Sunday, 3 February 2019

The Head of Steam

18–19 Church Street, Cardiff [map]

Previously the site of a Harvester and, going back into the mists of time even further, Old Orleans, these sizeable premises have now been given a rail-themed scrub-up and transformed into a jack-of-all-trades bar. You know: craft ales, food, sport, live DJs. And so on.

There's a swathe of these places in the north but this is their first venture into Wales.

I don't really get the whole train-based vibe – why would you want to remind customers of our failing rail network of an evening? – but at least they don't take the theme to its logical conclusion: "Due to signalling problems, this pint has been diverted via Prestatyn and will be delayed by approximately two days. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Not entirely sure what The Photographer was aiming for with this shot. Still, as you can see, they've got some lovely wooden and tiled criss-cross flooring.

Now, I do like a booth and these are very well done, with lamps, charging points and – a nice touch this, you have to agree – overhead coat racks.

Upstairs, and there's a kind of vintage, industrial chic vibe afoot. And that's just the customers.

Blimey, this room is so bright it could have written A Brief History of Time.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Coyote Ugly Saloon

78 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]

So, here we are outside Coyote Ugly (formerly The Square about a million years ago) on an otherwise unremarkable Saturday afternoon, somewhat alarmed by the convoluted velvet rope/steel barrier walkway you have to negotiate to even make it to the door.

Not to mention the extravagantly lopsided ratio of security personnel (three) to punters in queue (zero). Maybe they're expecting trouble. Well, The Photographer has got a thirst on.

Before you make it into the primary room, there's this little side bar. We can only approve of the sort of place that enables you to get a drink on your way to getting a drink.

Well, this is awkward. There we are trying to peer at the medley of booze on offer behind the main bar and next thing you know there's a woman clad in cowboy boots and fishnet tights cavorting about right on top of the bloody counter.

This, we later learn, is *a thing* round these parts, but it doesn't half make you worry about getting your pint kicked over.

Heaven forbid you go here in a mixed group. Instead, the unwritten rule seems to be: men on one side, women on the other. Making the whole enterprise akin to a liquor-powered school disco. Just with worse music.

Oh god, the music. Did we mention the music? It's less aural pleasure, more psychological warfare – the sort of soundtrack that would have made you sympathise with Manuel Noriega.

The torture is compounded by the fact that the cheerleaders sashaying on the bar – mind that pint! – are prone to start caterwauling along at any given moment.

Still, anywhere that's got a bucking bronco is fine by us.

Friday, 21 April 2017


114–116 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]

Formerly a (slightly odd) rock bar called Charlie Browns, this is now a retro arcade games, table football and ping pong-based joint.

Combine this with some delicious fizzy lager and you can't go wrong.

There's a kind of minimalist-industrial vibe afoot – someone clearly got a good deal on a job lot of plywood.

It's the old-school videogames that are the real draw – Donkey Kong, Track & Field, Double Dragon and the like. Surely no one has fond memories of NBA Jam though?

What you can see in progress here is the worst attempt to play a game of 1942 in the history of coin-ops.

Turns out that successfully taking part in a World War II dogfight following the consumption of five pints of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is easier said than done (and it's not even that easy to say).

Further inside again and there's 2003 drive-'em-up OutRun 2 adjacent to a weird glowing wall. And some more plywood. Obviously.

Friday, 6 January 2017


5–7 Queen Street, Cardiff [map]

After various incarnations over the years, including short-lived rock joint Bogiez, much-missed indie toilet the Barfly and raffle pedlar the Rose & Crown, this corner of Queen Street is now, officially, a bunker of booze.

Which, if you are going to be stuck in a bunker for any length of time, isn't a bad one to be in.

Negotiate the spiral staircase – easier said than done if you're in the midst of a serious all-dayer and are experiencing some issues with regards to maintaining a vertical base – and you're rewarded with a bar brimming with real ales, craft beers and various other libations in which myriad obscure things have been done to unsuspecting hops.

In other words, the Foster's is off – permanently.

There's a curious ambience to the place, partly because it's underground and has no natural light, and partly because the interior looks as if it's been furnished from an Argos catalogue circa 1996.

Still, just look at that beer menu.

It's all too much for that bloke at the bottom left to cope with. "Butcombe Yeti? Lincoln Green Marion? Mahrs Bräu Ungespundet? I just can't decide!" (And we didn't even make any of those up.)

The novelty urinal is a bit of a thing these days, isn't it?

Sunday, 13 November 2016


Stadium Plaza, Wood Street, Cardiff [map]

It's been a while, hasn't it? Anyhow, what better way to pick things up again than at the, erm, Bierkeller Entertainment Complex, a wholly inauthentic conglomerate of themed bars that's part of the Stadium Plaza.

We head first for Shooters, a sports bar with an unholy focus on session lagers.

It's one of those nondescript, drizzly Sunday afternoons, so it's pretty quiet in here. Even the promise of watching some blokes kick a ball about on a big telly isn't that much of a draw, it seems.

The pool tables sit dormant, forgotten relics of analogue entertainment from a time before the invention Pokémon Go.

The actual Bierkeller element of the booze compound is shut, so we instead amble towards the building's third bar, Around the World.

The place actually dispenses a fine array of international lagery delights, including Sagres, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Super Bock. The decision to stock only beverages beginning with the letter S is, however, a curious one.

But here's the really alarming thing about the place. The urinals are equipped with a 'beat the goalie' game, which you control by – there's no nice way of putting this – weeing on sensors built into the latrines.

It's often said that people have low boredom thresholds these days. But not even being able to spend a penny without having some form of entertainment on offer does seem a bit much.

The Photographer suggests it's taking the piss but is swiftly reminded that this blog would never stoop to making use of such a terrible pun.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Chapel 1877

Churchill Way, Cardiff [map]

Chapel 1877 is a bar, restaurant and nightclub housed in a former methodist chapel in the unlikely location of the bottom end of Churchill Way.

It's more about fancy dining than it is straight-up boozing but there are some non-restaurant chairs and tables littered about the place if the sustenance you require is of the liquid variety.

The idea of having a large leather sofa directly opposite the bar is appealing - you can just yell your order at the barman without even having to get up.

Some people who have just posh noshed. The wine list runs to eight pages, by the way - remarkable, given that all wine tastes the same to us.

There's a small terrace area with a good view of that massive junction in front of Cardiff Masonic Hall, making it a good place for spotting old blokes with one trouser leg rolled up.

Oh my lord, what on earth's going on here? It's like it's from a particularly naff range of 1980s Athena posters, with added tribal tattoos. It might just be the worst thing my eyes have ever seen.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Cambrian Tap

51 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]

Call it the Urban Tap House effect, if you like. What was, until recently, unloved Irish pub Kitty Flynn's is now craft ale hostelry The Cambrian Tap.

As is the way with these places (lit by de rigueur filament light bulbs, obv), there are all sorts of beers on tap that no one's ever heard of.

We opt for a couple of pints of Almond Butter Gear Shift Cable Doppelbock. And very nice it is too.

Excellent pouring technique there.

Employees are required to clock in and out using this antiquated device. Which does seem to be taking vintage chic to somewhat ridiculous lengths, if you ask us.

We do like a booth but, if you want to squeeze four people into one of them, you have to be on very good terms indeed.

The loos: the ultimate end point of any brewing process.

The long, narrow shape creates a slightly awkward space but they've made the most of it. Not least because, on particularly busy evenings, the staff actively encourage drinkers to crowd-surf their way from the door to the bar.

Although crowd-surfing while holding aloft a pint of Almond Butter Gear Shift Cable Doppelbock turns out to be much easier said than done (and it's not even that easy to say).