A far cry from the same old chain bars and restaurants of the city centre, a trip to The Depot, Cardiff’s most exciting new venue, will reward you with an experience unlike anything the city has seen before.
It’s just a short walk from Cardiff central station – albeit a dark and slightly sketchy one (ladies, don’t walk alone). Head down Dumballs Road and past the various soulless industrial estates, and keep your eyes peeled for a cluster of bearded, check-shirted men wearing bobble hats or flat caps. If you’ve spotted them, you’ve probably found the entrance to The Depot.
You enter via a narrow doorway, and head into a couple of rooms stacked with cardboard boxes and partitioned with those plastic curtain-things (meat flaps, haha) that immediately make me think of butcher shops and horror movies. After fighting through a couple of these flappy plastic annoyances, you’ll be ready to catch your first glance of The Depot (and I dare you not to smile).
The high-ceiling warehouse has been kitted out by two Cardiff designers who call themselves Bert & Ernie – with beautiful fairy-lights, moody-blue backlights, and stacks of branches and foliage that give it a fairytale-woodland feel in parts. In opposition, industrial influences like huge tractor-tyre seating, wooden pallet tables, and a sawn-in-half car adorn the open-plan areas. In the middle of the warehouse, wooden boards have been nailed together in the shape of a big tree and lit from within, flooding the ceiling with light and letting little chinks of it through the sides. It’s a magical space.
The team at Street Food Cardiff has brought together a varied guest list of street vendors for their residency at The DEPOT, encompassing everything from burgers to burritos, hot dogs to haute-cuisine. In addition, the guys at DEPOT have arranged draught beers on tap from Pipes, and bottled beers and cocktails a-plenty from the other bars dotted around the corners of the warehouse. Every week, a different selection of food-trucks will take up residence, meaning there is always a reason to come back and see what’s changed. So far, I’ve sampled fusion food from Jols Food Co in the form of Pad Fries (using skinny fries instead of noodles to create a Pad Thai inspired dish), a tasty Portland Dog from Haute Dogs, a really delicious veggie Quesadilla from Mexican food truck, El Salsa, and more Margaritas than you could shake a stick at. And I’m far from finished! The best thing about these little food producers is that in most cases, you’re also getting food of a much better quality – free range chicken at Dirty Bird and high welfare Trealy Farm sausages at Haute Dogs, for instance.
A while ago, I wrote about Street Food Cardiff and their summer pop-up on St Mary Street. I had a great time that day (and the food was as smashing as ever), but as an event or a destination, it seemed to be missing something. I thought at the time that perhaps it just wasn’t busy enough, that it hadn’t attracted enough of a crowd and that drumming up more support was the answer, but now I feel differently. To be honest, I think it just lacked a bit of atmosphere, and I have since been informed that this is due to those pesky buggers at the council and their restrictions on general merry-making!
Now, thanks to the geniuses behind The Depot, the Street Food Cardiff team have somewhere super-cool to house themselves until Christmas, and the result is a total foodie wonderland with an amazing atmosphere. On my most recent visit, I arrived at 6 o clock and didn’t end up leaving until about 10, thanks to bumping into friends, getting a good seat, and a plentiful supply of great beer. A perfect Friday night.
I can’t wait to see what the team behind DEPOT come up with, and do with the space next!
UPDATE: This post was written in November 2014, and since then, Street Food Cardiff and The DEPOT have parted ways. Starting in May 2015 both will be running separate events – SFC have launched the Street Food Circus and the DEPOT have had a huge refurbishment, added new toilets and traders, and have launched The Weekend.
See below for more info: