Part of the esteemed Dirty Martini family, Dirty Martini Cardiff joined the city’s already impressive offering of cocktail bars in October as the brand's first venture outside of London. With the likes of Dead Canary, Be At One and the various bars of Mill Lane being revered amongst the city’s cocktail lovers, you could say Dirty Martini had a bit of a fight on its hands.
However, its central location on St Mary Street pretty much guarantees a raft of revelers; just shy of a 5-minute walk from Cardiff Central train station, it’s likely to be one of the first stops for visitors to the city on the weekend. We headed over to see how it measures up against other favourites.
The Venue and Atmosphere
The first thing that strikes you as you step into the bar is the glamorous – you could call it ostentatious – décor that instantly made me feel very aware of the fact that I was wearing trainers. Verging on stimulation overload, you don’t quite know where to look. But when you do, you’ll find opulent artwork, low lighting, comfortable booths, and ample floor space for busting some moves if it takes your fancy once the martinis kick in.
But bear with me as I venture into 27-going-on-67 mode…even on a relatively empty Thursday evening at 7pm – just two or three tables occupied - the music was at the same volume that you’d expect at 2am on a Saturday night. In fact, it was so deafening that I can’t describe in much detail what my second cocktail (Chocolate Martini) was like as my partner thought I had said “finish that if you want”; I had said nothing of the sort.
Turning around to find the hazelnutty, creamy remnants being slurped through the chocolate straw was pretty devastating, to say the least. I have my suspicions that the loud music presented the perfect excuse for cocktail pilfering. But anyway - if you’re not too keen on having a deep and meaningful with Clive from Accounts at your post-work drinks, this is the bar for you. If you’re after something a bit more intimate and chilled, go elsewhere.
Food & Drink
Traditionally, a Dirty Martini contains a splash of olive brine or juice and is also typically garnished with the fruit. But you’ll find so much more than mere olive brine on this menu. The drinks list offers an impressive selection for all tastes – from a sweet Chocolate Martini (complete with Frangelico hazelnut liqueur and Briottet Crème de Cacao, my partner assures me it was very tasty – more of a dessert than a cocktail) to a sour Citron & Dandelion Martini (with homemade lemon verbena and bee pollen syrup, coconut water and egg white with Dandelion, Burdock and Orange Bitters). Collectively we opted for a Mango & Chilli, Strawberry & Pink Peppercorn, Dragonfruit & Pomegranate and the aforementioned Chocolate Martini (#NeverForget), all of which were not only very tasty but beautifully presented providing excellent Instagram fodder.
At £9.00 a pop, the cocktail prices are pretty steep for Cardiff, which is known for its affordable night life, but they regularly have 2-4-1 offers on which put the bar back in that bracket. If you’re all cocktailed out, you can also opt for £20 bottles of Prosecco, £12.50 bottles of wine and £3.50 bottles of beer and cider.
It’s always wise to line the stomach when knocking back martini after martini, so it’s a good job the menu offers a strong selection of snacks, from mac & cheese bites to grilled halloumi and everyone’s favourite sweet potato fries. We were pleasantly surprised by the selection of treats on the Distinctively Dirty Sharing Platter (£14.50). Not just your standard sharing board of bread and olives, the platter boasts beef & cheese sliders, fried buttermilk chicken with buffalo hot sauce, mozzarella & bacon arancini, samosas, flatbreads with mint yoghurt and hummus. Not sufficient between two to fill you up (hence why we rushed off to eat pizza afterwards) but does the job as a bar snack.
With its quirky cocktails, lavish interiors and blaring music, Dirty Martini Cardiff is ideal for a few pre-night out drinks and dancing into the early hours if you take advantage of that generous happy hour. If you’re hitting Cardiff on a bar crawl, Dirty Martini’s central location – nestled between Walkabout and The Philharmonic and just opposite Be At One and Mill Lane – makes it an inevitable stop off for those looking for a shouting-into-each-others’-ears and staying-up-past-bedtime kind of night.