Eating out in Cardiff is an experience in itself. The city offers an eclectic mix of cultural traditions and different types of cuisine from Welsh and Thai to Japanese and Portuguese. Add to that the myriad of Chinese and Indian restaurants and takeaways and you'll find yourself spoilt for choice.
City centre pubs are noisy and fun. This atmosphere is carried over into the restaurants and new style cafe bars which combine the best elements of a pub and restaurant with quirky surroundings, background music and an upbeat atmosphere. Bar Med has a party atmosphere and is very popular as a pre-club venue, while the Ha! Ha! Bar & Canteen serves up a a scrumptious mustard mash with onion chutney.
For a lighter lunch, you may want to try one of the many sandwich bars and cafes in the city centre. Servini's serves decent-sized portions of British and Italian food. The young and trendy favour the massive cups of coffee and hot chocolate in the Bar Europa. Many of the department stores also have self-service restaurants, which are reasonably priced and family-friendly.
Moving on into the evening, pre and post-concert dinners are offered in the elegant surroundings of St David's Hall's restaurant, the Celebrity. Just along the road from there is the cafe quarter with a host of trendy restaurants, bars and clubs that often have early evening special offers for concert-goers. Giovanni's has three restaurants in the area, catering for different tastes. You could also try Jumpin' Jacks for a Mexican feast or the Juboraj for high-class Indian food.
A firm Cardiff tradition is a red hot curry after a night at a club. City Road, just out of the city centre, is the place to go if you want something cheap and quick. The Kismet is a good one to try, but most of the restaurants here are open until the early hours of the morning and are very similar in terms of menu and price. There's never any need to book in advance. City Road also has a number of kebab houses, pizza and burger takeaways, Chinese, Mexican and Hawaiian restaurants and traditional fish and chip shops, so you're bound to find something that takes your fancy while you're walking along.
Other restaurants combine Welsh influences with modern European cooking. The Armless Dragon and Le Gallois appeal to the upper end of the market and are both very popular.
The trendiest place to eat at the moment is Cardiff Bay. Be warned that buses are infrequent late at night and stop at around 11p, so you may need to get a taxi back. It's worth making the trip, however, to stroll along the harbour front before dinner and maybe take in a film or visit a club afterwards. For the ultimate in luxury dining, book into the Tides Grill at the five-star St David's Hotel, on the edge of the Bay, and prepare to spend several hours enjoying a leisurely dinner. For something more upbeat, drop into one of the many bars and restaurants which offer live music, cabaret and theme nights. Harry Ramsden's fish and chip restaurant often features singers from the Welsh National Opera, while Buff's combines a wine bar and restaurant and the Sports Cafe has large screen TVs. If you happen to be in the Bay earlier in the day, make sure you visit the Norwegian Church. Originally a place of worship for Norwegian seamen it is now a classy arts centre and coffee shop. Alternatively, indulge your taste for the exotic with a plate of sashimi at the Japanese Izakaya.
Families need not miss out, either. Besides the obvious burger bars, there are plenty of restaurants and pubs with restaurants that welcome children. As a general rule, the further you go from the city centre, the quieter the pubs become. The Allensbank is easily reachable from the city centre and has a separate children's play room and Three Elms offers traditional British food and welcomes children.