obsequious waiters with ironic moustaches faux-fawningly take your orders, you can’t help but crack a smile. The whole experience falls ever so slightly into the realm of self parody. It offers the perfect antidote to those usual bugbears of ill conceived ‘event nights’, with their misjudged pomposity and awkward uncertainty. To put it bluntly, the entertainment between the three courses of the evening was bordering on the surreal; Moulin Rouge as re-imagined by Reeves and Mortimer, or a Cabaret by Camus. The sheer earnestness of the first performer, a hula-hoopist, was mesmerising, pouring in as she did the concentration of a concert pianist into the spinning of the hoops.
The night LSi attended seemed to be gyration themed: with the swivelling hips of the hula-hoopist joined by a belly dancer and punctuated with a gentleman manipulating some plastic rings into optical illusions. It’s tremendously difficult to pin-point quite what gave the evening an unmistakable surrealist air; perhaps it was the intimacy of the space, the dedication of the performers, or the outright unexpectedness of the night. Regardless, LSi can guarantee you you’ll leave the Café in a slight daze. One certainly can’t fault the Cosmic Cow Café for a lack of confidence. Charging £20 for a non-nightclub event aimed at students is a bold move, even for an established name, let alone a small venue well off the beaten track. The ticket includes a three-course meal: hearty fare of gammon and potato, bookended by a mussel starter and a variety of simple desserts. The food is nothing exceptional, bordering on stodgy, although perfectly passable when hypnotised by the performances on the stage. It shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Neither the food nor the entertainment is particularly brilliant by any standard, but that won’t stop you having one of your most memorable nights in Leeds.
The Cosmic Cow Café and Cabaret happens every Thursday at 7.30pm until late at Full Circle. £20 per head for three courses. Book via email@example.com
Photo: Jennie Pritchard