By Betsy Kharas
As a self confessed cocktail addict, I’ve spent one too many nights traipsing round various cocktails bars in Cardiff, willingly handing over a sickening amount of my student loan. So, when I heard that there was soon to be a new cocktail joint opening in the center of town, I was all over it.
With seven chic bars based in London, Dirty Martini, which opened in Cardiff only a few months ago in the former Maddison site on St Mary Street, is the first regional venue of the chain. Situated next to Walkabout, and surrounded by other cocktail bars, such as Peppermint, Kiwis, and Be At One, it is in the perfect location for those of us who really do enjoy a good cocktail bar crawl.
“This is a big step for us and Cardiff’s strong economic growth and outstanding nightlife offers the brand a fantastic opportunity to establish Dirty Martini amongst a city of discerning cocktail lovers,” maintains Welshman Scott Matthews, Chief Executive Officer at Dirty Martini. “It’s one of the best nights out in the country and we look forward to bringing Dirty Martini to the Welsh capital.”
Could this be a little bit too optimistic? I visited Dirty Martini to find out for myself.
First and foremost, the best piece of advice I can give you is to make sure you visit them in Happy Hour, which runs from 3pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday, 12 pm – 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and all night on Sundays. With semi-extortionate pricings, each cocktail averaging between £9 and £10, visiting outside of these times could cause severe and irreversible damage to your bank account.
However, when priced more reasonably, the drinks are generally delicious. Ironically enough, I’d personally recommend avoiding the martinis; the passion fruit martini, particularly, was disappointing, tasting of slightly bitter mango juice. Whilst their martini’s do sound interesting and experimental, particularly the strawberry and black pepper and the dragon fruit and pomegranate, instead, I’d recommend opting for something off of their ‘Dirty Dozen’ menu.
With contemporary yet clever names, they offer cocktails ranging from the ‘Basil Fawlty’ (a mixture of Vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and Briottet liqueur de Basilic, pressed apple juice, fresh lemon juice, egg white, gomme syrup, Bitter Truth rose water, fresh rose petals and fresh basil leaves with a dash of soda) to the Snow Cap Float, (which consists of Havana 7yr Rum and DOM Benedictine, caramel syrup, Vanilla Schnapps, fresh lemon juice and root beer, topped off with a generous layer of mascarpone foam). Sounds delicious, right?
Alongside it’s varied and accomplished cocktail menu, Dirty Martini also offer plenty of food options, from nibbles to sharing platters. I tried all three of the sharing platters (not on my own; there were a group of us, although I reckon I probably could have got through all three, solo) and they were all delicious. In tune with the trends and with lots of vegetarian options, the nibbles range from Goat’s cheese and black peppercorn popcorn, to mac and cheese bites with bloody Mary ketchup (both of which were yummy, I might add). Again, however, you get much better deals in Happy Hour – with two sharing platter’s for £20, which is more than enough food for four people; total bargain.
Also, the décor is pretty awesome. With a large interior that cleverly combines the modern with a 1920’s prohibition bar-type look, very Gatsbyesque, it is a gorgeous venue.
Whilst overall a highly pleasant experience, there are a few factors that must be considered before you march through their door with gusto. One thing that particularly stuck out to me was the volume of the music. Having visited there twice, once on a Sunday evening, and once on a Tuesday evening, both at a relatively reasonable hour, it is so loud that it takes an adjustment period before you can really even hear the person sitting next to you. I actually heard several customers complaining of the noise during my visit – so be wary of this.
Furthermore, the first time I visited, I was forced to use the torch on my phone in order to see the menu – it was far too dark. There were tables that looked to be better lit, but some of them are almost completely concealed in darkness, so if you’re making a booking be sure to ask for a table that’s in a well-lit area.
Overall, however, I would highly recommend a visit, especially if you love your cocktails as much as I do.