Let's be honest: Cardiff isn't exactly known as a foodie mecca (although the near-constant rain does provide some excellent ground for growing produce). That said, some local restaurants have begun to up their game over the last few years, finding a spot among the cafes and mom-and-pop shops to feed the British masses looking for an escape. From an impossibly cheese-filled deli to a crowdsourced brunch cafe, these are the greatest spots to eat in the Welsh capital.
Best guilt-free meal: Anna-Loka
The Indian-inspired menu here is full of flavorful options even die-hard carnivores will love, from the Cali breakfast with homemade vegan sausage, smoky tempeh rashers, and avocado, to the signature burger made from an ancient japanese seitan recipe. Most of the food can come gluten-free as well, so you can tick that box while you stuff your face with one of the surprisingly perfect desserts.
Best authentic Italian: Casanova
Started by three friends back in 2005, this bi-level spot goes for big flavors courtesy of its homemade pastas and risottos, as well as meat and fish sourced from the nearby Cardiff Market. Yes, the decor's been kept simple, but that's not really why you're here -- no, you're here for the Welsh lamb ragu and tender, Tuscan-style roast pork.
Best casual brunch: The Early Bird
Chef Ceri Johnston trained at a local bakery before turning to the good will of friends, family, and even the public at large to open Cardiff's first crowdfunded cafe, which now serves home-baked bread & pastries, house-roasted coffee, and a brunch well worth getting out of bed for. The French toast selection alone is worth the trip, with other to-die-for options including the Let’s Get Ready to Crumble: poached apple, plum & ginger compote with a crunchy crumble topping.
Best tea selection: Waterloo Gardens Teahouse
In city where it rains more than half the time, it's important to find little pockets of warmth along the way to keep you going. This cafe is the kind of place where you'll stop in for a cuppa and find yourself with a full pot of a new favourite, plus lunch, pastries, and probably a couple new friends a few hours later. The selection of tea is truly staggering, so take the time to read through the whole list, and ask lots of questions from the super-informative staff.
Best deli: Madame Fromage
Located in the Cardiff Arcades, this temple of dairy done right offers over 150 different cheeses in various forms, whether it's the goat cheese and pesto tart, Caerphilly cheese with bread as a side to soup, or just straight Pant Mawr on a plate. The slightly chaotic atmosphere, coupled with the fact that it only seats 45, means it's a bit of an experience -- just be patient, and remember the deliciously cheesy reason you came.
Best posh Indian: Purple Poppadom
This elevated Indian spot was designed by chef Anand George, who took home the Tiffin Cup from the House of Commons for UK's Best Indian, serving deconstructed dishes with plenty of drizzles and smears. Try the Nawabi chicken finished in a tandoor, marinated with creamy cheese, cardamom, and mace, and served with a makhani sauce and a surprising mint sorbet.
Best pizza: Cafe Citta
This micro-restaurant tucked in the shadow of the castle is one of those borderline-mythical spots that sits in a touristy area yet still manages to produce great homestyle food. While the menu is filled with Italian treats, it's the freshly made pizzas that keep the crowds coming in, with dough made daily and flash-cooked in the wood-fired oven to order, creating a thin crust that's a perfect vehicle for inhaling all those delicious toppings. The Citta, with Parma ham, rocket, and Parmesan, is light enough to leave room for some indulgent dessert, like the traditional tiramisu.
Best Chinese: .cn
This modern, northern-style restaurant has become a destination for those in need of a dumpling fix, but there's more than those little parcels of joy hiding on the menu here. The hotpot is a no-brainer for those who like to get hands-on with their food, and there's also an array of less predictable dishes like pig's maw, trotters, and lungs for when you want to go off the beaten path.
Best cheap curry: Dorothy's
Every now and then (and especially when you're several pints in), the only thing that'll satisfy is a proper curry served over chips. Located on Caroline St, Dorothy's has a devout following that visits regularly for the cheap price point and massive portions -- you've got to try the chicken curry at least once.
Best British fare: The Potted Pig
Housed in reconditioned bank vaults, this charming, meat-centric restaurant serves up classic British comfort food, with all the expected dishes like Devonshire crab with mayo and pork belly served with pig's head croquette, carrot & swede mash, savoy cabbage, and a mustard cream.
Best tapas: Bar 44
Arched brick ceilings, an open kitchen, and red leather banquettes make this spot feel more like it should be under the streets of some old Spanish town instead of in this Welsh city. The menu is huge, with everything from made-to-order tortillas to hand-carved jamon, mackerel escabeche, and croquetas (and much more). The drinks follow suit with an exclusively Spanish wine list, plus over 30 gins for a whole G&T menu served in classic bulb glasses with specialized garnishes.
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1. Anna-Loka114 Albany Road, Cardiff
2. CasanovaQuay Street, Cardiff CF10 1EA
3. The Early Bird38 Woodville Road, Cardiff
4. Waterloo Gardens Teahouse5 Waterloo Gardens, Cardiff
5. Madame Fromage21-25 Castle Arcade, Cardiff
6. Purple Poppadom185a Cowbridge Rd E, Cardiff
7. Cafe Citta4 Church St, Cardiff
8. .CN228 City Rd, Cardiff
9. Dorothy's Fish Bar39-40 Caroline Street, Cardiff
10. The Potted Pig27 High Street, Cardiff
11. Bar 4415-23 Westgate St, Cardiff
The Indian-inspired menu at vegans' paradise Anna-Loka offers flavorful options even die-hard carnivores will love -- from the Cali Breakfast with homemade vegan sausage, smokey tempeh rashers, and avocado, to the signature burger made from an ancient Japanese Seitan recipe and topped with an onion ring, vegan cheese, tomato, and lettuce. Most of the food can be created gluten-free, too, so you can tick that box while you stuff your face with one of the scrumptious desserts, ranging from brownies to cakes to ice cream sandwiches.
Don't be fooled by the unassuming look of Casanova -- this bi-level restaurant means business, cooking up big flavors in its homemade pastas and risottos, as well as the meat and fish it sources from the nearby Cardiff Market. Opened in 2005 by a trio of friends, it offers a modern Italian menu with must-tries like the Welsh lamb ragu and the tender Tuscan-style roast pork.
Opened by Chef Ceri Johnston, who trained at a local bakery before launching her own shop with the help of family, friends, and the public, The Early Bird is Cardiff’s first crowdfunded cafe, serving up home-baked bread & pastries, house-roasted coffee, and a brunch so scrumptious you'll be dreaming about it the night before. The French toast selection alone is worth the trip, featuring confections like the Let’s Get Ready To Crumble: poached apple, plum & ginger compote, and a crunchy crumble topping.
Waterloo Gardens Teahouse is like a pocket of sunshine in a city where it hardly ever stops raining. It's the kind of warm and inviting place where you could stop in for a single cup, and later find yourself with a full pot of a new favorite -- and a couple new friends. The selection of tea is truly staggering (from English Breakfast to Jasmine Green to Blood Orange), so take your time scanning the list, and feel free to ask the extremely knowledgeable staff plenty of questions. The menu also offers light sandwiches for lunch and freshly baked pastries like pan au chocolat.
Madame Fromage is situated in the heart of the Cardiff Arcades, where it offers a whopping selection of more than 150 cheeses in a variety of forms -- from a goat cheese and pesto tart to Caerphilly cheese with bread to straight Pant Mawr on a plate. Deli sandwiches, salads, and pastries are up for grabs at this cozy cafe-meets-deli, too. Service tends to be a bit slow and chaotic, but that's all part of the experience.
This modern Indian restaurant was designed by chef Anand George, who won the Tiffin Cup from the House of Commons for UK’s Best Indian, so you know you're in for one of the best meals in Cardiff here. A vibrant, upscale spot, Purple Poppadom is serving up deconstructed dishes that reimagine Indian classics. One of the best dishes on the menu is the Nawabi Chicken, finished in a Tandoor and marinated with creamy cheese, cardamom, and mace served with a makhani sauce and a surprising mint sorbet.
Though this tiny Italian restaurant lives in the shadow of the Cardiff Castle, it's a standout for its authentic, homestyle cuisine among all of the touristy spots in the area. The menu is brimming with flavorful classics, but it's the freshly made pizzas that attract the crowds. These pies feature dough made daily and baked in the wood-fire oven to order, creating a thin crust that's perfectly crisp. The Citta, with parma ham, rocket, and parmesan, is light enough that you'll have room for an indulgent dessert, too, like the traditional tiramisu.
This casual, contemporary eatery has become Cardiff's go-to for traditional Northern Chinese food like dumplings, hotpot fare (spicy duck tongue, anyone?), noodles, and more. In addition to the high quality and robust flavor of the food at .CN, the price point of the menu is entirely accessible and the portions are quite large, making it a great option for lunch or dinner on a budget.
This Caroline Street staple has cultivated a voracious following for its affordable price point and wholly satisfying, heaping portions of traditional fish and chips. It's British comfort food done right, aided by quintessential English hospitality -- the amiable staff are happy to present you with a plate of the kitchen's standout chicken curry over chips, even if it's past midnight and you're a few pints deep.
Serving upscale takes on traditional British comfort food (pigs head croquette with sauce "gribiche," honey-glazed duck breast; custard tarts and gooseberry sorbet for dessert), The Potted Pig offers a dining experience that is at once relaxed and refined. Where the seasonally-rotating menu emphasizes meat, the bar is gin-centric, offering over 30 different floral and dry varieties to be enjoyed over dinner in the classy, brick-laden dining room.
Cozily nestled on the border of Castle Quarter, Bar 44 offers refined tapas and a wide selection of Spanish wines ranging from cava and sherry to rioja and albarino. The menu is at once traditional and eclectic, boasting standouts like jamon iberico de bellota, patatas bravas, and slow-cooked octopus, and the shareable nature of the dishes adds to the intimate ambience already evoked by vaulted brick ceilings and red leather banquettes.