Amy Pay reviews Face 11, the latest bar and eatery to open in the heart of Cathays
Up until a few months ago, the corner between Hirwain Street and Cathays Terrace was occupied by Mango, a tapas and licensed shisha bar. Mango’s windows were plastered with posters detailing their offers and stickers from awards they won some years ago. Although it apparently ticked the culinary boxes, it never appeared to be busy. The same cannot be said for its replacement, Face 11, a new all day bar and restaurant that seems to be effortlessly drawing in crowds.
We dined at Face 11 on a Monday evening in November. It was only p.m., so it was no surprise that it was quiet. What was pleasing was how warm and welcoming it felt considering it wasn’t packed; we felt at ease thanks to the friendly staff and the relaxing décor; the charming wooden interior had little decorative touches, including fairy lights and surfing paraphernalia, that shone personality and homeliness into the dining areas. The front of the restaurant had many tables that looked out onto Cathays Terrace, while a small nook, where we sat, had smaller tables and comfy sofas. The music was fitting – harmless tunes from the likes of Bublé and Olly Murs – though the speakers made it somewhat fuzzy. At times it was noticeable, but it was not bad enough to say anything about.
When the menus came, we jumped straight in for the pizzas. With nearly twenty different types, plus the freedom to add or exchange toppings, we took a while choosing. Ranging from £7 to £9.50, and with a two-for-one students’ offer, they seemed a bargain compared to the takeout pizzas on offer nearby. I’m a vegan, so I opted for one of the six vegetarian pizzas, a Roast Vegetable pizza without cheese, which the staff were more than happy to accommodate. My partner usually opts for the meatiest dish on the menu, though he was so tempted by the description of the Florentina pizza that he too chose a vegetarian main.
Other non-pizza options included big burgers (beef, chicken, lamb or bean) served with hand-cut chips, salad, coleslaw and chutney for just £7.50, all day breakfasts (though Face 11 is no greasy spoon) and tastier-sounding rustic versions of your usual fast food sides (chunky chips, onion rings, coleslaw, cheesy garlic bread and more, each costing between £1.50 and £3.50). As was demonstrated by my admittedly odd request for a cheeseless pizza, they are willing to cater for specific dietary requirements; if you ask in advance, you can have gluten free pizzas or even Paleo diet dishes. It may not seem a big deal, but trust me: to find a restaurant that lets ‘special’ eaters enjoy a yummy meal in the company of less complicated diners is a lovely rarity that must be shared once discovered.
Within fifteen minutes, two stone-oven baked pizzas on earthenware plates were placed on our table, together with individual pizza wheels and parmesan shavings. They looked delicious and the taste did not disappoint. The Roast Vegetable had roasted peppers, finely chopped squishy-soft sundried tomatoes, thin courgette strips and a sprinkle of fresh rocket, all evenly distributed on a bed of homemade tomato sauce fit for bruschetta. The Florentina had a generous covering of mozzarella and parmesan, cooked spinach, free-range egg, sliced cherry tomatoes, halved olives, rocket leaves and the same healthy-tasting tomato sauce. It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to the base; it was very thin and very light, almost pastry-like in parts, and, like all good stone-fired pizzas, it had a satisfying crispiness. The toppings tasted fresh and were simple in that there were no gunky, gimmicky additives. My partner had to finish my pizza for me, which is the norm, but both of our tummies were more than satisfied when our plates were empty.
Our meal was really cheap, coming in at under £15 for two caringly cooked, freshly fired pizzas and two soft drinks. Had we chosen alcoholic drinks, our bill would still have been cheap as there are numerous daily offers on cocktails and wine. We left feeling that we had uncovered something worth telling people about. Whether you want a chilled date night destination, somewhere fun to line your stomach before town or just a cosy social supper with friends, Face 11 has it sorted. It is affordable, very comfortable and serves tasty food to suit most tastes; it is exactly what Cathays Terrace lacked.
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Check out Face 11 online