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
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
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.