We Visit

Cardiff

Whether it's rugby, shopping or culture, the Welsh capital has always been a special place and there's also plenty of choice for visiting foodies

Cardiff has always been special. Its Victorian and Edwardian shopping arcades are enchanting alleyways crammed with independent shops and cafés, their vaulted glass ceilings hung with old-world lanterns. You can happily spend hours winding your way from one to the next, pretending you’re in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Throw in a vast complex of modern shopping centres, and it’s hardly surprising that Cardiff is known as the ‘city of arcades’.

Other parts of Cardiff have only blossomed in recent years, with millions of pounds of investment turning it into a true capital. Nowhere is this more evident than in Cardiff Bay, once a grimy no-go area, now a glistening waterfront destination, home to the Welsh government, the magnificent Millennium Centre concert venue and dozens of mostly chain eateries and bars.

The more interesting independent restaurants are concentrated in the suburbs and the city centre, where you can easily grab a great meal just a short walk from the Principality Stadium (formerly known as the Millennium Stadium). If you’re planning to visit during the Six Nations rugby championship, be warned that the city will be heaving with visitors and the best restaurants are often booked well in advance.

‘We have some lovely customers who come here year after year during the Six Nations, and they tend to book a year in advance,’ says Selim Terziu, manager of Casanova in the city centre. ‘We’re near the entrance to the stadium so people come here to eat, then go to the game and come back here to relax, maybe with some wine and cheese.’ Casanova reflects a tradition of Italian dining in Cardiff that can be traced back to the Italian immigrants who came to south Wales in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Indian restaurants are another delicious theme, with Cardiff boasting two of Wales’s finest – Purple Poppadom and Mint And Mustard.

Foodies should also look out for stylish takes on gutsy US fare, such as The Grazing Shed in the city centre (for its ‘super tidy’ burgers) and The Smoke House in Pontcanna for Texan barbecue. For very cheap, unreconstructed comfort food, head to Caroline Street, known to the locals as Chip Alley, which is lined with takeaways whose abundance of deep-fat fryers may explain the long history of fires on the street.Cardiff also has a bountiful selection of bars selling craft ales: Urban Tap House and The Gravity Station are great places to begin or end your evening.