Cardiff’s food scene is constantly changing. Do you remember the Food Theater in the old arcade in Queens West? Or were you more of a Pillars fan? How could we forget Great British Burger, Servini’s or the Hayes Island Cafe?
There are so many cafes and restaurants that we once happily frequented but now miss and we’ve put together photos from our archive so you too can remember them and the things you liked to eat when you visited. Please let us know your memories of where you were going, or perhaps where you enjoyed the best cup of tea.
Read more 27 unearthed photos of clubbing seen in Cardiff in the 70s, 80s and 90s
The first is the queen of Queen Street restaurants, Pillars. Memories are often vivid when you think of Pillars, from the main street stairwell to the underground restaurant, to tasty traditional British food like homemade curry, steak pie and ham salad. The decor probably hasn’t changed much since the 80s either, and that’s why we love it!
Louis Restaurant used to be much the same as Pillars, however, the place closed unexpectedly in 2017 and St Mary’s Street hasn’t been the same since. It was the family food that set it apart from its peers and helped cement its place as one of the best places to eat in the city center.
The BHS cafe was also a great place to meet while shopping for a quick stop and refuel. Being located on Queen Street it was a fantastic place to regroup if you had split up to cover more shops or were buying something special as the shop itself had something for everyone.
The Littlewoods store was once where Next is now on Queen Street. This store was another great meeting place if you wanted a quick cup of tea or something to eat. As you can see in this picture, the store was very big and the cafe was equally impressive. The Littlewoods brand is now an online chain – we haven’t seen them on the high street since 2005.
Servini’s was the place to go for great food. Conveniently placed in Wyndham Arcade, it served amazing fried food and some of the best lunches in town. Servini’s cafe closed during the pandemic and now houses the Wyndham Cafeteria.
David Morgan’s on The Hayes was originally a small drapery shop and opened there in 1879. The retailer gradually grew along The Hayes to become a six-storey department store. The cafe inside was special and the food was equally good. When the store closed in 2005 it was the largest independent store in Wales.
6. Ha! Ha! Bar & Canteen
Ha! Ha! Bar & Canteen was the place to be at the turn of the century. The bar was on the corner of Greyfriars Road and The Friary and was a great base for the night ahead. Full of hip, hip young drinkers. The food was decent enough if you wanted to eat a little to line your stomach for the big one.
7. Dylan’s Bar and Restaurant
Dylan’s was the one-stop-shop for entertainment in the early 90s. With Coca Savannah next door, you didn’t have to travel far to keep the fun going long into the night. It was such a shame that it burned down in 1994, but it didn’t take long before it reopened in 1996.
The southern end of St Mary Street was food heaven at the time. You only had to walk a few yards between Charleston’s, Taurus Steak House and Champers. The drink was good and the food even better – however, in 2008 the restaurant was permanently closed.
9. Thai house
In 1985 Thai House was opened by Noi Ramasut from Bangkok and his Welsh wife Arlene Thomas, who pioneered Thai cuisine in Wales as it was the first restaurant of its kind in Cardiff. Unfortunately, the Thai House closed in 2019 as part of a redevelopment deal.
Before McDonald’s was the major player it is today, the UK’s fast food kingdom was led by Wimpy, with its table service which unfortunately lost its hold on the market towards the end of the 80s with the rise of the Golden Arches and Burger King. Has taken effect. Many will still remember enjoying a Wimpy, including their Bender in a Bun. It was something beautiful. Then there was the infamous frankfurter in a wimpy bap, sliced around the edges, fried and rolled up to fit in a bun.
11. Great British Burger
Much like Wimpy, The Great British Burger was a fast-food establishment that focused on table service rather than take-out. Alas, most of them were bought out by Wimpy in the late 80s/90s and then rebranded, which in turn were again rebranded to the then booming Burger King. Either way, it was fast food made with love and care.
While many would go for fries on Caroline Street, Rosario’s restaurant was for those with a more refined palate. The restaurant closed in 2013 when then-owner Rosario Spiteri retired after working at the restaurant since he was eight years old.
13. The Gastronomic Theater
The Food Theater was the place to be for teenagers in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The ambiance of the food court at Queen West Shopping Center Dining Hall was just like you got it imagined compared to the American shopping centers which were all the rage at the time. From Cadillac Shack to jacketed potato fans in the form of Spud-U-Like, Cardiff’s food options haven’t been the same since.
14. Harry Ramsden
Opened in Cardiff Bay in 1995, Landsea House’s restaurant Stuart Place was the place to go for fish and chips in the bay until it announced in 2012 that it would become a JD Wetherspoon pub . However, many memories were made at the Cardiff Bay Restaurant and if you’ve tried the Harry Ramsden Challenge you know all about the pride you had when you completed it and got your free dessert and certificate.
15. Bull Steakhouse
The Taurus Steak House on St Mary Street was the perfect place for big meat eaters to enjoy a good steak after or before a good night out. The Taurus Steak House was originally on the former site of the Chicago Cafe Bar. However, it fell foul of rising rents and rates in 2013.
Charleston’s, famous as a late-night steakhouse on Caroline Street, has been a downtown institution since 1991. Like the Taurus Steak House above, Charleston’s is now closed, although it only closed permanently ‘in 2021. He was known for his 6 a.m. license and was the place to go back to in its day.
17. Astey’s Cafe
Located right next to Central Station and bus stations, Astey has it all. Excellent food and above all good value for money. It was a great place to refuel after a swim in the Empire Pool, also long gone.
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