I headed out into Cardiff city centre last night, expecting a few drinks in a bar and then onto a club – a friend had a group of mates from home in town and they were up for a good night.
While we waited for the group to get into the centre, a few of us Cardiffians went for a pint in The Goat Major. This is a brilliant traditional pub owned by Brains. There’s dark wood panelling and green leather bench seating as far as the eye can see, and a wing back chair in the corner. It doesn’t matter if a pub resembles a crack den, if it has a wing back, preferably in front of a fire, then it’s already on its way to winning me over.
The Goat had three Brains and one guest ale on tap. I steered clear of the obligatory local and went for the guest, Marston’s Wicked Witch (4.2%). As a Halloween special you would expect to get a dark brooding pint placed on the bar, and that’s what you do get. But on taste it was surprisingly light – pale ale light – and went down extremely well. This would be a dangerous session ale.
As you can probably tell, of The Goat Major I approve. It’s the type of watering hole where you can sort out who is a kindred spirit in drink. When I was in the Gentlemen’s I overheard a group of lads saying the pub was shit and they couldn’t wait to move on. These people were not my brethren in drink. Fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
However, those lads were the group my mate was waiting for. We walked the length of St Mary Street, past many fine pubs, to end up in a queue outside Walkabout. Peering through the window you could see the plastered over 40s clinging by fake nails to a long dead youth. A friend and I could not face it and arranged to meet the rest later.
We walked back toward the castle and dropped into Kitty Flynn’s. This is an oasis in a desert of soulless chain bars at the end of the street. It’s an Irish pub packed full of memorabilia, painted wood and single pane glass. It oozes character, and the juke box was cracking out some classic 80s hair rock when we entered, all good signs.
The only downside was a lack of choice in the ale department. They only had Brains SA on tap, and that was that. All things considered, it was still a good pint. After having a couple of quid unmercifully taken off us by the quiz machine in the corner, we headed on to pastures new.
Our wanderings took us to The Old Arcade just before last orders. This pub has two good-looking spacious bars with five Brains on tap, and is heaving when Wales play at the Millennium Stadium. I took The Rev. James back to a table and sat there with my mate. It was 12:20am and the pub was pretty empty. All that was left were a smattering of people finishing up.
But sat in the corner, behind a rack of CDs, was a forlorn pubescent DJ. He was pumping out some classics – Springsteen, The Police, The Clash, Happy Mondays – but he painted a sad picture in the empty bar. He was a mix of depressed Krusty the Clown (he owned a fantastic curly head of hair), and surly American teenager pre-high school killing spree. We left him to the strains of Duran Duran and headed home.
Three fantastic Brains pubs taken in on an unexpected crawl.
I plan on making The Goat Major a regular. Mine’s a pint.