Friday, 28 March 2014


49 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]

For ages - probably over a year - we were convinced that Brewhouse was a diminutive, independent coffee shop that put on afternoon gigs by wilfully naive folk singers. Kind of like Central Perk, just with less David Schwimmer.

Not being particular fans of either coffee or acoustic guitars, we always gave it a miss.

Turns out it's a popular booze palace/live music venue of some repute. How little we know.

The main room is embellished by a selection of instruments - including a number of large tom-toms - dangling precariously from the ceiling. Which does seem to add an unnecessary element of danger to having a pint here.

Thankfully, there's less scope for unfortunate drums-falling-on-heads incidents in the upper bar.

There are murals of various Welsh music icons (and Stereophonics) dotted about the place. Here's Tom doing his thing. We always thought his performances were a bit wooden but this is ridiculous.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Urban Tap House

25 Westgate Street, Cardiff [map]

Stumble up Womanby Street these days and, before you reach the assorted pleasures of The Gatekeeper and Dempseys, there's beer-and-burgers emporium Urban Tap House.

It was opened in September by Newport microbrewery Tiny Rebel and, as the signage suggests, it's very much from the craft-beer-as-hipster-accessory school.

As you can see, The Photographer's camera - such as it is - doesn't cope well with bright lights. But we forge ahead nonetheless. We are, after all, professionals. (Aside: we're not.)

There's none of yer Carlings and Carlsbergs here. It's all Camden Hells Lager, Dortmunder Union Vier and, er, Dirty Stop Out.

Which is both a delicious smoked oat stout and a harsh-but-fair appraisal of what happens when you drink, let's say for the sake of argument, nine pints of the stuff on an empty stomach. Not that we'd know anything about that sort of thing, you understand.

It's in the same premises as Fire Island (above) used to be. Tiled bar aside, Urban Tap House is, in many ways, very similar to its predecessor - albeit without debts of £1.2m.

There's some sort of cask ales thing going on during our visit, which takes us well out of our comfort zone - who can even guess at what Buxton American Rye entails? But when we discover they're all going for £2.50 a pint, it seems churlish not to get involved.

We may be many things but churlish isn't one of them.

This is one of those arcade machines that houses loads of retro classics, including Space Invaders - here being played absolutely appallingly. The trick, apparently, is to take out the columns of aliens at the ends first.

More tips on 35-year-old videogames coming soon.

Round the side of the bar and you've got these little diner-style booths. Turns out they're not that easy to manoeuvre into following the consumption of a miscellany of cask ales and nine pints of Dirty Stop Out.

Thursday, 22 August 2013


Harlech Court, Bute Terrace, Cardiff [map]

From the outside, Porter's may well be a nondescript-looking establishment in an unlikely location (it's tucked away on Bute Terrace between The Big Sleep and an immense block of flats). But its delights are many and varied.

For one, it's home to Cardiff's smiliest bar person.

The well-curated array of beers includes Blue Moon, Brooklyn Lager, Modelo, Anchor Steam Beer and this 8.4% Belgian concoction, Pauwel Kwak.

So that patrons aren't tempted to nick the shapely receptacle, you're asked to leave a shoe behind the bar as security. The Photographer, haggler extraordinaire that he is, manages to reduce the deposit down to a hat.

One (presumably hatless) woman was once so reluctant to remove a shoe that she instead left her wedding ring behind the bar. Which perhaps doesn't bode particularly well for her marriage.

A side room houses this bijou cinema – themed screenings of a trio of films take place every Sunday. Although due to some sort of licensing quirk, the bar isn't allowed to advertise which films it's showing outside the premises.

Keep going through the cinema and you arrive at this mini golf course. Which if it wasn't for the photographic evidence to the contrary, I'd be convinced I had imagined after one Kwak too many.

Nothing like a good table tennis/masturbation gag.

Friday, 24 May 2013

The Bunker

60-61 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]

The Bunker is, ostensibly, a sports bar. But in both name and presentation it's more like a fortified compound in which to take shelter from the impending apocalypse. (Otherwise known as a Saturday night on St Mary Street.)

It does a fine line in beverages that no one has ever heard of. Indeed, Backyard Retro sounds more like some sort of seizure-inducing moonshine than it does a legitimate lager-based product.

We order two pints of Backyard Retro.

The 'sports' aspect of proceedings comprises some darts on the telly (which, let's be honest, is a game not a sport) and the fact that there is enough open space to accommodate gymnastic floor routines.

Which is, it transpires, what those two kilted blokes on the right are limbering up for.

The gymnastics judges go on to have a rather heated discussion about scores at the bar. It's a close call but, in the end, Kilted Bloke #2 gets the nod and is through to next week's live final.

Incongruously, there's a collection of photos on the wall of former wrestler Bret 'Hit Man' Hart. Nothing like being able to gaze at a greasy-haired man clad in pink Lycra while supping your pint.

There's also a photo of Paula Radcliffe shitting herself.

They've thoughtfully created a little waiting area outside the loos. It doubles as a good place for a quiet lie-down if you've overdone it on the moonshine.

This is The Blue Room.

What happens in The Blue Room stays in The Blue Room.

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

Ffynnon Wen

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.