Friday, 19 December 2014

Moose Head Bierkeller


Working Street, Cardiff [map]


You join us at the Pint of 45 Christmas party, this year hosted by the pop-up bar that's part of the Christmas market on Working Street. No expense spent.


This being the festive season, it's all German beer, Baileys hot chocolate and various things that have been mulled.

I have no idea what mulling entails but it sounds wrong, doesn't it? We opt for the mulled wine.


And here it is. Nothing says Yuletide more than a small polystyrene cup of hot booze.


The attention to detail here is impeccable - they've even imported a live polar bear as an added attraction. What the bloke sitting on it doesn't know is that it's going to have him for tea in approximately three minutes' time.


As everyone is patently aware, a moose sporting a festive scarf is a central tenet of the Nativity story.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Mount Stuart


Landsea House, Stuart Place, Cardiff Bay [map]


Look at that - it's not so much just another branch of Wetherspoon as a Zaha Hadid-inspired monument to the joys of daytime drinking.


Fairly hectic at the bar but there are plenty of people serving and we secure our delicious pints of fizzy lager with a minimum of faff. Good old 'Spoons.


While most Wether-outlets are simply big square rooms with horrible carpet and some tables randomly plonked around the place, this looks as if someone's actually thought about what they're doing.


The upstairs bar is dominated by a fleet of low-flying drones that vaporise anyone who's looking the worse for wear. The Photographer begins to look very alarmed indeed.


We escape to the balcony. This chap is clearly pleased to see that we've made it out alive.


It's almost like a staged PR shot this of people engaged in responsible al fresco drinking - there's nary a single person vomiting into a hedge in sight. Well, The Photographer notwithstanding.

Our book, A Drinker's Guide to Cardiff, is out now, priced just £2.99. Click here to look inside and to order a copy

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Charlie Browns


114-116 St Mary Street, Cardiff [map]



Charlie Browns is perhaps one of the more unlikely drinking spots on St Mary Street. It's (literally) an underground bar/club although, with its CBGB-inspired banner (just seen, top left), it's clearly presenting itself as being part of the metaphorical underground as well.

Erm, reading that back, I have no idea what the metaphorical underground is.


Don't forget to salute the Jägermeister flag on the way in.


Good unpretentious fare at the bar: Carlsberg, Carlsberg Export and - if you're feeling particularly la-di-da - cans of Stella.


There's free use of an Xbox 360 although, as the note stuck to the front of the metal locker in which it's encased makes clear, "There are some simply rules."

These simply rules include having to 'exchange' your driving licence or passport for a controller at the bar. Which, frankly, seems like a bit of hassle in order to have a go on a last-gen version of Kung Fu Panda.


Take your pick from either a south or west-facing pool table, whichever your preferred cardinal point is.


Other entertainment options include the skittle alley they've installed in the somewhat dangerous and unexpected location of directly in front of the bar.

The woman pictured here has just knocked down five pins and a bloke carrying two pints of lager, a large gin and tonic, and a packet of dry roasted peanuts.

Our book, A Drinker's Guide to Cardiff, is out now, priced just £2.99. Click here to look inside and to order a copy

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Waterguard


Harbour Drive, Cardiff Bay [map]


Back down the Bay then, this time for a visit to the curious environs of The Waterguard, with its Victorian frontage and contemporary, concrete-and-glass, erm, backage.


It's Cardiff's only pub operated by the Samuel Smith Old Brewery, which means there's none of your Foster's, Heineken or other reassuringly familiar thirst-quenchers on tap. Instead it's all Double Four and Taddy Lager, which tends to throw people a bit when they enter a Sam Smith's for the first time.

Still, the good news is that their assorted beers are pretty inexpensive (Double Four weighs in at £2.74 a pint). The bad news is that they are prone to sucker-punching you with the most horrendous hangovers.


Everything's very spick and span (notwithstanding the smell of vomit on the way in - someone had clearly been going for it the night before). Unfortunately, it's got all the ambience of a dentist's waiting room.


It's sometimes difficult to work out what The Photographer's motives are when he provides shots such as this, knowing full well that I then have to attempt to craft an engaging caption for it. Frankly, "Two-seater sofa adjacent to table with some leaflets on," just isn't going to cut it, is it?


Anyway, moving on, here's the outside area round the back, replete with 'artfully' positioned pint glass. This is basically the whole raison d'être of the place - if the weather's good, you can buy a cheap pint and then go and drink it on the grass outside. Lovely.

Our book, A Drinker's Guide to Cardiff, is out now, priced just £2.99. Click here to look inside and to order a copy

Monday, 2 June 2014

Cosy Club


1 Hills Street, Cardiff [map]


And so to shoppers' retreat Cosy Club. Which is neither cosy nor a club but does at least have a nice alliterative ring to it.


The whole gaff is on the first floor and is accessed by the weirdest staircase in Cardiff.

Imagine the design meeting. "Yeah, so what we're going to do, right," goes some beardy hipster fresh out of art college, "is stick a massive gilt-framed painting on the wall of… ahh… that king who had all the wives, surround it with a few other random pictures of… um… some old guys and… er… if there's any space left underneath, fill it in with some coloured planks of wood."

"Brilliant. You're hired."


It's tricky sometimes to distinguish between a bar and a barre.


The main drinking area is all retro lampshades, outsize cushions and leather armchairs so impossibly low you've no hope of getting up from them after a few pints.


Further on through and there's a separate dining area. If you're into that sort of thing.


These framed images of Country Life 'lovelies' are, somewhat incongruously, on the walls of the men's loos. Although, to be fair, if you're from the country, you're probably fairly used to the smell of excrement.


Lenin. (McCartney not pictured.)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Brewhouse


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.