Sunday, 10 March 2013
8-16 Park Place, Cardiff [map]
Hmmm… anywhere that houses large speakers on the outside suggests it's the sort of boozer that isn't really for us. After all, it's not as if they're going to be pumping out, let's say, the new Nick Cave album, is it?
All this is forgotten though as soon as we establish that there's no queue whatsoever at the bar and that two pints of Beck's can be obtained for a paltry £3.50.
For somewhere that sounds as if it's located just east of Gondor, there's a refreshing lack of orcs (well, aside for the one in the middle of the shot gazing listlessly at the football and wondering why it doesn't involve people attacking each other with war hammers).
Also, we're fairly certain that plasma screens haven't reached Middle-earth yet. So well done Mordaith for confounding expectations on that front.
The pattern on the carpet is ideal for impromptu games of Twister, as the bloke on the right is about to demonstrate. Unfortunately, he puts his back out in the process and has to be stretchered off the premises 10 minutes later.
Sunday, 27 January 2013
199-201 Richmond Road, Roath [map]
It's taken us a while to get round to doing this branch of Varsity. Probably because each time we're about to go in, we're sidetracked by either the dance studio above or the Indian restaurant to the left.
Or both, as happened on one particularly memorable day last autumn. Suffice to say, don't ever attempt to perform an extended Louie Spence-inspired routine having just consumed a tandoori mixed grill.
Tempting as the offer of a full English breakfast for £1.99 sounds, it's a price point that does force you to consider the provenance of cut-price sausages - a thought process that is, frankly, best avoided. We play it safe and stick with the booze.
My notes for Varsity read, in their entirety, "Cheap. Students."
But we like the place - there's a sprightly atmosphere and, if you're on the batter, the fact of Brains coming at £1.79 a pint is (quite literally) staggering news. Five-and-a-half pints for under a tenner!
We figure at those prices, we might as well go for it and order 22 pints of the stuff.
Some time later, The Photographer - arrows fan that he is - decides that he really fancies a round of killer.
Fortunately, a vigilant member of staff sees him lurching across the room towards the gaming area and promptly confiscates the darts, fearing that the contest's name may prove to be all too accurate.
Handily, they've built a special bar for the exclusive use of patrons who are so hammered they are unable to remain upright. Which may or may not have come in handy for The Photographer - I couldn't possibly comment.
Friday, 4 January 2013
Thornhill Road, Thornhill [map]
It's like two pubs in one, the Ffynnon Wen (which, according to Google Translate, means 'Ffynnon Wen' in English - thanks Google).
The first bit you get to is like an extravagant bungalow.
And then there's this cottagey section, which dates from the 17th century. The bollard by the entrance doesn't really add to the period charm but there you go.
We head to the bar to once again put our livers on the line. A word of advice: you really need to watch out for that beam.
It's difficult to tell as much from this photo but it's actually only just over 5ft high. Forget to duck in time (easily done if you're well on your way to being blootered - as we inevitably are) and it'll take your head clean off.
The Wen is big on food - as you can tell by the generous array of wicker baskets full of dressings and the like.
That said, we're advocates of sauces being supplied in squeezy bottles as opposed to individual sachets, which only create a large amount of condiment-based admin when really you want to be tucking straight into your burger and chips.
They're just about to close this area for some sort of private function. Whatever's taking place, we're certain that condiment-based admin will be involved.
Wednesday, 12 December 2012
94 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]
Plenty going on at number 94. Although surely the correct order of events should be: "Bar. Boogie. Beds." Doing the 'beds' bit first makes no sense at all.
Sticking with tradition then, we begin proceedings by heading to said bar.
Where we're joined by a man in a kilt, who appears resolutely nonplussed by the luridly coloured, miniature seating arrangement to his right. Or, indeed, the carnival of bunting and fairy lights above.
To be honest, we imagined that the 'beds' mentioned on the sign was an allusion to there being - let's say, for the sake of argument - some sort of hostel upstairs, perhaps comprising a few dorms predominantly aimed at backpackers.
But no, how wrong we are. Turns out it refers to the fact that there's a trio of beds directly opposite the bar. Which is just fucking weird.
Actually, this one's as much a chaise longue as it is a bed. Although such a description is probably a bit wordy to fit above the entrance.
Also, "Three beds (one of which is quite like a chaise longue). Bar. Boogie," just doesn't have the same ring to it.
This bloke's as baffled by the whole bed situation as we are.
More kilted fellows, determinedly supping lager and checking their mobiles.
Presumably in a bid to distract themselves from the fact that they're sitting under a tasselled yellow parasol that's adjacent to an antique sideboard draped in Cath Kidston fabric.
The cause of - and solution to - all life's ills. (Well, most of them.)
We've read the entire thing and can confirm that nothing of any merit has ever been written on this blackboard.
Christ, imagine passing out on one of those beds and then waking up to this the next morning with a hangover.
Sunday, 25 November 2012
29 Albany Road, Roath [map]
We know what you're thinking. "That is one weird pub. It almost looks as if it used to be a video rental store or something." And you'd be right. It is a weird pub and it used to be a video rental store (Choices, to be precise).
It's operated by Rhymney Brewery - this is the firm's first hostelry in Cardiff. So, in addition to your Strongbows and Carlsbergs, you've got the well-priced delights (£2.45 a pint till 5pm) of the baldly-named Rhymney Bitter, Rhymney Dark, Rhymney Export et al.
Although whether transporting something from Blaenavon to Roath really constitutes 'export' remains to be seen.
There's something about the place that makes it feel like a set, as if the walls might start wobbling at any moment. It's like a display at The Ideal Pub Exhibition, suggests The Photographer, in a rare moment of clarity.
Possibly the most melancholic photo we've ever posted.
When the gaff first opened, if you sat at one of the high tables in the window, it was like being in a boozy goldfish bowl - albeit one with an excellent view of Albany Appliances over the road.
They've since added some frosting to the windows though (see outside shot, top) to make the whole experience marginally less odd.
Frosting or otherwise, this fella's still keeping a close eye on proceedings.
Wouldn't it be great if they fed the chimney from that wood-burner into the back of its head in order to pump smoke out its mouth? Now that would draw punters in, surely: "Come and enjoy a pint while marvelling at Albany Road's famous smoke-belching moose!"
Talking of smoke belching, this is the smoking area. I am actually lost for words.
Monday, 29 October 2012
Castle Street, Cardiff [map]
The Castle Arms, tucked below the Angel Hotel, has been shut for years but was reopened for two nights only during this year's Swn Festival. They must have known we were coming.
We head inside furtively, the staircase down into the gloom not really made any more inviting by the presence of a single Swn-branded balloon.
Man, is this guy pleased to see us. He's been stuck here since the place was last open about a decade ago, having survived the intervening years on a diet of KP nuts, Malibu and extremely pickled eggs.
To be honest, he's as surprised as anyone to learn that there's an indie disco taking place here tonight.
His bar skills haven't deserted him though - like riding a bike, you never forget how to pull a pint - and a round of Carlsbergs is swiftly dispensed.
We are unable to deny the fact that a disused, underground pub soundtracked by mid-period Pulp is not, for most folk, the obvious destination for a Saturday night out.
We have no idea who these people are. The Photographer just starts taking snapshots of them on the basis that even if the bloke nearest us does object to having his picture taken, he's wearing such tight trousers that he lacks the necessary freedom of movement to do anything about it.
Thursday, 18 October 2012
The Friary, Cardiff [map]
What better way to commemorate an armed revolt that took place on a Caribbean island in the 1950s than with a themed drinks emporium in the centre of the Welsh capital?
It's billed as a 'rum bar'. Or, as we used to call them back in the day, a 'rough pub'.
Despite this, the staff are, in fact, pretty friendly. Indeed, rather than being told, "I don't really think this is your sort of place, lads," in a threatening tone by the barman, he instead cheerily alerts us to the cocktail offers.
The whole thing is done with a lot more panache than Bar Cuba (now The Live Lounge), which used to be over the road.
It's spacious without giving the impression that you're sitting in a huge warehouse that just happens to be full of mismatched furniture and random signs in Spanish.
Although those sofas are so low that if you get carried away with the cheap cocktails, you have pretty much zero chance of subsequently resuming a vertical base.
The aesthetic is let down somewhat by the fact of the flooring being more Carpetright than Cuba, but there you go.
There's live music on Friday and Saturday nights, when they also hand out trilbies and false moustaches to enable punters to complete the, erm, look. They must be Havana laugh.