Archive | August, 2011

Endstop: eight of the best things about Cardiff

29 Aug

The Vaults: Bute Street's desolate grandeur conceals Cardiff's best parties


Before I leave the subject of Cardiff behind, I’d been intending to run down the things I rated about the city before I moved away. I failed to do so, but if I went back I’d still love the following – all are (loosely) food and drink-related; all offer the maximum bangs per buck ratio that justifies their inclusion here:

  • Backroom Cardiff: I really regret not finding this earlier, cos I only got to go to two of these parties at the Vaults on Bute Street (where the finest buildings in the city sit decaying, as if to form an exclusion zone between Butetown and Cardiff Bay). Other promoters in Cardiff are doing ace things, some of whom I wrote about at the end of last year, but no-one else is booking DJs like Levon Vincent to play raves in a disused bank. Needless to say I didn’t eat here, but you can drink until 5am.
  • The Royal Oak: My former local, which I also didn’t spend as much time in as I should have done. A handsome, laid back old pub selling flat-as-fuck but tasty handpulled Brains – though it could do with a couple of other decent beers.
  • Chai Street: The final meal out I had in Cardiff, reviewed last time around.
  • Bar Cwtch: Nestling just shy of the sterile waste of space that is Mermaid Quay, entertainingly hit-and-miss cellar bar serving decent pizzas and very good cocktails (when they remember to have ice). Be warned: if more than 20 people are there you may have trouble getting to the bar.
  • Canteen on Clifton Street: the only place I went to eat at three times, reviewed on the first occasion. Not everything they make tastes amazing, but trying to cook imaginative veggie food from a small kitchen while also throwing a bone (sorry) to the carnivores deserves a tip of the hat.
  • Gwdihw: A venue masquerading as a cosy living room, and packing a decent range of beers considering the bar is only about six inches long. Hearty, well priced food and varied music are on offer too.
  • New York Deli: featured back in March, and juxtaposing the city centre’s prettiest arcade with the meat-packing, chilli dripping delight that is the Cardiff Devils Hoagie. Next time I’m in town, I’ll be there.
  • Inner City Pickle: One-woman cottage industry aka Eira Ellis-Evans, collecting, cooking and distributing Cardiff’s finest preserves via her Adamsdown kitchen.
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Chai Street: if you were the last curry in Cardiff

23 Aug


A few weeks ago I decamped to Bristol for work, chalking up one final budget Cardiff chow-down at Chai Street, Anand George’s Indian street-food outlet on Whitchurch Road (the last bit of town you’d associate with street-food) before doing so.

This blog kicked off 10 months ago with an entry about traipsing through Grangetown in search of the Vegetarian Food Studio’s thalis, so it seems appropriate to end its Cardiff existence by reviewing a similar meal.

If I’d have been feeling more flush I might’ve headed next door to CS’s big brother Mint & Mustard for a farewell blowout. But had I done so I’d have been deprived of a) one of the best returns I had on a tenner in South Wales and b) the chance to write it up here.

Hitting Chai Street rather than thali benchmark VFS gets you tightly-packed leathery seats, garish Bollywood meets pop art décor, and (obviously) a more aspirational postcode in which to eat your platter. These little luxuries mean you pay about a quid extra for your selection of small dishes, but getting change from £7 for a meal is still ridiculously reasonable.

And sad to say it, but it seems the best thalis in Cardiff are no longer being made west of the Taff.

Chai Street may be on the cramped side, but there’s no mystery as to why they’re cramming punters in. A creamy cow-pea dal, a dry, pungent potato dish and a rich, moist chicken one were all distinctively spiced, with curry leaves the most dominant – though not overpowering – flavour. Rice, bread, a shared side of lamb patties and cardamom-heavy masala chai rounded out a meal that’d suck me back regularly had I not so rudely skipped town.