When the sun is out in Cardiff (ha! A rare occurence…) and all I want to do is sit around sipping cocktails with my nearest and dearest, I could think of no better place to head than Mill Lane. Home to a number of trendy cocktail bars, all of which provide outside seating space, this street is the perfect suntrap on a hot day. As you can imagine, I’m not the only fan of Mill Lane in Cardiff. This is probably one of the top three destinations for a night-out in Cardiff, alongside the likes of Greyfriars Road and St Mary Street. When the sun goes down, Mill Lane attracts glamorous girls in figure-hugging bodycon dresses, fashionably dressed men with beards and top-knots, and the occasional rowdy hen and stag party.
Naturally, then, Mill Lane wouldn’t really be somewhere I would consider going for a meal with one of my best friends, who I haven’t seen in a couple of months or so. However, when we were invited along to Mocka Lounge for dinner and drink recently, my friend Flossie and I had a great time catching up over some truly impressive cocktails and equally eye-catching food.
Arriving at Mocka Lounge just before 5pm on a Saturday evening, the outside seating area was almost full and there were a couple of small groups sat inside. A table had kindly been reserved for us at a comfy sofa booth to the rear of the bar, with music playing at a gentle volume in the background.
As we scrutinised the menu and deliberated over what to order, we sipped on Mocka Mai Tai (£8.50; also available as part of a 2-4-1 offer) and Vanilla and Rose Ricky (£8.00) cocktails; pictured left to right in the below picture.
In a twist on the traditional classic cocktail, the Mocka Mai Tai is a concoction of Bacardi, Disaronno, apricot brandy, Malibu and grenadine shaken with fresh pineapple and orange juice. I only tasted a tiny bit of this, but I could definitely detect the rum. The coconut flavour of the Malibu was a great addition to the cocktail, combining with the pineapple and orange juice to create a tropical taste.
One of Mocka Lounge’s specialty drinks, the Vanilla and Rose Ricky consists of Ungava gin, cherry liqueur and a dash of rosewater, topped with soda water and a vanilla and rose foam, before being finished with a brandy-soaked maraschino cherry brûléed with angostura mist. The Vanilla and Rose Ricky had a unique, floral taste; I expected it to be very sweet with a strong cherry flavour, but this wasn’t the case – aside for the brandy-soaked maraschino cherry, that is. I would definitely order this cocktail again, but I would be more inclined to explore the other options on Mocka Lounge’s cocktail menu first.
The food menu at Mocka Lounge features bruschettas, salads, sandwiches, burgers, sharing platters, sides and desserts.
To start, we ordered a selection of bruschetta to share. Mocka Lounge offers 8 different varieties of bruschetta priced at £3.95 each, 3 for £10 or 5 for £15. Not realising quite how big the bruschetta was going to be, we opted for 5 types: smoked salmon, cream cheese and scallions; wilted spinach with poached eggs; pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella; avocado, sundried tomatoes and rocket, and prawn Marie rose with avocado.
When we saw the size of the bruschetta, we began to wish that we had ordered it for our main courses instead of as a starter. However, it tasted so good that there was no way we were going to leave any of it, even if it meant saving more space for our mains! Each slice of bruschetta consisted of a soft, ciabatta-style white bread laden with delectable toppings. My personal favourites were the prawn Marie rose with avocado – there were so many prawns, and they were so tender – and the pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella, which set off an explosion of flavours in my mouth.
For my main course, I ordered the beef sandwich (£6.50) served with chips instead of the usual crisps (+£1.50). Two triple decker sandwiches were spread with meaty beef dripping and stuffed with succulent salt beef, lettuce, red onion and crushed tomatoes. Now, this is what I call a sandwich. Just look at it, isn’t it beautiful? My only wish is that I hadn’t eaten so much bruschetta before hand; this was a big sandwich and I wasn’t really able to do it justice, leaving around one-third of it on my plate as I got so full towards the end.
As for the chips, well they were what I would call ‘proper chips’; big, fat and chunky with a deep golden brown crispy coating and fluffy white insides.
Opposite me at the table, Flossie decided upon a lighter choice of main course in the form of the Terrace Salad (£7.95). The idea of ordering a salad as a main course gives me that sinking feeling you get when you think you’re about to be disappointed. I’m just not a salad person; I love my carbs (a little too much!) For a starter maybe, or perhaps even for lunch – but when it comes to dinner, I want something with substance.
However, the Terrace Salad really challenged my perceptions. Crisp, green lettuce was interspersed with pieces of smoked bacon in a balsamic glaze, sliced apple and whole blackberries. Maybe it was because I was so full up on carbs, but I actually found myself craving this salad. I’ve never seen blackberries in a salad like this before, and it looked delicious.
We decided to skip dessert because we were feeling so full up already, but this didn’t stop us from enjoying another cocktail before we left. This time, we tried the Mocka Zombie (£10); a lethal mix of no less than 7 different spirits: Bacardi Carta Blanca, Carta Oro, Carta Negra and Carta Fuego, Wrey and Nephew overproof rum, and Cointreau and Bols apricot brandy, mixed with pineapple juice and grenadine.
The Mocka Zombie cocktail is topped with a halved passion fruit filled with overproof rum, which is then lit with a blowtorch to create flames; you just blow it out before you drink your cocktail. This is a really impressive cocktail, which I have seen served at a number of bars in Cardiff but I haven’t got round to trying previously (probably because it costs a tenner!) It tastes just as deadly as it looks and sounds and reminds me of something I drank for a dare at a house party many years ago, but this is a popular cocktail at Mocka Lounge.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the range of cocktails on offer at Mocka Lounge. It still wouldn’t be a destination that I would pick for a quiet, intimate dining setting, but if you are heading out for a few cocktails with friends and you fancy a bite to eat as well, it’s the perfect place to go.
1-2 Mill Lane,
(029) 2022 1292
I was invited to Mocka Lounge as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.
Have you been to Mocka Lounge before? What about other places on Cardiff’s Mill Lane? Leave me a comment in the box below; I respond to all of the comments I receive.