Oliver Hurley has recently put together a book about the pubs in Cardiff. He takes some time to chew the pork scratchings with us over the pubs of Cardiff. Want to find out his recommended pub for an apocalash? Or the best pub garden in the city? Read on!
Q. How did you end up in Cardiff? Are you born local or a transplant from another dimension?
I grew up in the Forest of Dean, which I think it’s fair to consider as another dimension. I went to uni in Treforest and then moved to Cathays when I graduated. I live just outside Bristol now but I’m back in Cardiff all the time for gigs, nights out and general shenanigans.
Q. Tell us about your blog, Pint of 45. We Are Cardiff has been a fan of the blog for some time now. How did it come about?
I do the blog with my friend Phil, who takes the photos – he took all the shots for A Drinker’s Guide to Cardiff as well. We were on a boozy night out in Hamburg (this is how most of my anecdotes begin) but didn’t really know which bars to go to. Which gave us the idea for doing some sort of online drinker’s guide that provided a snapshot of a particular city’s drinking dens. Cardiff seemed the obvious choice as it’s where Phil lives, I’m generally in Cardiff a lot anyway, and there are plenty of pubs and bars to cover. The first post, Barocco, was in August 2008 and we’ve covered about 120 places since. I don’t write reviews as such – the posts are more along the lines of subjective, first-person accounts with some stupid jokes thrown in. We approached Graffeg to see if they’d be interested in putting out a book version of the blog. They seemed to like the idea and A Drinker’s Guide to Cardiff is the end result.
Q. The million dollar question… What’s your favourite Cardiff pub for a drink?
I tend to go through phases of liking different places but at the moment I’d probably have to say Urban Tap House for an early evening pint (although, admittedly, it’s more hipster-bar than pub but there you go), and then Dempseys for a full-on late-night apocalash.
Q. What’s your favourite Cardiff pub for food?
Well, as anyone who’s having a proper session knows, eating is cheating (2am visits to Chippy Lane notwithstanding). That said, I’m quite partial to the wild boar and chorizo burger in Wellingtons, even though they’ve got that infuriating habit of serving food on wooden boards. Why anyone thinks balancing a burger and a punnet of chips on a chopping board covered in greaseproof paper is in any way preferable to using a plate is utterly beyond me.
Q. What’s your favourite Cardiff pub for the ‘ambience’?
Hmmm… I suppose it depends what sort of ‘ambience’ you’re after. I’m going to say the Queen’s Vaults on Westgate Street due to the simple fact that it’s got a brilliant jukebox.
Q. Have you had any adventures in pubs during the course of writing your blog? Anything weird or wonderful happen anywhere?
Probably the most memorable incident was our visit to the Canton Cross Vaults, when a member of the bar staff followed us outside and accused us of being undercover police officers. To this day, I’m still not entirely convinced they believed our explanation when we told them we were just taking photos for a humorous pubs blog. Oh, and we’ve also come across a wake for someone who wasn’t dead and been sworn at by a parrot.
Q. Have you got a favourite Cardiff pub that doesn’t exist anymore?
Yeah, I used to love The Philharmonic at the bottom of St Mary Street. It seems a shame that it’s just been left empty for years.
Q. What’s your favourite place for breakfast in Cardiff?
Probably Garlands in Duke Street Arcade. The staff are really friendly and they do a fantastic fry-up – although it’s a shame they don’t put the baked beans in little ramekins any more. I always thought that was a nice touch.
Q. Tell us a hidden part of Cardiff that you love.
I love the unlikely beer gardens that are hidden around various parts of Cardiff. One of my favourites, which is in the book, is the outside area tucked behind Milgi on City Road. You’d never know it from the front but round the back is a beer garden that houses a massive disco ball-equipped yurt.
Q. What was the last book you read?
Sheila Levine is Dead and Living in New York by Gail Parent.
Q. Tell us a secret.
As a child, I once won a knobbly knees competition.
Oliver Hurley could be loosely described as a writer and journalist. His new book, A Drinker’s Guide to Cardiff, has just been published by Graffeg and he also provides the words for Cardiff pubs blog Pint of 45. He currently works for an interiors magazine, which may explain his fixation with lampshades, and he has also written a book on professional wrestling. But that’s another story.
A Drinker’s Guide to Cardiff is available now