Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
As we arrived into Cardiff on a Megabus from London, I logged onto the free city wifi to find a notification on Instagram from a follower Grace suggesting that we check out Barkers Tea House while in Cardiff, guaranteeing that “you will love it!”.
Given that we arrived a bit early and needed to wait about an hour for our Airbnb host to get out of a work meeting before he could meet us, we decided there was no better way to pass the time than to have a relaxing hot cup of tea in a highly recommended tea house! We pulled our suitcases along behind us and found our way to Barkers, located within High Street Arcade in Cardiff City Centre.
Barkers is everything you would want a small and cosy tea room to be. Cushy armchairs and couches fill up the space, with tiny round tables on spindly legs for your cups of tea. The interior is all dark floorboards and exposed brick walls, the walls of the kitchen are lined with canisters of different tea blends, and the counter and cabinets are chock full of sweet treats begging to be sampled.
I chose a simple Cream Tea for One (approx 8 pounds) which comes with a scone, a sweet morsel, and a pot of tea. The sweet morsel that day was a sinfully rich dark chocolate brownie bite, complete with part of a Flake chocolate bar on top. It was the perfect size for a sweet treat – any larger and it would actually have been much too rich to eat.
The scone is served with clotted cream and jam – I’m a clotted cream convert now of course. It’s a lot larger and more rustic than the scones served at the Ritz London, echoing instead the Irish-style scones we tried at Avoca Cafe in Belfast. It feels more appropriate – a heartier, crumbly, working-man’s scone to suit our stay in wild Wales.
I chose a Duchess Earl Grey Tea to go with my cream tea, served in a sweet little floral bone china teacup. They serve the Earl Grey here with milk rather than lemon, but it actually works well with the blend as the bergamot scent and flavour isn’t quite as fragrant here as with other blends.
K has the Orange Blossom Tea which he has plain without milk – particularly fruity and fragrant, but each subsequent teacup proves to be too strong. This is the type of tea blend that seems to require continual dilution with additional hot water after every cup.
I also get K a piece of Shortbread to try as he’s a bit of a fanatic – unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to expectations as it lacks that rich butteriness that really characterises good shortbread biscuits. I really should have chosen one of the delicious slices of cake instead!
As we dined, we saw other groups around us having the full afternoon tea – no simple cream teas and shortbread for them! If ever we return to Cardiff, I think we’ll have to try the Full Afternoon Tea complete with finger sandwiches, scones, and cakes to really get the Barker Tea Rooms experience. Why do things by halves right?
Barkers Tea Rooms are located at 8-12 High Street Arcade in Cardiff City Centre.
Unfortunately, we really only spent a short time in Cardiff – barely 36 hours in total as we spent part of our stay as a daytrip to nearby Bath. Still, we managed to spend some time walking around Cardiff Bay on a particularly blustery day where I was almost blown off my feet by the strong winds!
We also visited Cardiff Castle with our friends Katy and Alex after having lunch at Viva Brazil, a churrasco restaurant with a few different branches around the UK. The castle is well worth a visit, and make sure you pay for the guided tour as well. While the castle keep is quite dilapidated, the manor house on the grounds is quite remarkable in the way that its 19th century inhabitants tried to recreate a medieval interior, and the exhibitions on war in the main building are very interesting as well.
While in Wales, I’d also recommend trying to find a cafe that will serve home-made Welsh Cakes! They’re shaped like a squashed fruit scone, and a good version will always be amply spiced as well. When warm and served with lashings of butter, there’s honestly no better snack. We tried some at a little cafe in Cardiff Bay, and that with a cup of tea was the perfect indulgence while escaping from the wintery wind.
Cardiff is very small, and quite easy to visit on a long weekend from other parts of the UK. Many people tend to visit for the Doctor Who experience which we skipped as neither of us are fans, but there’s a lot of other things to do over the course of a weekend!