Carousing Cardiff: The Bunkhouse & Lab 22
Cardiff in summertime is the place to be, the city literally blossoms. Of course, summer in Wales is 16°C and a wind that freezes your ears off, but that doesn’t stop everyone from emerging in shorts and naked arms. The shopping crowd dribbled into urban restaurants as I searched for a late-afternoon pint.
A sea breeze ripped through the many alleys and arcades in the city centre, all of which I got lost in. I had 300mbs of data left on my phone, and the signal was as slow as the old women and their walkers, who waddled in front of me. This was St Mary’s street, where the hell was The Bunkhouse? Dodging around the old women I followed the blue arrow on my phone, and rounded the corner onto what was also St Mary’s Street, but not the same St Mary’s street. Different from the other two St Mary’s streets I swore I’d been lost on. I whacked my shin on a big black box, as it turned out that box was actually lots of black subwoofers stacked up, and they crashed to the cobblestones. 60 people turned away from a boy on a bicycle to stare at me. I’d just fallen into a film set. I laughed awkwardly and ran away down the road past all the cameras. Blessedly, the Bunkhouse was near the end of the road, opposite a strip club. Sorry, Gentleman’s club.
Colourful paper cranes hung from the ceiling between flower bunting and fairy lights, picnic tables with tasselled umbrellas were stuffed in the corners of the room. The Bunkhouse is primarily a hostel, with a public bar that serves quirky beers and ales, loose leaf tea, and Nutella hot chocolate. But at the back of the room, opposite the bar, is the real quirk. The Bunkhouse uses vintage beds as seating, so while I sipped a half-pint of pale ale, I could recline against the green velvet headboard, fluff up some pillows, and put up my battered legs. The bar was full of youngsters chatting in several languages and drinking quietly over the acoustics of Andrew Bird in love. On the walls in silver pen were notes from visitors of the hostel, here are some of my favourites from Canada.
I moved to the front table when it cleared and read the notes of travellers, “Rob + Jamie 5eva,” “What do you call a couple of Ozzies in Britain? … Lost!” The book case next to a Nutella sign offered books to borrow, as well as board games and maps. There were all five GoT books, and a thrilling hardback- Take Better Photographs.
My last visit before heading back to my country dig was one which I’d built up a lot of enthusiasm for. Lab22, a mixology bar specialising in unusual cocktails and foodie titbits to arouse your senses. Their website makes everything seem incredibly sexy. After wandering up and down Caroline Street, I spotted a tiny ally next to the bin by Greggs. Down the ally was a door with a sign, “Press the intercom to be buzzed in,” and I started to get excited, this was the absurd kind of elitism I was hoping for! I pressed the intercom and waited. “Hello?” A man said.
“Yes, um, hi? I’m here for the cocktails?”
“Ah, okay I’ll uuh, buzz you in.”
The bar was completely empty. This was probably due to the incredibly loud 90s funk blasting through the air. It was a classy place, low lighting, stone walls, leather seats, and gold accents. The barman welcomed me and said to take a seat anywhere, so I joined him at the bar, where an overly friendly fish mouthed at me from a jar on the counter.
The menu was an enormous tome, with titles like “Alkali Metals” and “Noble Gases”. They were referring to the taste, so the drinks under Alkali Metals are acidic; I wondered what the noble gases tasted like. The barman distracted me with the outdoor terrace, and instead of watching him make my Chai Tai I went outside, and immediately my stomach rumbled with the burger smells of Five Guys just a few doors down. The cocktail was the most alcoholic I’d had in a long time, it had a dirty orange peel and a limp branch of seaweed spilling over the edge. I was sheltered from the wind on the terrace, and it was the perfect place to be. Staring at the peeling paint of the back of a church, getting drunker by the second, listening to awful music, I placed my lighter on the cubic table next to me. As I stared at the Welsh flag printed over it, I thought that maybe I could live here one day, only I wish I hadn’t come in a lull. That was probably what the fish was trying to tell me.