By Elinor Terry
Hey, what are you up to tonight? We’re thinking about going to the Flora for a few drinks, want to join us? Now, I know what you’re thinking: any self-respecting Cardiff student in second year or above, would have, under no circumstances, sent that text a couple of months ago. Situated on the corner of Cathays Terrace and Flora Street, the fittingly named pub was, until last month, officially branded a “middle-aged man pub” (sorry, Dad!) and was definitely on every students’ avoid-at-all-cost list. Oh how times have changed!
Thanks to those quirky mixologists who run that cool bar over on Ten Mill Lane, and a healthy six-figure investment from Wales’ biggest brewery, SA Brains, the pub is almost unrecognisable and (dare I say it?) cool!
You can see it before you even walk through the door; the infamous green and yellow sign has been replaced with something a little classier. The exterior of the pub now looks understated, but clean. Inside, too, it’s difficult to believe the place was once crammed with old wooden tables and used to resemble that one pub we all went to on our last day of sixth form. Gone are the patterned maroon carpets, instead there is classic, exposed wood flooring, which matches the partly-exposed brick walls and mismatched “vintage” furnishings. All of this together creates an atmosphere not unlike Juno Lounge on Wellfield Road, or Café Barker with added alcohol. The word hipster floats on the tip of my tongue, but I am reluctant to use it because it feels a little too generic; I will instead use the phrase “well branded towards their target audience”.
And who is their target audience? I hear you ask. Well, of course, students! And it is not just their quirky décor, which is specifically tailored to us: their drinks menu boasts a wide selection at reasonably inexpensive prices. While you may want to avoid investing your student loan on a pint of Strongbow, which at £3.60 is notably costlier than in The Taf, you will be impressed with their range of £5 cocktails and, undeniably my favourite deal, a £3 G+T. I am not just talking about any old gin and tonic, no sir, I am talking about a wide selection of eleven different gins, with no difference in price, each one served with a specially chosen Fever Tree tonic, in the biggest wine glass that I have ever seen! Now, if anybody knows their tonic waters, they will know that Fever Tree is one of the best and most expensive brands on the market. I almost cried with happiness when the barkeeper revealed to me that I only had to hand over £3 for the magnificent creation in front of me.
Along with the drinks, the food is also well-priced and aimed at students. Whether you just fancy a quick nibble, or a full-frontal meal, the Flora caters for all eventualities. The main meals – a varied selection of pub classics, with an emphasis on burgers – all cost a reasonable £6.95, a fair price, which makes it extremely easy to split the bill at the end of night. I’d recommend trying their hummus, flavoured with coriander and definitely not bought pre-packaged in Tesco, and their mysteriously named “Bandit fries”, smothered in red paprika salt and slightly addictive. However, what most impressed me about the menu is the little twists added to both the starters and the burgers, which make the menu stand out from the other, generic pub food dotted around Cathays.
Everything about the Flora screams “student” and it is clear, from the moment you step inside and are greeted by friendly bar staff, and, on Friday nights, a DJ, that this pub was designed especially for this one purpose. But, I don’t hate that and, to be honest, I am struggling to find many things to criticize. Other than its own self-confidence and, perhaps, the lack of tables in the back left-hand room, this place is doing everything extremely well. In fact, if you ask me, this place is definitely worth a visit; after all it was tailored especially for you, so why would you not?
The Flora – 136 Cathays Terrace, open 12pm-11pm Mon-Thurs; 12pm-12am Fri-Sat; 12pm-10pm Sun.