PARENTAL ADVISORY – CONTAINS BORIS
The train from Newport to Cardiff takes 13 minutes, and matches the Potters Bar to Kings Cross journey for culture shock. Unlike Newport, Cardiff never sleeps.
This was my first visit since City’s unfathomable capitulation at
Ninian Park the City Stadium three years ago. The city centre was so much fun that Sunday that I soon forgot about football. Just like Manchester it continues to surge forward, cranes still dominating the skyline as you emerge from the gorgeous central station.
Not everything is in quite such good taste;
St Mary’s Street was full of professional drinkers, and a horde of fancy-dressed amateurs who’d just completed the Cardiff half-marathon and were now refuelling with burgers and chips.
So I thought I’d walk a half-marathon too, refuelling in the half-dozen Beer Guide ticks dotted around the city. It was a good idea at the time.
The sure sign that a place has embraced “craft” is a raft of new Beer Guide entries called things like “Tap House”, “Hop Bunker” and “Ralph“. Cardiff has two of those.
First up was the Cambrian Tap, which looked like a showpiece for Brain’s excellent self-defined “Craft” brews, which I’ve liked a lot.
Stupidly, I elected to pace myself and went for the weakest. The Electric Bear was served at KeyKeg temperature and was (consequently ?) a very moreish NBSS 3.5. A sign of the times, 5% ABV seems to be the starting point now.
The seating design was closer to those OK American diners along the A1 than Sam Smiths, but the atmosphere was jolly and the service superb. As I left I finally remembered this as Mulligans, Brain’s attempt at an Irish bar in the’90s. It’s better now.
Saving the culinary delights of Caroline Street for later (I’m an athlete), next stop was Tiny Rebel’s Urban outpost. I’d have liked to compare this with the Newport version, but Newport was closed.
I liked Urban a lot. Mrs RM would have said it had similar design aesthetics to BrewDog,but I can’t spell that, and the cognoscenti would never say that. It does have cask, albeit not Cwtch today. A beer with a long name including the word “Bock” was potent beyond it’s ABV (NBSS 3.5 again), albeit warmer than in the Cambrian. The musical selection was slightly more challenging too, always a good thing (I don’t mean Stereophonics).
Next stop, the people who defined “Craft”.
The Gatekeeper isn’t an astonishing Spoons, but it is a busy one, and I commend their lovely staff for their cheerful approach to the gourmet burger demanding half-marathoners. The Manager was happy to answer my request for “Your fastest selling beer please” with the word “Summerskills“. Possibly the first time that’s happened.
The first wrong choice of the night. It was gorgeous (NBSS 3.5), but a debilitating 5.5%. The Old Empire had just gone too; Cardiff like their strong beers.
Much worse was to come at the Hop Bunker. But only after my free Café Nero flat white and a nod to the Aneurin Bevin statue.
In the ’90s I visited Cardiff regularly, and the rule was that Bulmastiff’s Son of a Bitch could never be bypassed. I know the brewery has changed hands, but I was unable to resist their Special Reserve calling to me among a line of frantic looking home-brew pumpclips.
It tasted it’s 6.5% ABV, anyway. A mark off for that glass, a mark back for the Postcard Records compilation playing quietly. A great little bunker bar.
The Bulmastiff did at least speed up my walk into Roath and the relief of the Andrew Buchan (whatever happened to public toilets).
Pub of the night, for all sorts of reasons. Proper seating, proper punters discussing flyovers,proper prices (£2.40 a pint for a classic but chilled Rhymney Bitter, NBSS 3).
A chance for me to consult my astonishingly detailed hand drawn map,
and some great Quiz material.
Roath Park was a delight in the sunset.
My last new GBG pub of the evening wasn’t. No names, a picture will suffice.
The walk back took over an hour, and passed hardly any pubs. What’s happened to all the suburban Brain’s houses ? And what’s happened to all Cardiff’s Balti houses ?
Mindful of the need to prepare for IndyMan (two more sleeps !), I ended here with a Live Dead Pony Club. Good (NBSS 3), but tasted like the dead one.