When Hitler ordered the bombing blitz of Coventry on 14 November 1940, we may not have appreciated it at the time but he was doing a massive favour for the city’s drinkers.
While Oxford is the city of dreaming spires, and Prague is the city of 100 spires, my hometown, Coventry, is known for being the city of three spires. Spire number one is the cathedral spire, number two is that of Holy Trinity Church but number three is the best of all – Inspire Café Bar. All three have a fair bit of history…
Coventry Cathedral was bombed to smithereens in the blitz, and the ruins of the old cathedral are known internationally as a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Modern day Coventry is not the prettiest of cities, but the old cathedral ruins are actually very nice indeed. They look at their best (can ruins ever look their best?) on a summer day when the sky is bright blue framing the shell of the medieval cathedral. A new cathedral was commissioned and designed by Sir Basil Spence, and 2012 marks its 50th anniversary.
Holy Trinity Church – although this was hit by incendiaries, major damage was avoided as the vicar at the time and his mates ran around, dousing the flames all night.
Before WWII this was part of an existing Franciscan church. But the Luftwaffe put paid to that, flattening the church yet leaving the spire intact. The church moved to a new site in the Cheylesmore area of the city, leaving a derelict spire, Christchurch Spire.
It has housed Inspire Café Bar for over ten years. Inside, it has the floor space of your average front room so you’ll be lucky to get a pew, but there’s a large terraced area with patio heaters covered by a huge canopy.
In 2011, The Independent listed Inspire as one of the UK’s top 50 bars, while Lonely Planet reckon it is one of the country’s top ten nights out. I’ll just say it’s the best Belgian bar outside Belgium. Like all good bars, there’s a menu of beers along with an ever changing blackboard of the latest specials. You’re guaranteed to get the Belgian staples like Duvel, Vedett and at least one kriek beer, while the house speciality is rare and strong bottled beers from Belgium and Germany. The high prices (from £3.50 a bottle) and the lack of Carling on tap keeps out those pesky Coventry chavs – the most mainstream beer on offer is probably Asahi. The meals are pretty good here – sandwiches, paninis and pizza slices – but let’s be honest, people come here to drink, not eat.
The guys behind InSpire also run their own offie, Alexander Wines in the Earlsdon area of Coventry so if you like what you’ve tried in the bar there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get some for home too.
2012 is a big year for Coventry – the city is hosting some of the football matches as part of the Olympic Games. If you’re in town, don’t miss this local treasure.