By Ellie Philpotts
A lot of things are associated with Cathays. Students, seagulls and stormy weather may be the biggest, but they don’t all begin with S. Look a little further and you’ll find Crwys Road is dotted with more restaurants than you might initially guess of the area. We’ve got Welsh brunch haven Stag Coffee, stylish Italian Svago, Greek gorgeousness (or gluttony) at Hellenic Eatery, and now a fully-fledged member of the road’s international offerings is Happy Lok Diner.
Having only opened in November, replacing the former site of Katiwok, which has since located to further up the road, this newer kid on the block serves the blend of Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Japanese and Singaporean – not all at the same time (although if that floats your boat, I’m sure they would happily comply.) It also compensates for its modest size by being kitted out with colourful decor. But of course, the menu is the main thing going for it, so when I was asked to swing by to do a Quench Food review, I was quick to agree.
Luckily, I was also quick to arrive, since it’s obviously right at the heart of studentville, and quick to be served, as they don’t waste time faffing about.
After already sampling Malaysia’s national dish, Nasi Lemak, at another eatery nearby, we went for this, as well as Tempura Prawns as a starter, which my housemate and I polished off within an embarrassingly minuscule amount of time, leaving approximately none for our other housemate (it’s fine, he doesn’t even like seafood) and Chicken Pad Thai (we left more for him this time, honest.)
As the speed of which we got though it suggests, these were all pretty good. The Nasi Lemak, a mix of rice, coconut milk, egg, peanuts, anchovies and spiced cucumber isn’t exactly the first international meal that jumps to mind, but Happy Lok, run by a Malaysian family, definitely know how to do it justice. Meanwhile, Pad Thai is a much more recognisable dish, but this cosy little diner still does it well.
However, Happy Lok serves a far bigger range than this, each having found the balance between authentic and modern. The Chef Special list incorporates Seafood Thai Tom Yum Noodle Soup and Rendang Beef; starters span from Homemade Dumplings to Squid with salt, chilli and garlic, while porridge comes from Plain to Fish, Pork to Shredded Chicken (it’s definitely not just for breakfast).
Considerate of the predominant population surrounding its location, prices are all about the cheap and cheerful. Drinks, which include Chinese Tea and homemade Soy Milk, are almost all £1.50, while Japanese Ramen starts at £5.80 and Edamane is a mere £2.50.
The team are more than willing to serve up food you’d request that isn’t even publicised, alongside priding themselves on their fresh, flavoursome ingredients.
All in all, Happy Lok Diner is a traditional but vibrant and friendly little slice of Cardiff. The name is true to its word – it is indeed a little ray of happiness, especially on this typically rainy evening. I’d be sure to recommend if you’re bored of the bog-standard Chinese chains… or can’t decide whether all your revision efforts deserve a lazy takeaway, or you should eat there to commemorate actually visiting somewhere other than the ASSL.
PS: To anyone who reads my Quench Food reviews – thank you! This is my first one since being lucky enough to win Best Review Writer at the Cardiff Student Media Awards the other day. Going to miss eating and writing my way around the city next year, sob :'(
Image Credit: twitter.com/happylokdiner