I graduated from Cardiff University in 2009. In many of the (numerous) photographs taken as we made our way to the ceremony at St David’s Hall, the second-most noticeable thing about them is a strong sense of change. (The first is how ridiculous I look: swamped in a gown and the red-and-white hood already falling off my shoulders, I definitely do not look like someone old and mature enough to have recently started their first ‘graduate’ (aka salaried) job.)
Not just change in the metaphorical sense (graduating into a life without 10% Topshop discount and constant lie ins, and having to work more hours in a day than I spent in lectures in a week. Why was I smiling in those photos again?). But in a very literal one too. You can see streets temporarily narrowed to pedestrians as improvement works took place, buildings clad in scaffolding.
Five years on, that part of the city centre is barely recognisable to me. These were the streets we only stumbled down to get to Walkabout* and Welsh Club and Chippy Ally (Caroline Street). The occasional visit to Hobos. The road to the train station, where I could be whisked back home for much-needed weekends of sleep and Sunday roasts (my parents’ house was still ‘home’ then). (*I would apologise for my 19-year-old self’s choice of venue here, but I can’t bring myself to: Thursdays at Bounce were both horrendous and brilliant in equal measure.)
But the extension of St David’s shopping centre has not only brought shiny chain and designer shops and restaurants to this corner of the city. It also seems to have attracted independent businesses, many of which (judging by an extremely scientific survey of those who stayed in Cardiff’s Facebook statuses over the last few years) have fast become renowned among locals for all the right reasons.
One such place is The Potted Pig restaurant, which opened in 2011. So when my Dad asked for recommendations of places in Cardiff to take Mum for her birthday meal a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to suggest it. (They aren’t Cardiff natives, but were going on holiday to Tenby, so we hopped across the bridge to join them mid-journey for the festivities.)
Sat near the top of the High Street, The Potted Pig is situated in a former bank vault. Some of what I assume are the original features are still intact, with bars separating a lounge-y area from the more-formal-but-still-(relatively)-informal, small restaurant at the back. The walls and arched ceilings are exposed brick. This all makes it sound a bit trendy and try-hard, but it’s actually the complete opposite – relaxed, unpretentious.
We visited on a Saturday lunchtime and all chose to ended up eating from the lunch menu. While the main menu was tempting, we just simply weren’t in the mood for the slightly fancier food it offers on that particular occasion. The lunch menu is simpler, more ‘pub foody’ – and at 2 courses for £12 it’s amazing value.
Between us we tried the truffled Welsh rarebit and courgette and Stilton soup starters, both of which got the thumbs up from everyone. For mains, Dad and sister Hannah went for the burger and the rest of us went for the pulled pork sandwich. I’ll be honest, it’s quite hard to review this more simple kind of food in any depth so all I’ll say is that the portion sizes were huge, but it certainly wasn’t a case of quantity over quality; we all thoroughly enjoyed our feast.
If that doesn’t sound like what you’re after, do check out the wider range of choices on the main menu. They’re more expensive (starters are £6-£8 and mains are around £16-£22, stretching to £27 for the 16oz porterhouse steak), but I’m told absolutely worth it. The menu highlight has to be the fact that you can order a whole pig. Well, you can if you pre-order. And there’s eight of you. And you don’t mind paying £300. Still, it’s AN ENTIRE PIG. (And photos suggest it even comes with an APPLE IN ITS MOUTH.)
You might have noticed from all this meat-talk (and the restaurant name) that this is not a particularly vegetarian-friendly restaurant. There were a couple of meat-free option on the lunch menu, but I couldn’t see any mains that looked like they might be. So I’m afraid this might not be one for any herbivores reading.
One thing the menu isn’t lacking, however, is drinks choices. My Mum was particularly excited by the huge number of gins on offer. There’s also a decent selection of wines, ciders, beers and non-alcoholic drink.
Overall The Potted Pig turned out to be the perfect place to wile away a Saturday lunchtime. The staff were friendly, everything happened at a good pace – despite the restaurant being pretty much full, we weren’t at all rushed – and the food was tasty. I can certainly see why this fast became a firm favourite among my local friends. I’m just hoping it won’t be too long before I can go back and try the main menu – there’s some crab on toast and a steak with my name on it!
Where: 27 High Street (underneath Zizzi), Cardiff, CF10 1PU
How to book: You can book online or by phone on 029 2022 4817. Deposits are required for bookings of 6+, and they cannot accommodate parties larger than 8.
Menu: Lunch / Dinner / Sunday
All pictures taken from The Potted Pig website.