Cardiff foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Check out where locals eat and drink in the Welsh capital, including new street food spots, instagrammable coffee shops, and a bargain set lunch with a view of the city
Looking for Cardiff restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants near Cardiff station and in the Welsh capital. The best foodie spots include a tasting menu at Heaneys, coffee at Big Moose Coffee Co and brunch at The Early Bird. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in Cardiff, from Queen Street to Cardiff city centre and beyond…
Best restaurants in Cardiff
Heaneys – best diner and deli
Having moved into the site that was previously home to Arbennig, which owners John and Ceri Cook closed in May, Tommy Heaney - of Great British Menu fame - has finally opened his Kickstarter-funded diner. After a brief pop-up in the adjoining deli, the full launch has won over the locals, with a slicked-back bistro vibe and a choice between a set tasting menu (think oysters, beef tartare, cured monkfish, crispy quail and BBQ Welsh lamb) or more affordable lunch options (try the brill with sweetcorn, kale, Iberico Pancetta and smoked hollandaise). The Sunday roast is worthy of a return visit, but look out also for an impressive guest chef line up with the likes of Chris Harrod (The Whitebrook), Josh Eggleton (The Pony & Trap) and Michael Bremner (64 Degrees) all taking over the kitchen in 2019.
Milkwood – best seasonal bistro
A short stroll from Heaneys, Milkwood is the latest venture from the trio behind The Potted Pig, Porro, The Lansdowne and The Grange. After only a year in business, Milkwood - with its relaxed local clientele, extensive wine list and small but perfectly executed seasonal menu (try the ricotta gnudi with artichokes) - is the only new addition into the Michelin Guide 2019 for Cardiff, proving that chefs Tom Furlong and Gwyn Myring have continued to thrive, long after a fateful meeting in the kitchen of what was once Cibo Italian, housed in the very spot that Milkwood now calls home. Some things are just meant to be…
The Classroom – best set lunch menu
A student canteen doesn’t often come as a recommendation when exploring a city’s gastronomical delights, but then not many educational establishments offer a memorable meal with panoramic views. Housed on the top floor of the Cardiff and Vale College, the floor-to-ceiling glass dining room showcases Wales’ future culinary talent, under the watchful eye of renowned industry professionals. The bargain three-course set lunch menu (think lamb sweetbreads, Snowdonia Black Bomber crème brûlée, roast pheasant and cardamom panacotta) is accompanied with bread from the on-site bakery. A heads up, though, it’s not such a hidden secret anymore so booking is essential.
Dusty Knuckle – best pizza in Cardiff
A champion of the Slow Food movement, Phill Lewis has taken his love of seasonal, fresh ingredients and run with it, moving from pop-up to permanent pizzeria in The Printhaus’ outdoor courtyard in Canton. A recent win at the Sustainable Restaurant Food Awards is testament to Dusty Knuckle’s honest offering. With a dough to rival a Napolitano recipe, Phill’s efforts have secured a seal of approval from the culinary home of pizza, with an invitation to trade at the exclusive Italian food festival Dit Unto. Thanks to the unshakeable base, the team are left to play with seasonal toppings, from local cheese, vegetables, meat and seafood (typical offerings include the Blas Y Mor with San Marzano tomatoes, Fior Di Latte, lardons, Penclawdd cockles, laverbread and samphire). Come for the pizza, stay for the biodynamic wines and craft beers.
Best cafés in Cardiff
Big Moose Coffee Co
Another Kickstarter success story for the city, this time serving up coffee with a conscience, Big Moose Coffee is tucked on Frederick Street, off the main thoroughfare of the city centre, and returns all profits from the business to help homeless people back into work. Founder Jeff Smith and daughter Chloe now run the cafe, while the industrial interiors and Instagrammable neon signs welcome a loyal fan base with the familiarity of an old friend. The café’s homemade cakes (don’t miss the apple sponge with peanut butter frosting) sell out in hours and the doorstop sandwiches, made with local Pettigrew Bakeries sourdough, and made-to-order fluffy omelettes are a big hit.
The Early Bird
Students flock to this yellow-fronted cafe in the heart of Cathays, where the ingredients are local but the menu takes inspiration from further afield. Owner and baker Ceri Johnston Bower uses the finest Welsh organic butter, eggs, milk and flour to make her signature brunch and bakes, so if you can grab a seat (there’s an outdoor courtyard for when the sun dares to shine) you’ll be rewarded with a hard-to-choose-from menu. Try the Oooohhh Sweet Chai Of Mine (chai-spiced banana bread with peanut butter parfait, maple, grilled banana and pistachio dust) or the Cowboy’s breakfast (Welsh pork sausage, BBQ baked beans, poached egg and sourdough toast), leaving room for a loaded doughnut or chocolate twist pastry, still warm from the oven. Look out for a second branch opening in late 2019.
If you’re after a walled garden cafe with as much beauty as substance, then wander through the tree-lined paths of Bute Park, to find this independent set up. The team, run by Mel Boothman, (search out Penylan Pantry in Waterloo Gardens for her other culinary gold star) serves a killer coffee from local roastery Hard Lines, and a simple-but-delicious menu of organic veggies, seasonal soups, chunky frittatas, salads and creative cakes (grab a honey salted brownie or slice of the vegan chocolate and coconut loaf). Potted herbs, planted for the launch in April 2018, are now abundantly used in the café’s dishes, with honey coming from three resident hives in the park. Dogs are welcome, too, and a canopy and cosy blankets make it a year round option, no matter the weather.
Best food shops in Cardiff
Few places in the Welsh capital can claim to be a historic institution but Central Market proudly bears the title. Wandering under its Victorian glass ceiling is like taking a step back in time, with two floors of stalls that can fulfil almost every need. Need an aubergine for that recipe tonight? Cardiff Market. A fresh catch of siwen? Try Ashton’s in Cardiff Market. Not forgetting a fresh batch of Welsh cakes, hot off the griddle. Some stalls have been in residence for decades, others are new kids on the block. Of the latter, pick up the best cheeses at the Cheese Pantry and Holy Yolks’ scotch egg bar is a thing of beauty.
We all know that single-use plastic is a bad thing for the environment, and many of us have made great efforts to reduce our consumption this year.
Ripple, by former food writer Sophie Rae, opened in Cardiff in November 2018, and stocks some 160 bulk whole foods, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals and dried fruits, as well as Welsh yogurt, eggs and milk, local kombucha with a glass bottle return scheme, plus pump-dispensed detergents, cleaning supplies and dishwasher powder, and much more.
Best street food spots in Cardiff
A newcomer with high hopes, this happy gathering of the best street food ventures the city has to offer has recently opened in the basin of the Old Brewery Quarter. Trading Thursday to Sunday, the indoor market houses three bars and five permanent kitchens: The Two Anchors (doing dangerously good things with the freshest catch from Ashton’s nearby), Hoof (burgers worth shouting about), award-winning grilled cheese from Mr Croquewich, pizza from The Original Goodfillas and spice and all things nice (not least the fried chicken roti) from Makasih.
Best wine bars in Cardiff
An offshoot of the brilliant family-run Wright’s Food Emporium at Llanarthney on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, this wine bar in Cardiff’s Victorian-built Castle Arcade is certainly compact but it goes big on natural wines from small growers, served by the glass and bottle. With so little space, the food menu is understandably concise but includes coppa and piccalilli, and a welsh rarebit and leek sandwich. Visit on Sundays when it sells any bottle at ‘shelf price’ with no corkage if you drink it on the premises, which essentially means a saving of more than a third.
Tucked away between the Principality Stadium and the hazy lights of St Mary Street, next door to sister restaurant Curado, this pint-sized, backstreet bar will take you straight to Andalucia with its cheerful yellow walls, colourful Spanish tiling and seriously impressive collection of vermouth, sherry and Montilla-Moriles wine (another dry, sherry-like wine).
The best way to navigate the comprehensive menu is to start with something on draft: there are two vermouths from Madrid (white or red) and two Montilla-Moriles wines. Once you’ve discovered what you like, there’s a huge variety to explore by the glass, bottle or cocktail.
If you’re a sucker for a martini, the Morriña is a must. This take on the classic tipple uses Axta Vermouth Blanco, with olive-oil-washed Nordes Gin lending savoury notes and a glossy mouthfeel to the drink. Spritz fans can build their own – choose a red or white vermouth base; add cava or sparkling Spanish cider; and then top with soda, Vichy Catalan or lemonade.
Food-wise, cured meats and Spanish cheeses are the obvious choice, as well as cold plates such as fresh sardines pickled in white wine vinegar and carpaccio of smoked tuna with salsa verde.
Words by Kathryn Lewis, Sophie Rae and Mark Taylor