The Tipsy Cow, Airdrie
When business partners Frank Cogan and Martin Mackay of Bozz Co Inns Ltd embarked on their latest venture – The Tipsy Cow in Airdrie, Lanarkshire – they knew exactly what sort of place they wanted it to be.
The aim was to create a space that would not look out of place in Glasgow or Edinburgh, and to present a modern take on the venue’s original incarnation as an iconic Black Bull Inn.
The new name was inspired by American bar names while the new logo – of a bull’s head – is a nod to the building’s history. It was designed by Frank’s son, Paul, 22, who is also the manager.
Martin, 47, says, “We got the keys at the start of November and opened about three weeks later, so what we did was mostly cosmetic really. The original interior was alright but it was very dark and we had a really clear vision of what we wanted to do with it. We threw out a lot of good stuff in the end because it didn’t fit with how we wanted it to look. We wanted a big open space with nice high ceilings and we wanted to hit the coffee market during the day with cake and scones and then flip it into a cocktail bar at night, somewhere you can have a nice meal in the Brasserie, which is aimed at couples, parties of friends, that sort of thing.
“We wanted to create a place that you could literally pick up and put in any town or city centre and it would fit in.” Frank, 53, adds, “You get the same values in here as you get in the town in terms of service and so on – you don’t need to go into town for that. We’re already in the middle of a good drinking circuit. Airdrie is one of the best towns in Lanarkshire.”
The pair, who worked at Belhaven together before setting up their own business, are well placed to know. They already have another venue in the town, The Cellar Bar, which is just a stone’s throw from The Tipsy Cow. And they also have The Bell Mill Hotel in Bellshill, The Stewart Inn in Stepps, near Glasgow, and The Foundry in Bathgate.
As soon as you walk into The Tipsy Cow, the overwhelming sense is of an open, light and airy space, with a relaxed feel to it. Large windows along the side of the building flood light into the entire area, while the white brick tiles behind the bar – which has been completely refurbished – bounce it back into the room and give a cool, modern feel.
A huge 7ft-wide sash window at the front of the building actually opens right up – and will be a hit with customers in the warmer summer months. The old sandstone and brick walls have been left exposed, and wallpaper around the bar area is printed up to look like distressed Victorian-style tiles. The ceiling is painted in grey and a light sage green, while the floor is wooden – all very easy-going, natural colours and tones. Five glass lights suspended above the bar keep it light and bright, while a series of old wooden vegetable boxes turned sideways and stacked on the wall behind for wine bottles contrast brilliantly with the crisp, modern look of the glass shelves on which the spirits are stored.
The bar is topped with slate recycled from snooker tables and the front of it is panelled in wood. Again, echoing the wallpaper’s theme, large vintage-style tiles have been used on the floor around the bar.
The bar stools and chairs are upholstered in distressed brown leather, while the banquette seating at the tables is in a darker brown. Bar stools at the window are in copper and topped with lustrous dark wooden seats, while there are lower-height stools in polished copper.
An eye-catching ‘FOOD’ sign on the wall at the main window was inspired by similar items on Pinterest – and created using a bike from a charity in Glasgow that recycles old models. Moving through to the Brasserie at the rear of the venue, the tone of the decor changes subtly – the space has a more sophisticated feel.
Again, this is very much in keeping with the dining menu, which includes mains like venison and haggis Wellington with wild mushroom skirlie and port jus and roast monkfish with ginger ribbon vegetables. There is banquette seating on either side of the dining area, with small tables set for two to four people as well as wooden topped round tables which seat up to six, for larger groups. The colour palette is subtle – with slate tiles on the floor, and chairs upholstered in a mix of brown, teal and light lime green. On the walls, exposed brickwork gives way to flock wallpaper in taupe and blue, etched with fabulous peacocks and butterflies.
Several paintings by renowned McCoo artist Steven Brown hang on the walls and an original Victorian fireplace sits in the corner of the room as an additional feature – although it is no longer in use. Much of the inspiration for the look of the venue came from Pinterest, but Martin and Frank also worked closely with Stephen Paterson of Burns Interior Design in Glasgow to make sure they got the £70,000 refurbishment just right.
Martin says, “This is a completely different offering to The Cellar Bar. Airdrie has a lot of other good offerings already and there is no point doing the same as them – we wanted to do something a wee tiny bit different. We told Stephen the idea we were looking for, he came back with some suggestions and we picked out what we wanted. We were very specific with what we wanted done – so it wasn’t as though we came in and changed our minds about things.
“The name was inspired by bar names in America – I was Googling them at the time – and it felt right as it retains a touch of the original while bringing things a bit more up to date at the same time. We are really pleased with the look of the venue, the general ambience. You could come in here and sit with your sister, your husband, have breakfast or a piece of cake, or meet up with friends and their kids – and that’s exactly the kind of market we were looking for.”
They currently have around 70 covers in total, with 36 in the Brasserie and another 34 in the cafe bar area.
Much of the furniture came from Andy Thornton in Leeds, the crockery, cutlery and sundries came from Colbrook Supplies Direct in Chapelhall, while local firm A Hardie Signs, of Airdrie, did all the signage. When it comes to suppliers of food and drink, Frank and Martin are happy to look to further afield – with meat from Rodgers of Partick and fruit and vegetables from Premier Produce at Glasgow Fruit & Vegetable Market.
Frank explains, “Suppliers that you would find supplying to people in the West End of Glasgow, you’ll find supplying us here too. All those comparisons that are made with the town, we tick all of those boxes – wine selections, cocktails, ambience.”
Tennents supply all their drinks, from beer through to wine and spirits. Frank also has plans to expand their own grocery line – they already sell a Tipsy Cow signature ground coffee blend which is proving popular – but he is also focused on making sure they get everything just right.
He explains, “Once you open the doors, you find that you have to correct certain areas – ones that you thought would appeal to the clientele maybe don’t as much, so you have to change things up again. The feedback has been tremendous so far – we’ve had great reviews, which is fantastic and we are really pleased with it ourselves.”