Words: Matt Ayres
Cardiff was recently ranked the third best capital city in Europe, so it’s no surprise that there are a bunch of decent restaurants to fuel up in before heading to a rugby match or wandering around that massive castle plonked in the middle of town.
Previously overshadowed in the foodie stakes by nearby Bath and Bristol, a recent surge in independent bars and restaurants has given Cardiff the edge when it comes to cool eating. From street food sensations to generation-spanning establishments, local favourites and far away flavours, these are the ‘Diff’s most legit dining spots.
The Potted Pig, 27 High Street, CF10 1PU
Hidden in a former bank vault beneath the city, The Potted Pig is a wholesome hog of a restaurant where local ingredients are crafted into amazing seasonal dishes. Pork-themed treats are the go-to: you can order a whole suckling pig for decadent family feasts, and their trademark potted pig starter with toast and pickles is quintessential Cardiff dining.
Purple Poppadom, 158a Cowbridge Road East, CF11 9AJ
This colourfully-named Cowbridge Road restaurant serves up a rainbow of nouvelle Indian cuisine. Purveyors of bog standard biriyanis and mundane masalas, look elsewhere: pan seared sea bass served on curry leaf-infused mash is more Chef Anand George’s style.
Bangkok Cafe, 207 Cowbridge Road East, CF11 9AJ
Not so much a cafe, more a thriving technicolour eatery that brings authentic and bold Thai flavours to Cardiff. Bangkok Cafe’s banging dishes include classics like Pad Thai and Gang Massaman alongside lesser-known flavour fests like Dowhoo Pat Prik (no giggling at the back).
Chai Street, 153 Cowbridge Road East, CF11 9AH
The trendy brother of award-winning Cardiff restaurant Mint and Mustard, Chai Street specialises in the sort of food you’d find in a bustling Indian street market. Their spicy morsels are designed for fast eating, but it’s more fun to take your time in this pleasantly pokey haunt while you grab bites of thali and roti dipped in sweet chutney.
Got Beef, 83 Whitchurch Road, CF14 3JP
As is the way these days, Got Beef was born a pop-up before proving popular enough to set up permanently on Whitchurch Road. We’re particularly fond of the Heisenburger, a Breaking Bad-inspired bacon and blue cheese burger with bright blue ‘drunken’ onions. It’s probably more moreish than Walt and Jesse’s signature product. We imagine.
Milgi, 213 City Road, CF24 3JD
Carnivores shouldn’t be put off the plant-based offerings at Milgi: meatless certainly doesn’t mean tasteless here. As a staple of Cardiff’s multicultural mile City Road, their globetrotting menu nabs flavours from Morocco, India, Peru and Mexico, all while using locally grown ingredients. Milgi’s also the only restaurant in town with a yurt in the garden – a perfect post-meal spot for sipping one of their cool cocktails.
The Grazing Shed, 37 St Mary Street, CF10 1AD
The Grazing Shed arguably serves up the gold standard in a city awash with burger joints. Made using ingredients from Welsh farms, their ‘super tidy’ hamburgers are consistently ranked as being some of the best this side of the Severn.
Shaam Nights, 118 City Road, CF24 3DQ
Among the many Middle Eastern eateries dotted down City Road, Shaam Nights stands out. Syrian food is the speciality here – chowing down on hearty plates of charcoal-grilled lamb and chicken while slumped in a deep cushioned seat, surrounded by twinkling bronze lanterns, you’ll feel like an actual sultan.
Bully’s, Romilly Crescent, CF11 9NP
Ask the locals for the gems of the town and they'll probably point you in the direction of Bully’s, a quaint Pontcanna restaurant celebrating 20 years of serving tasty French cuisine. One mouthful of their rib eye steak with pomme puree and French beans immediately explains why it’s lasted so long.
Urban Tap House, 25 Westgate Street, CF10 1DD
The immense range of craft ales on offer at Urban Tap House led to it being crowned ShortList’s best new pub in 2014. Pints taste twice as nice when paired up with a burger from chef Paul Turley’s constantly evolving kitchen. New meaty creations are added to the menu every Thursday, although Tap House virgins should order the Signature (peppered ground beef with smoked swiss cheese, beer-battered pickles and bacon jam).
Mezza Luna, 159 City Road, CF24 3BQ
Mezza Luna serves up Moroccan mezze in a convincing temple-like restaurant on City Road. There’s even a belly dancer to amp up the North African vibes on Friday and Saturday nights, which is either awesome or awkward depending on how much you value personal space. Head straight to the tagine section of the menu and order up a fragrant North African feast.
Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Hood Road, CF62 5BE
Hang Fire Smokehouse founders Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn learned to cook proper slow-n-low barbecue during a road trip of America’s southern states. After years of popping up in Cardiff pubs to serve mouthwatering ribs and brisket, their permanent Southern Kitchen is finally opening in a 215-year-old pump house on Barry Waterfront (yeah, it’s technically out of town, but we all needed a better excuse to visit Barry than Gavin and Stacey).
Casanova, 13 Quay Street, CF10 1EA
Any Italian menu that’s brave enough to swerve the ubiquitous pizza in favour of more daring national recipes has to be worth an evening out, and Casanova delivers. Rather than firing out an expansive roster of so-so cibo, chef Antonio Cersosimo opts for a select number of authentic dishes, each cooked to perfection.
Chez Francis, 185 Cowbridge Road East, CF11 9AJ
Alongside his neighbours at Purple Poppadom, gallic gastro-genius Francis Dupuy has turned the unlikely suburban sprawl of Cowbridge Road into an exciting food quarter. Everything’s brilliantly French in this cool bistro, from the wine list to the maps in the loos. If you’ve never tried snails, the unbelievable escargot here might tempt you.
Cafe Citta, 4 Church Street, CF10 1BG
While it’d be easy to walk past this titchy family Italian without noticing it, those in the know will duck inside to feast on wood-fired pizza and fresh pasta. Citta is cosy to say the least, so book in advance to avoid being turned away after a fleeting whiff of their irresistible grub.
The Clink, Knox Road, CF24 0UG
Creative gourmet plates served up at The Clink will change what you think about prison meals forever. Part of a rehabilitation programme, everything here is served by prisoners. But you’re not just supporting a worthwhile cause by booking a table: this is genuinely some of the best food in Cardiff.
Hogwurst, 56 North Road, CF10 3DZ
Despite being in the heart of studentville, Hogwurst’s gourmet hotdogs are much more exciting than your standard freshers' fair. This laid back diner serves the best franks in town, from curry sauce-smothered Slum Dogs to mega-Welsh leek and cheese Glam Dogs. Bring your own booze, but leave the sausage jokes and wiener-isms at home – they’ve heard them all here.
New York Deli, 20 High Street Arcade, CF10 1BB
Famous for serving sandwiches you can’t eat without a fork, expect queues out the door at this Big Apple-themed lunchtime spot. Cold meats in mega-sized sarnies might be the main event, but only a fool would overlook its drool-worthy chocolate brownies.
Fish at 85, 85 Pontcanna Street, CF11 9HS
A stroll through the leafy suburb of Pontcanna reveals this catch of a restaurant. Pick out a fresh fish from a real working fishmongers and let the chef cook it however you like. We say let the pros choose for you, as it’s always unfathomably scrummy.
Bar 44, 15-23 Westgate Street, CF10 1DD
Right opposite the Millenn… sorry, Principality Stadium, Bar 44 cranks out its hearty selection of muy delicioso tapas. The tiled bar and woody restaurant interior are pretty cool, but there’s something more gratifying about nibbling your gambas and jamón ibérico on the tables in the street – it ain’t the Costa del Sol, but it’s ours.