Thursday, 15 November 2012

Cathays Park, Cardiff

We are in Cathays, Cardiff. Previously, I left you walking across the railway bridge on Corbett Road from Cathays Terrace. At the road junction, turn left down Park Place / Plas Y Parc.

On both sides are departments and offices of Cardiff University. On your right you will pass The Centre for Professional Legal Studies, Psychology (with the pattern of ceramic disks), Biosciences, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, and the Main University Building.

On the left on this stretch of Park Place (recently rebranded “the student high street”) are Personnel and various administrative offices, Career Services, Park Place Fitness Centre, and the Students Union Building.

48 Park Place CF10 3LU
Branch of the coffee shop chain. Sandwiches and hot beverages: eat in and takeaway (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2011). There is also a Costa Express next door inside the Student Union Building.

Cardiff University Students Union
47a Park Place CF10 3QN
Refectory dining and fast-food outlets inside the building (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2011).

29 Park Place CF10 3BA (2023 1252)
Bacchus Bar and Lounge opened in 2012, for brunches, light lunches and evening meals. The current menu features tapas, along with sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads, steak and fries, fillet of sea bass and fries, lasagne, harvest vegetable casserole and other dishes; with tarts, waffles and traditional puddings among the desserts. This Brains-owned bar was formerly The Cardiff Arts Institute (until 2011), and before that Incognito (to around 2009). Very handy for the National Museum of Wales across the road (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. July 2011).

Park House
20 Park Place CF10 3DQ (2022 4343)
The Park House Club hosts events on a number of floors (e.g., corporate and weddings). Earlier this year, the members-only club opened to the public. Its destination restaurant is The Park House. Head Chef Jonathan Edwards focuses on British food and sources many ingredients from Wales. Dishes are elaborately and distinctively constructed. There is a Gourmet Tasting Menu. The current a la carte menu includes Kelmscott Pork and Loch Fynne scallops (with Charles Macloed black pudding, Spanish chorizo, sherry caramel), Roast saddle of Breconshire Venison (with pancetta, violet potatoes, braised salisfy, red cabbage, chocolate), Carver Creedy Duck (with caramelized chicory, sweet potato, vanilla puree, curly kale, bonbon), Roast pumpkin and Wiltshire truffle risotto, and Highland short horn beef tarka dhal. The basement bar is called Vanilla (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Nov 2011).

The Park House was originally called McConnochie House and was designed in 1874 by the architect William Burges (who also rebuilt Cardiff Castle) for the chief engineer of Bute Docks James McConnochie. To publicize the restaurant’s opening in 2012, the owner wrapped a giant red ribbon and bow around the Grade 1 listed building, without planning consent. The council eventually got the ribbon removed, but the label remains.

Park House is not to be confused with The Park Hotel, whose restaurant is The Social, which is also on Park Place, but on the other side of Boulevard de Nantes and Stuttgarter Strasse (on a different part of our walking tour).

Instead of crossing the busy road, turn to your left (where the road is called Stuttgart Strasse) and walk the short distance to St Andrew’s Crescent, which forms an oval around Eglwys Dewi Sant. The traffic goes clockwise, but we will walk anticlockwise past the Martin Tinney Gallery (18 St Andrew’s Crescent). The gallery is currently holding its 20th Anniversary Exhibition (until 24 Nov), with works by Gwen John, Sir Kyffin Williams, Ceri Richards, John Piper, Mary Lloyd Jones and other notable Welsh artists.

Just past the gallery, you will be on St Andrew’s Place. Turning right here will take you under the railway line to the start of Salisbury Road (where we have already walked on this tour).

Turn left:

Coffee a gogo
8 St Andrews Place CF10 3BE (2023 2723)
This coffee shop opened in 2012 and serves deli-style food at lunchtimes and through the afternoon; sandwiches, soups, salads, light lunches and coffee to go. Takeaway (although there are a few high stools by the window). Artisan bread is supplied by Allen’s Bakery in Roath. There is another Coffee a gogo outlet in Whitchurch, and the owners also operate in The Promised Land (a nearby bar). I grabbed a coffee here on route to the Museum and found the place to be friendly and the service efficient.

You can buy your coffee in a local independent coffee house like this or head further into the city to get one from a US-based multinational that uses every loophole in the book to avoid paying tax in the UK. It’s a tough call.

Cross over St Andrew’s Place and walk towards the railway underpass. Turn left up leafy Park Grove (though the leaves are falling).

Pen and Wig
1 Park Grove CF10 3BJ (2037 1217)
A traditional-style pub that serves food from 11am (an hour for late breakfasts), through lunchtime and dinner until 10pm. Classic pub meals (e.g., scampi and chips, ham with 2 eggs and chips, chicken tikka masala), pies (e.g., boozy beef, fish pie, chicken and mushroom), grills, sandwiches, burgers, jacket potatoes and desserts. The Pen and Wig hosts live music. You can leave by the back door (do pay your bill) and through the large beer garden (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Sept 2011).

The Pen and Wig is owned by the Stonegate Pub Company (over 540 pub/bar venues across UK), whose brands include Yates, Slug and Lettuce, Scream, Classic Pubs, Local Pubs, and Great Traditional Pubs. The Pen and Wig is one of their Great Traditional Pubs. Scream pubs in this part of Cathays are The Woodville and Gassy Jacks, while The Mackintosh is a Local Pub.

The backdoor of Bacchus is opposite the back door of the Pen and Wig. Turn left back to St Andrew’s Place along the service road, and then right to Park Place. Cross the road and walk to the front door of the National Museum of Wales.

National Museum and Gallery of Wales
Gorsedd Gardens CF10 3NP (2057 3000)
The National Museum / Amgueddfa Cymru officially opened here in 1927. Today, there is a coffee shop in the main atrium with seating that serves sandwiches and cakes. The Oriel Restaurant is downstairs, serving hot lunches, snacks and sandwiches from 10am to 2.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Hot food usually includes soup, fish and chips, pasta dishes, burgers, jacket potatoes and Sunday roast lunches. Catering is by Digby Trout Restaurants. Don’t miss the Artes Mundi 5 exhibition (until 13 Jan 2013); other highlights at National Museum Cardiff include the Impressionist and Modern Art galleries and the Origins gallery (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2012).

The Gorsedd Gardens outside the front of the museum and City Hall next door were both established in 1905, the year Cardiff became a city. The druidic stone circle dates from the National Eisteddfod held on this site in 1899. In Real Cardiff (Seren, 2002), Peter Finch notes that the stones came from the cliffs of Penarth and when they were moved from their original site where City Hall now stands they were re-erected in the wrong order. Today, the benches around here are a prime spot for eating lunchtime sandwiches. I must also note the colourful seasonal flower beds, beautifully maintained by Cardiff City Council in Cathays Park (in Gorsedd Gardens, Friary Gardens and Alexandra Gardens).

The annual Winter Wonderland is currently setting up in Gorsedd Gardens (22 Nov to 13 Jan 2013). There will be a large bar and café in a white tent beside the Admiral Open Air Ice Rink. The mulled wine is always welcome.

Turn up Museum Avenue, between the museum and City Hall, where you will find Alexander Gardens to your left.  At the heart of this garden is the National War Memorial (dedicated to the fallen of two World Wars). There are other war memorials around the garden, including the Falklands War Memorial and one dedicated to the International Brigade who fought in the Spanish Civil War. The photo below was taken on Sunday (Remembrance Day).

At the far end of the gardens you will be on College Road. Turn left. You will see a wooden-clad building at the end of the road. Cross North Road (the start of the A470) at the lights.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD)
North Road, Cathays Park CF10 3ER (2034 2854)
Founded in 1949, the RWCMD gained a fantastic new extension in 2011 that includes a concert hall, theatre and café bar. The café bar opens for food at lunchtime and in the evenings before performances. A range of sandwiches and light snacks, but I recommend the specials: a limited number of hot main meals. It can change in the blink of an eye and you never know what will be on the menu before you arrive, but I have always left very satisfied after a meal there (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Dec 2011).

I’ll meet you here next time, for a walk through Bute Park.

Cathays Terrace
Salisbury Road
Woodville Road
Crwys Road
Wellfield Road
Albany Road
City Road

See also:
Rebranding of The Cardiff Arts Institute
Cardiff Arts Institute
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

Note: The Cardiff area code is 029.

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