The stereotypical image of a student scraping through grimy coppers found inbetween last week's receipts at the local pub in order to fund another pint of Grotsch is one that, while occasionally true, seems to overlook the fact that sometimes even we students fancy a little bit of luxury in our nightlife. While trips to the Taf/Gassys/Woodville/Kokos are always filled with a selection of very reasonably priced beverages, quality music and a (generally) relaxed atmosphere, a smidge of local knowledge and money saving nouse means that your pint fund can go on even the finest beverages in a range of exotic locales around the charming Welsh capital.
This short guide to some of my favourite upmarket venues is by no means a conclusive list, but feel free to use my suggestions as inspiration for a slightly classier evening's entertainment! Inspired after managing to somehow get into Lab 22's 1st Birthday party (an event that I'm currently working on a review of) and mingling with Cardiff high society, cause being a student is definitely possibly all about getting into places you may feel you probably don't belong, but quite enjoy anyways, here is my personal take on how to live the high life in Cardiff on a students budget!
We begin with a fairly common choice amongst the studentesque crowd, an independent bar famed for it's range of 2-4-1 cocktails, excellent quiz nights (with a monthly Doctor Who Quiz a popular favourite) and a selection of alternative, up and coming artists who play in their upstairs room. With the offer putting drinks at each £3.25 (when buying 2, obviously!), you get a lovely selection of classic favourites including Moscow Mules, Cosmopolitans and Tom Collins all for the price of a fairly expensive pint. Go for the quirky atmosphere and diverse entertainment, stay for the expertly mixed beverages, classy music and general fun!
Ten Feet Tall
Essentially a sister bar to Buffalo, owned by the same company and sporting a similar, but not identical menu (luckily the 2-4-1 deal remains), Ten Feet Tall offers a slightly more intimate, cosy experience. Although Undertone sits several feet away, Ten Feet Tall provides its own themed nights, with Indie/Electro Bolt on Wednesday's a personal highlight. Featuring a wide range of spirits and extremely knowledgeable bartenders, the frontal outside seating provides a perfect opportunity for a lazy summer evening sipping on some fantastic cocktails and watching the world go by. Located in the heart of the city centre, Ten Feet combines exclusivity with an adventurous range of nocturnal activities including dance classes, retro video gaming and much much more!
Jewel Bar (Tiger Tiger)
Although Jewel may be a revamping of the lower floor of Tiger Tiger and still exists as part of the main club, the extensive work that went into developing and improving both the quality of the venue and the range of drinks served means that it well deserves a mention. Famed for the great deals on its monday student night and providing well tailored VIP packages for events such as birthdays (with very tasty champagne), it may feature fairly pricey Jagerbombs but makes up for it with a range of areas, DJ's and crowds to ensure that Jewel caters for all tastes in providing a little bit of luxury to the clubbing experience.
Sometimes the greatest treasures are those which are hardest to uncover, and nowhere in Cardiff has lived up to this for me as Lab 22. Located on Caroline Street, more commonly known as Chip Alley, you enter through a black door, and after buzzing an intercom to be allowed up enter something that could have been plucked from the 50th floor of a 1920's New York skyscraper. The decor is a fantastic mix of modern, art deco and plain bizzare (with Pharoah's crown style lights) mingling with gleaming black surfaces, and the range of offers, including weekday favourite 'Perks after Work' help to increase the appeal.
But where it really excels is that amongst all this, the drinks are exquisite. Boasting a vast selection of spirits and some potent combinations, everything that is served is made to be different to anywhere else, with some fabulous twists. From the sea salt foam that tops a Margharita, to the chocolate cake shots that genuinely taste like a warm, rich cake and the devastatingly strong overproof rum that lurks within their Zombie's, they seem to go the extra mile in guaranteeing a unique and exciting experience.
I can't write a comprehensive review for boutique nightclub Crystal, not because it hasn't lived up to my expectations but because I've so far been unable to convince anyone I know to come along. As far as all reports though it is definitely the snazziest location in Cardiff for a proper night out, although the dazzling £10 entry fee indicates that it is generally frequented a selective clientele. Currently open on Friday and Saturday night, I've made a pledge to get there by the end of the year to see if lives up to my expectations, and can only hope that in the future they might open up a slightly more reasonably priced evening for us studenty types!
Whilst Las Iguanas may be a chain and thus probably not in the adventuring spirit of this blog, they do offer a great range of 2-4-1 cocktails built from quality ingredients with a distinctively latin twist. Featuring great drinks from across the South American continent that take the standard recipes and then offer alternatives, including jam daiquiri's and fruity mojitos, the bar does its best to keep your taste buds tantalised. The slightly tinny latin jazz music may not be to everyones taste, but there is no denying the value on offer!
Peppermint may be quite a way from Cathays and Talybont, but for those who brave the chilly Welsh weather (or more likely take a taxi) all the way down there, there are treats in store! Offering a great range of cocktails with a focus on elegant mixing and high quality ingredients to guarantee a luxurious experience. My other personal highlight is that the DJ's (at least on every night I've been there) play a great selection of electronic music that encompasses a range of genres, deftly navigating the boundary between chillout and dancy while throwing in some old favourites along the way! If you can find anyone with an industry card, head down on a Sunday to enjoy a whopping 50% discount on pretty much everything, or if not, invest in a 'Mint Card' to stretch your cash a little further.
This list is by no means a complete one, instead I've chosen to focus on my personal favourites and a couple of places that I feel shouldn't be overlooked! Mocka Lounge, the Itchy Feet nights at Welsh Clwb and Gwidhw (a name that my english tongue refuses to pronounce with any semblance of correctness) all have their particular charms and may indeed be preferable to many of you, but if anyone thinks I've missed out on anything major then feel free to let me know! Many happy evenings putting your loans towards some of the most vibrant and delicious beverages out there!