Wednesday 11 July 2012

Kiwis, Cardiff

Kiwis, 55 St Mary Street, Cardiff, CF10 1FE

Open all day

Kiwis moved late last year from their original site at the Mill Lane end of the Grade II Listed Wyndham Arcade to the former Taurus Steak House building at the St Mary Street end of the arcade, which was built in 1887. The building that today houses Kiwis was “The Cardiff Soldiers' Restaurant” in the early twentieth century and has had a variety of names since then. There has been a building on this site since at least 1610 as one is marked on the John Speed map of that time, in the nineteenth century ironmongers operated on the site, followed by a fruit seller. Today the attractive frontage is painted in brown for the wood and cream for the walls – a modern update to the black and white of Brewers' Tudor. The street-facing gable roof is also an unusual feature for a building to have in St Mary Street.

The original Kiwis dates back to 1986 and was converted from a wine bar in the Victorian Arcade and at one time it did have a reputation for serving unusual German and Australian beers, but in later years it was somewhat forgotten apart from the late-night drinking crowd. However, this new building has undergone an internal rebuild to create a light, airy and welcome addition to the Cardiff pub scene. Opened in November 2011, the Kiwi logo is proudly displayed on the pub windows. The glass-fronted pub doors lead into the well-lit bar. The upper front floor of the building has been removed, allowing the Western light to flood in from two levels, a big change from the rather dark arcade-based former premises. The glass-fronted side of the pub that opens onto the arcade also gives the pub a traditional feel to the place.

There is a bar on the right-hand side of the room, the South Island Bar, another one at the rear of the building and another one upstairs on the first floor, the North Island Bar. The latter two are only used during busier periods and the upstairs bar is surprisingly spacious given that part of the floor has been taken out to create extra light in the downstairs bar.

Three real ales are served, Hancocks HB now a rare site on the bars of Cardiff and brewed for Coors by Brains at their nearby brewery, Sharps Doombar from Cornwall and a handpump for guest beers with a recent one being from Wickwar Brewery of Gloucestershire. In keeping with the Antipodean theme, Steinlager from New Zealand is also served as well as a selection of New World wines. The only food served are pub snacks with pies, pasties and toasted sandwiches together with Real Crisps.

The pub is decorated throughout with New Zealand memorabilia including a large map of the islands and photos of the rugby team, a reflection of the heritage of the owner of Kiwis.

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