Cafe review: Tastebuds Cafe – City Rd, Cathays, Cardiff

On the top of City Road, near the junction with Albany Road and Crwys Road, sits a small cafe called Tastebuds. It’s been there as far back as I can remember (1988 – I hadn’t even been born yet!) and I’ve walked past it several times but I’ve never been in there, and the windows are often too steamed up to see inside.
This weekend, I finally paid Tastebuds Cafe a visit with my friend Sarah to find out just what it is about this cosy little cafe that has enabled it to survive for so many years, despite an army of competition from the many constantly evolving international restaurants, takeaways and cafes based on City Road. 
Tastebuds is currently owned by Chef and General Manager Les Cox, who has worked in catering for 22 years and served the 1999 Welsh Rugby World Cup squad at the Copthorne Hotel, but most recently was head chef at The Plough and Harrow in Monknash, Vale of Glamorgan. 
Looking for a new venture, Les took over Tastebuds in late February of last year. Unfortunately, just a few months later, in early October, the cafe was destroyed by flooding and had to be completely renovated. Due to long delays in the rebuild, Tastebuds didn’t reopen until 25th February 2014. Looking back, Les explains the flood was somewhat of a blessing in disguise because it meant getting rid of the old, 1970s-style seating and decor and paved the way for a fresh new look – although I bet it didn’t feel like that at the time!
At first impressions Tastebuds is more modern-day diner than greasy spoon, with newly laid laminate flooring, freshly painted mocha walls and red chairs, teamed with the kind of vintage-look artwork you’d expect to see in a trendy coffee shop. The cafe is bustling with customers of all ages, including students, and I can definitely spot a few regulars. 

Where the menu is concerned, Tastebuds offers all the treasured classics common to any decent cafe, from all-day breakfasts and burgers to traditional homemade meals such as chicken curry, corned beef pie, fish and chips and lasagne, alongside lighter options like cheese, beans or egg on toast, breakfast rolls and omelettes. A selection of delicious nostalgic desserts are also available, including apple crumble, cherry pie and custard and toasted teacakes.

The value for money is fantastic. Nothing on the menu costs over a fiver apart from the Big Breakfast (£5.50) and the Giant Breakfast (£8), and you can get a roast dinner for just £4.20.

To warm us up on a cold December day, I began with a latte and Sarah ordered a tea. Both were with us within just a few minutes and tasted lovely. I especially liked that my latte was served in a tall glass, rather than in a mug or cup.

Feeling a little worse for wear after her work’s Christmas do the night before, Sarah didn’t even need to look at the menu. Full English it was. Me, well, I felt fine but decided to join Sarah and order the Full Breakfast (£4) all the same (although the roast dinner looked very tempting – plenty of roasties, stuffing, good choice of meat/chicken and lashings of gravy!)

The Full Breakfast was served with one sausage, a slice of black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, fried potatoes, two rashers of bacon and a fried egg, with a slice of buttered toast (you can opt to switch beans for tomatoes if you like). It was a great breakfast all round but the highlights for me were the bacon, which had been grilled and had the perfect balance of saltiness, the fried potatoes, which were crispy and tasty without being soaked in grease and the sausage, which was thick, meaty and well seasoned. There wasn’t anything I disliked, although it would’ve been even better if I’d had the option to include hash browns in place of fried potatoes.

Tea or coffee was included in the price of any breakfast, but purchased separately the latte would have cost £1.30, and the tea just 70p.

Sarah and I left Tastebuds Cafe feeling comfortably full but not stuffed and the breakfast certainly helped to pick me up, so I can only imagine what it must’ve done for Sarah! I’ll definitely be popping back here for a cheap yet comforting meal when I’m in Cathays – really need to try out that roast dinner…

Tastebuds Cafe also runs a full catering service including traditional, contemporary and bespoke buffet options. For further details, please visit Tastebuds’ website at the below address.

Tastebuds Cafe & Catering Services
244 City Road
CF24 3JJ
(029) 2047 1467

I was invited to Tastebuds Cafe as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary.


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