The former Kitty Flynn’s on the junction of Caroline St and St Mary St has recently undergone a two-month makeover. Goodbye, walls of that indeterminate shade known as ‘Ancient Pub Yellow’. Farewell, dingy ceilings. Welcome, exposed brickwork, chalk boards, hanging lighbulbs.
This is Brains’ showcase for the Craft label arm of the operation. A break with tradition, the establishment of a new one. And although the Cambrian Tap isn’t geographically within the craft beer stretch of Westgate St, it is very much of the same spirit.
Their own beers are to the fore, naturally, and this is very much a place for the ‘Brains Craft’ brand, with its huge board giving potted histories of the origins of selected brews and a wall display of empty bottles all bearing their distinctive label style, but there’s a good selection from both other local breweries and international names. Anchor and Sierra Nevada rub shoulders with Beavertown; Left Handed Brew Co line up alongside Vedett and Innis & Gunn.
With such a range of unfamiliar beers on offer, sampling is encouraged, and ‘flights’ of three one-thirds are available. A chance to step outside your beer comfort zone, I guess.
But all of this drinking makes for hungry work, so the sharing platter was born: eight ‘thirds’ of draught beer, three from their range of pork pies and scotch eggs, something from their ‘gastro nibbles’.
There are various beer matching suggestions for the different pies, and staff are on hand to offer advice.
Pies appear on a ‘rotation’ basis but always include a vegetarian option- Mediterranean vegetables and goats’ cheese on this occasion. We went for the classic pork and a chilli-flecked version, and the Black Watch scotch egg. The pies had none of that ‘dead air’ you get in lesser examples, and only as much jelly as needed, with the emphasis on lean meat.
Our nibbles- and I must confess to enjoying a nibble as much as the next man- came in the form of deep-fried slivers of broad beans, and rather fine they were too: devilishly moreish little nuggets of crunch that were somehow everything you need in bar snack.
The dark beers- Brains’ Black Mountain and the Beavertown- matched the pork pies well, especially the chilli tingle of that ‘Hotty’ (look, I don’t choose the names…). The scotch egg, supplied by The Hand Made Scotch Egg Company of Herefordshire, was rich with that telltale black pudding earthiness. Scotch eggs are inevitably diminished by being served cold, but this held together in a way many don’t.
A tongue-puckering Sour from Redchurch in Bethnal Green, that superb Holy Cowbell stout from the mighty Beavertown (a firm favourite in cans, but the first time I’ve found it on draught in Cardiff) and a tour of the Brains on offer- from their light fruit ‘Punch’ to Atlantic White’s witbier-influenced IPA- rounded out the selection. The usual price of this ‘platter’ is £22, which seems competitive within the bubble of their ‘crafty’ rivals- BrewDog, Zero Degrees, Urban Tap House and the like.
This isn’t ‘a meal’ as such; but it is a fine way to pass an hour or two in convivial company and elevates mere ‘bar snacking’ into something more substantial. It’s a great way to pace yourself during a tour of the bar. Which is always a good idea. It fits in nearly with the design of the room, which has a high proportion of face-to-face seating rather than round tables to encourage that very thing.
Disclosure: We were invited to The Cambrian Tap and as such all food and drink was complimentary. This in no way influenced my opinions.
The Cambrian Tap
51 St. Mary’s Street
029 2064 4952
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A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
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