On the corner of St Mary Street and Mill Lane:
Peppermint Bar & Kitchen
63 St Mary Street CF10 1FE (2039 9199)
Peppermint opened in August 2011 (taking over from Zync in this corner location). It’s an independent party, drinks and food venue on two-floors (with another one in Swansea). The food menu offers a wide range of light dishes, and there’s a late-night bar. Outside seating on pedestrianized Mill Lane (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Sept 2012).
The Mocka Lounge
1-2 Mill Lane CF10 1FL (2022 1292)
The mocka lounge is a café and nightclub. It opened in 2009 and serves food, lunches and light bites until 7pm. Cocktails a speciality. Open until the early hours (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2013).
3 Mill Lane CF10 1FL
Opened in 2012 Sushi Bento is a restaurant and take-away offering bento-style Japanese street food. This location was formerly occupied by Flavour Eurasia (Food Hygiene Rating 0: urgent improvement necessary. Jan 2013).
4 Mill Lane CF10 1FE (2039 8380)
This large bar and nightclubbing party venue is part of the Le Monde complex, which also fronts onto St Mary Street. A ground floor lounge (comfy seats) and bars on several levels, including a roof terrace (and exclusive Attic bar). Some food served, especially for parties. The original Soda Bar operated on St Mary Street from 2002 to 2008. Someone told me the price of drinks here once: gobsmacked (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Oct 2011).
7 Mill Lane CF10 1FL (2039 8380)
The Retro Lounge is the “home of the 90’s vibe”. A place to party and drink cocktails, rather than eat and, I can’t lie to you, it's also the “home of Stacey’s Hen Night” (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2011).
The next shop (Cardiff Bridal Centre) sells wedding dresses.
8 Mill Lane CF10 1FL (2022 8373)
This was the first Cardiff location for the Bristol-based chain (with another in Cardiff Bay). Las Iguanas’ Latin American cuisine offers something different and has become very popular in Cardiff. Menu features Mexican classics, popular Brazilian dishes, grilled sandwiches and salads. There are popular dishes from other Latin American countries and special nights featuring the cuisine of particular countries. Cocktails (seemingly obligatory on Mill Lane) and pitchers of Sangria are popular (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2012).
The next shop (Private) sells sex aids.
It looks a little sad and out of sorts today, but The Private Shop was here in pre-Internet times (when shops like this were the main outlet for porn) and therefore it pre-dates all the bars and restaurants around it. Private was here when the area opposite (now a Marriott Hotel) was an outdoor vegetable market, recalls Peter Finch in Real Cardiff who describes the contents of its shelves (p. 70), and nearby was “the infamous rock and blues Moon Club.”
10 Mill Lane CF10 1FL (2037 7668)
Juboraj Indian Restaurant in the Café Quarter is part of the local family-owned Juboraj group, serving high-end Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine. They have been in Cardiff for around 20 years, with establishments also in Rhiwbina and Lakeside, and most recently in the Big Windsor building in Cardiff Bay. The Mill Lane restaurant has undergone an extensive refurbishment recently, to bring it up to standard. An extensive menu of classic and authentic Indian cuisine (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Nov 2012).
Aura (“dedicated underground music venue”) opened in 2012 and is now shut. The adjacent The Ladybird Lounge nightclub opened in 2011 (upstairs 10 Mill Lane). The latter’s advert boasts: “as featuring in The Valleys.” You have been warned.
11 Mill Lane CF10 1FF (2066 5500)
Kapu Exotic Cocktail Bar and Island Grill opened in June 2012, and as one of the year’s most radical refurbishments. The previous outlet, operated by same owners, was Gios Italian restaurant. The food menu in Kapu focuses on grilled steaks and chicken, ribs, burgers, fish and shrimps; with tofu skewers for vegetarians. Kapu is Hawaiian for forbidden; other Hawaiian phrases and pineapple chunks characterize the menu. Palm tree décor completes the Hawaiian theme; in case you missed it (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2012).
Opposite, just beyond Carluccio’s at the end of the Library Building:
Mill Lane CF10 1EZ (2039 9944)
The Cardiff Marriot is a four-star hotel in a prime location, handy for the railway station and the restaurants of the Café Quarter. The main dining location is the Centrale brasserie. Chats downstairs has an outside terrace and is promoting sharing platters and sparkling wine for the Café Quarter crowds this summer (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2011).
The Library Building has three eateries on the ground floor. These are also listed as St David’s Centre restaurants (in the centre’s information), but here they will be considered as part of Mill Lane:
16 Mill Lane (3 Library Building) CF10 1FL (2023 2630)
Carluccio’s Caffe is a deli and café. This Italian food venture was started by celebrity chef Antonio Carluccio. It is the only Carluccio’s in Wales. Pasta is the big thing here (not pizza), with other features of the menu including the risotto of the day, fish dishes (e.g., fish soup, pan-fried sea bass) and meat dishes (e.g., slow-cooked beef stew, Milanese-style chicken, veal). Open for breakfast. I left with some olive bread and chocolate brownies last time I visited the shop. Events held here include pasta and risotto making classes, and wine tasting evenings (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011).
Gourmet Burger Kitchen
15 Mill Lane (2 Library Building) CF10 1FL (2066 8379)
gbk was ahead of the game on the gourmet burger trend, but has now lost some of its usp as gourmet and posh burgers are everywhere. Interesting options include Persian lamb, Wild boar, Avocado bacon, and Blue cheese; though ordering the Bunless burger is probably an indication that you’re in the wrong place. The kids enjoyed it here more than I did, with the milkshakes proving popular. There is another gbk in Cardiff Bay (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2012).
14 Mill Lane (1 Library Building) CF10 1EX (2064 1564)
I like the refectory tables and ethos of Wagamama. The food does not seem as economical as it used to be back in the day, but the free green tea helps keep the bill down (and it’s just the thing). Large bowls of ramen noodles have always been the staple, but I’ve been exploring other areas of the menu. On my last visit I went for the Teriyaki chicken donburi: teriyaki-glazed chicken in a bowl on sticky rice, with shaving carrot, water cress, spring onions and sesame seeds on top; served with a fresh crunchy hot relish. Some of the dishes can be surprisingly spicy (in a good way). There is another Wagamama in Cardiff Bay. Take-away can be ordered. The Wagamama Lounge is touring Bestival festivals this summer (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011).
On the corner is the entrance to the main Cardiff Library; head up to the fourth floor for the Food and Drink book section. Outside is Jean-Bernard Metais’s impressive sculpture Alliance, with its circle and spike elements. Peter Finch was responsible for the concrete poetry underneath: twelve historical ways of spelling Cardiff.
Back on the main stretch of Mill Lane, next to Kapu:
28-32 Wyndham Arcade CF10 1FJ (2034 4665)
ASK Italian restaurant is on the sharp corner of Mill Road and Wyndham Arcade. A 2012 rebrand (with Italian being added to the name) involved a new menu devised with the help of the Theo Randell. Seems a few of the Italian chains are taking these steps to become more distinctive in a crowded marketplace. At first, pizzas on a plank, Frutti di Mare stew, Panzanella, and Sicilian-style gelati; though may have toned the novelty down a notch by now. Good list of imported Italian wines. The only ASK in Cardiff (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. May 2013).
Wyndham Arcade was built in 1887 to a design by J.P. Jones. It runs at an angle between St Mary Street and Mill Lane. In Real Cardiff Three (p. 69), Peter Finch describes a throughfare that once housed fruit and veg stalls and an army surplus store. Walk towards St Mary Street: on your left, after Havana House (tobacconists stocking plenty of cigars) and The Bear House (there's a stuffed bear in there somewhere).
6-10 Wyndham Arcade CF10 1FJ (2039 4054)
Servini’s has been in this location for 16 years (after 15 years around the corner in St Mary Street). It’s a family-run business, currently owned by Melvyn Bishop. Servini’s is particularly noted for its large breakfasts; also lunch (e.g., hot baguettes, pasta dishes, salads, and burgers). Seating inside and outside along the covered arcade (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2012).
55 St Mary Street CF10 1FE (2039 8965)
Bar encountered when we walked down St Mary Street, where it has its front door. Kiwis used to be in a smaller location in the middle of Wyndham Arcade (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. March 2012).
Walk back along the arcade. On the other side, past Rebel Rebel (tattoo parlour and lots of alternative stuff, including those pottery dragons my sister likes):
27-39 Wyndham Arcade CF10 1FH (2023 1524)
Bill’s Restaurants have their origin in London’s Covent Garden and retain a market feel. You first enter a shop section that sells a range of products (e.g., relishes, cooking sauces). Breakfasts are a popular option here. Varied lunch menu encompasses burgers, skewers, mezze plate, salads and plenty of puddings. Meat can be swapped for halloumi for vegetarian options. I ate here last year and thought there was a bit of a mismatch between the rustic image and the fussy food we were served (e.g., very small mussels in a very small pot). There are now around a dozen Bill’s around the UK, owned by restaurant entrepreneur Richard Caring; this is the only one in Wales (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. Feb 2013).
Walk along the final part of Mill Lane to The Corner House, on the sharp corner with Caroline Street. I’ll meet you there next time.
Mill Lane, Sept 2011
Las Iguanas (Mill Lane), Feb 2011
On the subject of Wagamama
Previously, on the walking tour:
St Mary Street
Castle Arcade and Castle Street
Womanby Street and Quay Street
Cowbridge Road East 3
Cowbridge Road East 2
Cowbridge Road East 1