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Exploring the Culinary Delights of Cardiff: A Guide to Welsh Food in the Capital City

Welsh cuisines may not be world renowned (yet), but it is certainly more distinctive than one would expect. Wales is often perceived by many as being extremely similar to its neighbour to the east; England. While hundreds of years of infiltration has made that so in some ways, Wales is as unique a country with its own identity and traditions as anywhere else in the world. For example, one of the areas of greatest difference between the other nations of the United Kingdom and Wales is: food


But, what even is Welsh food, I hear you cry. Not only is it rarely discussed beyond the borders of Wales (or even within sometimes), but it can also be very difficult to find once you're even in the country. One might expect that the native menu of Wales would revolve exclusively around meat, being very much a rural country for most of its history, and while it does undoubtedly feature, you will be surprised how diverse and even vegetarian some Welsh food items actually are.


Typical British food is always widely available in Wales, as it is all over the U.K.. So, if you are looking for fish & chips, bangers & mash, steak pie and traditional breakfasts, for example, they are never too far away wherever you are in Cardiff or travelling thoughout Wales. However, what we really want to know is what is Welsh food and where can you find it, particularly in Cardiff.


Welsh Cakes

Let's begin with the easy one, as the name is a bit of a giveaway: Welsh Cakes. The most accessible of Welsh foods, given their prevalence and reasonable price, one can find these wherever you are, be it gift shops, bakeries, supermarkets or coffee shops. These pancake/scone like pastries consist of flour, butter, currants, mixed spice and most importantly, sugar! Therefore, definitely more of a sweet snack than the drier scone for example.


Cardiff's famous Welsh Cake bakery, Bakestones, situated in Cardiff Market
Bakestones in Cardiff Market, the home of Welsh Cakes

Welsh Rarebit

The word ‘Welsh’ features in the name here yet again. Rarebit is what people may refer to as 'posh cheese on toast'. While a toasted or grilled cheese sandwich is a common delicacy the world over, what makes Rarebit that bit different and special is the addition of ingredients such as milk, ale flavouring, mustard, Worcestershire sauce or onions for example. The name of course can be a bit confusing but at least it is rarely advertised as Rabbit anymore. Rarebit is often enjoyed as a starter, side dish or as a lunch, and is becoming more prominent on menus in Wales, and even beyond, than ever before.


Cockles & Laverbread

Cockles are of course a typical type of shellfish that are enjoyed in many countries around the world, particularly in western Europe, so perhaps that one is no surprise. However, what is this mysterious Laverbread? It is not exactly bread first of all, but rather boiled, blended, salty seaweed, fresh from the ocean. This is a traditional delicacy, especially in Swansea and particularly around the Gower Peninsula, usually served on its own in a circular pot, accompanied by a second little pot filled with fresh cockles picked from Penclawdd, at least in Swansea Market anyway. Laverbread, as well as cockles, also feature on a traditional Welsh breakfast, which tends to features all of the usual fried items one might expect on a British breakfast but with the couple of Welsh additions as well. Alternatively, the seaweed does sometimes come in a physical, almost bread-like, form, albeit rolled with oats rather than into dough. An acquired taste perhaps but arguably the most distinctive of Welsh foods. Wales' taste of seaweed traditionally is something the country unexpectedly has in common with Japan, for example.


Locally sourced laverbread, availanle daily at Swansea Market
Laverbread in Swansea Market

Bara Brith 

Another bakery item is called Bara Brith. Bara is the Welsh word for bread and Brith means speckled. Essentially it is a type of fruit bread or cake, so perhaps more typical than the name would suggest, unless you are a Welsh speaker of course. What makes it a bit more distinctive is that it is made with tea leaves, which form an important part in holding it together. It is often served with butter.


In Argentina, where a Welsh speaking community has resided in the south of the country since the nineteeth century, there is an item called Torta Galesa, or Welsh Cake, which is more like Bara Brith rather than actual Welsh Cakes. One may also describe it as Christmas cake without the icing, for example.


Glamorgan Sausages

Who would have expected vegetarian sausages to be a staple of Welsh cuisine? Glamorgan sausages are a type of veggie, sausage shaped item made from three essential ingredients: leek, potato and cheese. None of those features should come as a surprise really for this part of the world, especially considering leek is the national vegetable of the country (dating bake to a historic conflict with the Saxons in the sixth century). Glamorgan itself may seem like a peculiar name, but as many will be aware it is the name of the historic county of Wales in which Cardiff is located, which makes up much of what we call south Wales, and which is still the name of the local professional cricket club.


Cawl

Key features of some of these items so far have been cheese and leek but if there were to be a third core ingredient it would have to be lamb. Wales famously has three times more sheep than people, so it is no surprise that one of Wales' most traditional dishes would be lamb based. Cawl is both the Welsh word for soup as well as a specific type of lamb stew. As well as chunks of lamb, it also contains a range of vegetables, most commonly leek, potato and carrot for example. A crucial feature of the Welsh diet historically, it is ideal on a cold winters day unsurprisingly, something that we regularly endure.


Traditional lamb cawl at Cardiff's Pitch Bar & Eatery
Lamb cawl at Pitch Bar

Faggots & Peas

The name may be strange in the 21st century, but don't let that put you off. Faggots have been a staple of Welsh and even British culture for centuries, particularly during industrial times in south Wales and the English midlands. Faggots are essentially a type of meatball made from minced off-cuts and offall, especially parts of pork, like pig's heart, belly meat, liver or bacon, then mixed with herbs and bread crumbs. These meatballs often come served with peas, mash potato and gravy. Of course, this sounds very old fashioned, but can still be found in traditional cafes around south Wales or locations like Cardiff and Swansea Markets.


Crempogs 

Fun to say and fun to eat, crempogs are basically pancakes, just a little different to a standard European crepe or thick North American pancake. They are made with flour, buttermilk, vinegar, eggs and butter, and cooked on a griddle rather than in an oven, much like is done with Welsh cakes. They are thick and highly stacked and served with butter on top. Usually consumed on special occasions, most notably on Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Tuesday, as a substitute for more typical pancakes.

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While the origins of some of these foodstuffs is not very welcome documented, some of them will come as no surprise though. Even if some of these items seem quite distinctive, even in comparison to generic British food, it still makes sense to find them in Wales. The likes of seafood, pastries, dairy and vegetables are fairly common features of British cuisines for centuries. Additionally, the country's association with heavy industry in more recent centuries make it inevitable that dishes and items like stews, bread, warm and hearty meals, and thick, filling, long-lasting pastries should feature so prominently. It is either what got the miners through the day down the pits or in the works, or what they found waiting for them at the end of a long day of work.


Of course, having described all of these unique items in some detail, the question now is surely, where can one buy or find these things. That, unfortunately, can be the hard part. Traditional Welsh restaurants are not exactly a common feature of the country, especially in the larger towns and cities. However, thankfully, it has become a little easier more recently, as some locations, especially in Cardiff at least, are starting to embrace the traditional local cuisine. With that in mind then, let's discuss some of the locations in the capital where it is possible to find the items listed above.


Blue Bell

Both one of the oldest pubs in the Cardiff (fourth oldest at the time of writing?) and one of the best central locations for Welsh food, it provides a cosy and historic location to enjoy rarebit and cawl in particular, as well as sometimes cockles and laverbread.

33 High St, Cardiff CF10 1PU


The Blue Bell pub on High St in central Cardiff
Blue Bell on High St

Potted Pig

Arguably the nicest restaurant of any kind in Cardiff city centre, also based centrally on High St, the Potted Pig is set underground in an old bank vault. Also sells cawl and rarebit, is Michelin recognised and has a Welsh sourced menu.

27 High St, Cardiff CF10 1PU


Milkwood

With a name inspired by Dylan Thomas, Milkwood is located in Cardiff's hipster neighbourhood du jour, Pontcanna. A location where you might overhear the chattering of the Welsh language, this cafe serves cockles and laverbread for breakfast.

83 Pontcanna St, Pontcanna, Cardiff CF11 9HS


Pitch Bar & Eatery

A modern cafe bar tucked in between some of Cardiff's most popular nightlife spots on Mill Lane, Pitch Bar is both trendy and traditional all in one. Proud of its Welshness, Pitch serves locally sourced ingredients and is the best place in Cardiff for Glamorgan Sausages, as well as serving rarebit and cawl as well.

3 Mill Ln, Cardiff CF10 1FL

Traditional welsh rarebit at Cardiff's Pitch Bar and Eatery on Mill Lane
Welsh rarebit at Pitch Bar

The Welsh House

The name is a bit of a giveaway, Welsh House is one of the newer Welsh additions to the city centre. Founded by some of Wales' most notable rugby legends, the traditionally decorated venue serves a wide variety of locally sourced ingredients, including Laverbread, cawl and rarebit.

5A High St, Cardiff CF10 1AW


Cardiff Market

And finally, perhaps the main event, as Cardiff Market is more popular and busier than ever before. Not only does it serve local cuisine but also food from all over the world. So as well as your Welsh cakes it is also a great location for tacos, pizza, Thai food, pierogi, bao buns, gyoza, gyros, Irish breakfasts and more. You will find Welsh Cakes at the city's most famous bakery, Bakestones, among other places within the market. Additionally, one of the most traditional cafes in the city sites upstairs in the market at The Bullterrier, where laverbread is available all day.

St. Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1AU

Fogo's Cardiff Tours on a tour outside the Trinity St entrance of Cardiff Market.
On tour outside Cardiff Market

Bonus information...

Riverside Market

If you are fortunate to be in Cardiff on a Sunday morning, don't forget to visit Riverside Market, located on Fitzhamon Embankment, along the Taff River, behind the Principality Stadium. Serving food from all over the world, including local jams, chutneys, cheeses, produce and baked goods for example, it is well worth your time for a browse on a lazy Sunday morning or early afternoon, between 10am and 2pm.


Riverside Market on a Sunday morning along Fitzhamon Embankment
Riverside Market on Fitzhamon Embankment

Swansea Market

If you fund yourself outside Cardiff, or in Swansea city centre, then Swansea Market is a must. It may be lacking the Victorian charm of Cardiff's market (due to World War 2) but it makes up for it with the abundance of Welsh cakes, cockles, laverbread and more, as well

as a range of foods from around the world, like Mexican, Greek, Japanese and Thai.

 

Like what you have read? Then why not join us for a walking tour in Cardiff during your stay in the Welsh capital. Learn about the history, culture and characters of local history as well as more about the wider culture and food of Wales and where to find it. To read more about our tours and the different options and schedules, please just return to the homepage.


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