Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Hayes Island Snack Bar, Cardiff

A Chicken Mushroom Roll with a large tea (£3.90 in total) at Bwyty Hayes Island (Hayes Island Snack Bar) in Cardiff today. This café is widely regarded as serving the best bacon roll in town (£2.10) and the tea is very good. Like the bacon roll, today's sandwich was cooked to order and contained a generous amount of filling.

The building dates from 1911, when it was a parcel office. It has been run as a café for the past sixty years. Currently operated by First Cafes, it's a distinctive Cardiff landmark.

Seating is outside, under trees, with shoppers streaming past on both sides. The tables and chairs are mainly metal, although there are four stone tables with inlaid chess boards. It’s a good place to watch the world go by, especially on the warmest and sunniest day in Cardiff so far this year. A large video screen on the side of St David’s Hall can be seen from the seating area, offering updates on news, weather, sport and local events. The underground toilets are a tourist attraction in their own right, being among the best-preserved Victorian toilets in the UK.
The Hayes Island Snack Bar has survived through major redevelopments. During the recent St David’s extension it became the first stop for tea-breaking builders. Now the dust has cleared, it offers an interesting local alternative to overpriced chain coffee shops and sandwich bars.
Someone commented recently that the place was an eyesore now the smart mall has been built. Rubbish. This place is a link to the past - part of the city's culture - and who really wants Cardiff to turn into one big generic shoppping mall anyway. However, note that they don’t take credit cards, sandwiches are dispensed in paper bags, and tea in polystyrene cups (they used to have proper mugs). The outdoor seating is exposed to the elements and the pigeons can sometimes be a nuisance; I saw some idiots actually feeding them.
Even if you have never visited Cardiff, you may have seen The Hayes Island Snack Bar on TV, in one of the series shot here. It has, for instance, been glimpsed in several episodes of Torchwood. In ‘Ghost Machine’ Captain Jack parks the unit’s black SUV beside it, while in 'Shapeshifter' Gwen chases an alien down into the Victorian Gents toilets.
The Hayes Island Snack Bar, City Centre, Cardiff CF10 1AH. Tel: 029 2039 4848.

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