Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

A Football Tourist’s Guide To Cardiff – Part Two

(If you missed Part One, here’s the link.)

Premier Inn Cardiff East

We had a great night’s sleep in the comfy Premier Inn bed. I must remember to investigate where they get their beds from because they’re just the comfiest beds ever.

The shower, however, was so small as to offer a very unpleasant experience. It was one of those immovable shower heads and I couldn’t escape the water. I appreciate that the point of a shower is to get wet but after I’ve washed my hair I like to wrap it up in a small towel for the duration of the shower. This was impossible in this shower. I even managed to bash my head on the controls. A horrible experience.

At breakfast, there was no Earl Grey, so I settled for regular tea. There was no magic toasting conveyor belt thing (I don’t know what they’re called) but instead there were a couple of (admittedly decent) toasters. There were no bagels and there was no non-dairy alternative milk. I suggested Lee try orange juice on his granola and this proved to be a successful experiment.

Here’s my breakfast.

We headed back into Cardiff and parked at Sophia Gardens Car Park. From here we strolled through a lovely park towards the city centre.

Evidence of yesterday’s storm.
Lovely to see daffs in bloom.

Cardiff Castle

On arrival in Cardiff yesterday, we had been mesmerised by the Animal Wall at the front of Cardiff Castle. How had I not noticed this on previous visits?

The Castle had been closed yesterday owing to Storm Eunice but we were pleased to find the doors open today.

On arrival we were presented with a ticket and a sticker.

Alas the sticker proved short-lived as it failed to stick to my wet coat in the rain.

There was lots to explore in the castle grounds. I was drawn to the old castle itself.

Ooh steps – my favourite thing!

There were lots of steps up to several floors of castle. The metal ones felt particularly perilous in the rain.

The weather also meant the views from the top weren’t as stunning as they might have been, although I was still excited to see two stadiums – one either side.

I was also excited to see that this castle had a moat, although I did wonder if that had been here before yesterday’s storm.

Next we headed into the newer building, more like a stately home, with grand rooms and furnishings.

A dog!

Again we were expected to wear masks here; again we weren’t prepared for this. I felt uncomfortable and rushed through this section.

Finally, we scaled more steps to walk along the castle wall. Here we discovered shutters that opened to reveal narrow slats through which the castle could be defended.

By now we were conscious that we still hadn’t played shuffleboard and we were determined not to leave Cardiff without doing so. We therefore headed in the direction of one of Cardiff’s two shuffleboard venues.

Just as we were almost there, up popped Fiona, who was wandering round the city on her own because Dave was nursing a hangover after a sesh in Popworld.

It was now 1100 and we only now thought to check the opening time for the shuffleboard place. Which opened at 1200. Hmm. Pub?

Blue Bell

We’d passed this place a few times and I’d earmarked it for tea tonight. As we didn’t appear to have passed another open pub since we’d last passed this one, we headed back there now.

I ordered a half of each of the Glamorgan beers. Try Time was the tastiest.

I wondered if this tangerine and white Beavertown tap decoration was a good omen.

This was a nice, comfortable, proper pub. I checked out the menu for tea later and was pleased to see lamb cawl on there: my usual meal when in Cardiff. When in Wales, eat their sheep and all that.

Boom: Battle Bar Cardiff

I left Fiona with Dave, who had now surfaced, and Lee and I headed off to shuffleboard heaven.

We’d spotted our first Boom: Battle Bar in Coventry recently but unfortunately it appeared to be closed. Having researched the chain, it sounded very exciting, with lots of games onsite.

But there was only one game we were here for today (time-restricted as we were).

This place was even cooler than Kongs (see Part One) and we hadn’t thought that was possible.

So, what was so great about it?

First up: the cool artwork.

That latter pic is of the toilets (can you spot the hand driers?).

I took these photos while I waited for the barman to finish serving another customer. He turned out to be the first of two contenders for Least Helpful Barman Of The Day. This is a new competition that I wouldn’t have even dreamt up (especially in these challenging times for the hospitality sector) but for these two special cases today.

‘I’m a craft beer drinker. Have you got anything like that?’

It didn’t seem like a cask ale kinda place, so I figured this was my best shot.

‘Craft beer? No. We’ve got nothing like that.’

I’d already spotted a Beavertown – which I never fancy – but I didn’t push the point. I studied the fridge and opted for an Old Mout Kiwi & Lime Cider. I’m not a cider drinker (and I’m not a fan of The Wurzels, either) but this is light and refreshing and doesn’t taste of cider at all.

Now it was time to shuffleboard. This was a very tricky board to play and I can’t say we even got the hang of it after two matches (we won one each). It was a very long board (like the one we played in Sheffield) but it was so easy to overshoot the pucks out of play.

Meanwhile the music in here was outstanding and I sang and danced in between shots. Damn this was a fine bar.

Sadly our time here was limited as we now had the match to go to. On the way out, I spotted this lovely range of craft beer taps.

I’d probably have gone for the peach lager as the novel alternative here, although I do love a Clwb Tropica.

On our way out we spotted the outdoor seating area.

Obvs no-one here right now as it was raining.

We strolled back to the car and made the short drive towards the Cardiff City Stadium, parking on the nearby Asda car park (free for three hours).

Cardiff City v Blackpool

Having arrived at the ground nice and early, I headed straight to the Ladies to make myself comfortable.

Part of me was irked by the Ladies being painted pink and the Gents blue, but it certainly made it easy to distinguish between the two.

If I did an award for Concourse of the Season, Cardiff would probably win it. It was very spacious and the stewards even opened up the gates for smokers/vapers to get their fix at half time. The stewards here were lovely too. I even got a frisk on my way into the ground, which is always a treat.

I took my seat in the stand. There was a nip in the air but it was lacking the sinister bite that we’d suffered at Birmingham.

The match? Honestly at the time of writing (directly after the subsequent match, which I’ve already deliberately erased from my memory), I can’t remember.

Oh that’s right – it finished 1-1 but we should have had a penalty (even the Cardiff fans admitted that) when Josh Bowler was shoved down in the box. Instead the questionable ref booked Bowler for diving. It was an outrageous decision. We played well and could have won this one. But we didn’t and that was that.

Here’s our match vlog.

Heading out of the ground, I got chatting with a lady who was staying at our hotel so we grumbled about that for a moment before turning the conversation to our plans for the evening. She announced:

‘We’ve got a table booked at Cosy Club at Cardiff Bay.’

‘Oh we were down that way last night. We went to the opera. The theatre’s beautiful.’

‘The opera?!’

‘Yes. Lee hadn’t been before so we decided to go. It was really good.’

‘What? The REAL opera?!’

‘Yes – the Welsh National Opera. Don Giovanni.’

Do I not seem the opera type or something? To be honest, I didn’t know I was myself until last night.

We tramped back to the car park and narrowly made it off ahead of the three-hour time limit, despite a delay in exiting while we waited for the coaches to pass.

We had been heading back to the Blue Bell for tea, but Lee’s eye was caught by a restaurant just off Ninian Park Road.

Riverside Cantonese Restaurant

Our warm and welcoming host found us a table towards the front of the restaurant. This place looked and smelled amazing. What a find this was. Sometimes the impromptu stops are the best.

I didn’t fancy wasting any of my evening’s beer allowance on lager; nor did they have any diet pop that wasn’t Coke (I’m avoiding Coke and coffee after recent trouble sleeping – see Coventry) so I eventually settled on a tap water.

We ordered prawn crackers to start, which came with no dipping sauce, but a bowl of chilli sauce (hot, not sweet) was promptly delivered upon request.

I always want EVERYTHING on a Chinese menu. I wish they did little tasting dishes so I could try several at once. However I needed to choose only one and tonight I opted for this delicious dish.

Chicken with chilli and black bean sauce.

The tables in the restaurant were very well spaced out. However the sound carried in such a way that I found it difficult to hear Lee speaking from across the table. That pesky white background noise again.

As we crunched our mints and headed towards the exit, our host called out to us:

‘This guy’s a Cardiff fan and even he says it was definitely a penalty.’

We headed over to the bar for a chat with said Cardiff fan, who was happy to be interviewed on Lee’s video.

Now it was time for Lee and I to briefly head our separate ways. We were staying over tonight so Lee could put the match vlog together immediately after the match. The alternative would have meant him driving five hours home and then staying up until he’d finished the video. This way seemed more sensible.

But obvs I wasn’t going to sit in the cramped hotel room while Lee was editing his video. Not when there were pubs to be ticked…

Tiny Rebel

After Lee had despatched me outside Cardiff Castle, I headed immediately for the one place I had no intention of missing: Tiny Rebel.

I had loved its Newport counterpart – even leaving the match early so I could head back there (although granted this was during the boycott years, when I was only going to new away grounds to tick them off, having no interest whatsoever in the match). Indeed the Tiny Rebel shirt I bought on that day five years ago is still a firm favourite of mine.

On arrival at Tiny Rebel Cardiff tonight, I was surprised to find a bouncer on the door (this was the case at every pub I visited tonight).

‘Card only.’

I nodded and proceeded towards the bar.

Ooh a STOUT!

I headed next to the Ladies, which I needed directions to (they were upstairs). This was the poster on the toilet door.

Ooh open mic! I’ve not performed at one of those for a couple of years now. I used to read my poetry at them in the pubs and clubs of the West Midlands. Not that this monster blog allows me much time for writing poetry these days. There’s an example here if you’re interested in delving into the deep darkness of my mind.

I hadn’t noticed any free tables in the busy downstairs bar but I noticed there were upstairs rooms here too. What a little warren this place was proving to be!

As I approached the door to one of these rooms, I began to wonder if they were hosting private parties. The ‘who the fuck are you?’ look I was getting from the man in the doorway seemed to confirm this. So I retreated back downstairs.

Happily, I found another room downstairs too and this had a vacant table – yippee! I immediately claimed it for my own.

Here I studied the food menu (not for me – for you, dear reader). I found the Loaded Fries section particularly alluring.

Oh and these!

But tonight I was on a mission. I had a whole host of recommendations of Cardiff pubs to visit. But I had decided to stick with the old faithful Good Beer Guide to escort me round the pubs tonight.

Queens Vaults

The moment I stepped into this big, busy pub, it erupted in a huge cheer. Well that was a nice welcome!

I soon realised this was a reaction to some sporting event on the tv. Was it rugby? I didn’t think there was any this weekend. Closer inspection of the tv revealed Harry Kane wheeling away in celebration of a goal. Were England playing? How did I not know that? Any why were Welsh people celebrating an England goal? Hang on, don’t we have international weekends off these days? I squinted at the screen. Oh it was Spurs! I was still confused why this was of interest in a pub in Wales. Subsequent research revealed this to have been a last minute winner at Manchester City, which was apparently A Good Thing. I have zero interest in the Premier League. Can you tell?

Now to the bar…

The Double Dragon (works wonders) piqued my interest. But the pump clip didn’t reveal much about the beer style.

‘What sort of beer is that one, please?’

Cue contender number two for Least Helpful Barman of the Day.

‘It’s a real ale.’

‘Yes I KNOW that,’ I laughed. ‘But what sort?’

Clearly perplexed by the question, he thought on his feet and quickly poured me a taster. I wasn’t convinced by this one and duly ordered a half of the IPA.

It was a struggle to find a free table but I did manage to locate one towards the rear of the pub. In the time it took me to sup my half, every other stool at my table had been snaffled by people at other tables. It was also getting progressively louder in here and every extra decibel forced me closer to the door.

Head of Steam

I had been invited to visit this pub by Cameron’s Brewery on Twitter, who I’d made friends with on my recent visit to Hartlepool, when I’d put a Flake in one of their beers.

I’ve only recently learned that Camerons Brewery owns the Head of Steam chain of pubs.

The Head of Steam in Birmingham is one of my favourite pubs in that city because it has something for everyone. It has a good range of beers and beer cocktails (Stay Puft with toasted marshmallows mmm) and it’s cool and vibrant.

The Head of Steam in Cardiff reminded me very much of its Birmingham counterpart. It, too, was vibrant. It, too, had an island bar with an exciting range of beers.

Woah a BLACK FOREST STOUT!!!

I salivated over that pump clip for a good five minutes until I was served. As I ordered, the man waiting next to me at the bar was suitably intrigued by what I’d ordered.

When my beer came, I took a sip immediately because I simply couldn’t wait any longer.

‘That’s very good,’ I confirmed to the nosy man next door.

I managed to locate an empty booth and slid in there for some alone time with my beer.

‘Very good’ simply doesn’t do this beer justice. It was exquisite. I rolled every mouthful around my mouth so I could savour all of the flavours. I never wanted this drink to end. I would happily drink this beer and nothing else for the rest of my life. I wanted to bathe in it. Dammit I could even be driven to write a poem about it. If you ever see it, buy it and worship it.

Sadly my half pint glass was soon empty. I debated what to do. There were another two pubs across town that I was planning on visiting. But surely my night had peaked? No way would I find a beer anywhere close to that sublime Vocation beer. Any other beers would only be disappointing.

My late friend Sally coined the term ‘crawlwrecker’ for a pub that you simply get stuck in (as I did in Shipwreck).

Well this BEER was my crawlwrecker tonight. I’m not sure one beer has ever wrecked a crawl for me before. Unless you count the Church End Gravediggers Mild in Katz in Walsall, which is always a wrench to leave behind.

For some months now I’ve been snaffling beermats under the instruction of Ian, who I once ambushed at Manchester Beer Festival demanding a list of pubs to visit in Clitheroe. Such is the life of a CAMRA member. I spotted some beermats at the end of the table and was interested to find this.

I left my booth unattended as I headed back to the bar. Within seconds it had been snaffled by a couple who appeared out of thin air. Dammit. How do other solo drinkers manage to ‘mark their territory’ when temporarily vacating a table? Sometimes I leave my coat but I didn’t want to in this busy bar. I’m contemplating making a RESERVED FOR JANE sign to leave on the table. I think that could work. Maybe RESERVED FOR TYSON X 6 for added gravitas and to make it less likely the sign would be discarded.

Anyway the bar was HEAVING now and there only seemed to be two staff serving. It could be twenty minutes before I was served. And then I’d have nowhere to sit and savour my pint. Reluctantly, I left the pub.

I had decided to continue with my crawl after all. But the map was troubling me. It seemed to want to send me through shopping centres or down alleys that I didn’t like the look of. I think deep down I knew the crawl was over. I called Lee to request collection.

And thus ends Day Two and Part Two of this Football Tourist’s Guide To Cardiff. BUT THAT’S NOT ALL, FOLKS! Oh no. For we were staying another day. And that means there’s a Part Three to come, featuring:

– Cardiff Garden Centre

– St Fagans National Museum of History

– White Lion, Ross-on-Wye

If you’ve enjoyed this article there are many more to read on this website. You can navigate using the menus above. All of my content is FREE but you do have the option to buy me a beer on a forthcoming trip by clicking on the link below:

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