Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery

The word "Uncommon GROUND COFFEE ROASTERY" written in black inside a white circle on a black background.Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery is in Cardiff’s Royal Arcade. Dating from 1858, it’s the city’s oldest arcade and is one down from the Morgan Arcade, home of the venerable The Plan, Cardiff’s original speciality-café-in-an-arcade. Mind you, it seems that every arcade has a coffee or tea shop these days. Perhaps the Welsh Assembly passed a new law. Or maybe people have realised that lovely Victorian Arcades deserve lovely coffee shops… Either way, the arcade makes an excellent setting for Uncommon Ground.

Don’t be put off by the name, by the way. Uncommon Ground’s a lovely coffee shop, its interior and layout doing full justice to its elegant surroundings. There is a roaster, or there was when I was there, the original plan being to roast in the back of the store. However, problems with the gas supply led Uncommon Ground to relocate the roasting off-site. With luck, the new roastery should be up and running next month. Until then, the coffee is being roasted by North Star in Leeds. There’s a bespoke espresso blend, plus a couple of single-origins through the V60. If you’re hungry, there’s a good selection of cake and a small selection of sandwiches, Panini and wraps.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The rather unpromising exterior of Cardiff's Royal Arcade...
  • ... gives way to a rather lovely interior, dating back to 1858. It's Cardiff's oldest arcade.
  • Near the St Mary Street entrance, you'll see this enticing sign...
  • ... which heralds, on the right, the Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery. Which is a cafe.
  • What a gorgeous store front. The photo really doesn't do it justice.
  • There are seats outside in the arcade...
  • ... but for the moment, let's head inside, past the twin A-boards.
  • The view from just inside the door...
  • ... and the view looking back the other way.
  • As well as the tables outside, there's a multitude of seating option inside.
  • There are window-bars either side of the door. This one's tucked away by the stairs...
  • ... while this one is a bit more open.
  • Another view of the window-bar to the left of the door, along with the tables.
  • The counter is on the right-hand side at the back...
  • There's not much seating on this side, this table by the stairs being one of the few examples.
  • This pillar, with its empty frame, hides a couple more options.
  • On the counter (right-hand) side, there's a narrow bar...
  • ... while on the other side, there's this cosy two-person table.
  • The rest of the seating's over here as well: two horseshoe communal tables.
  • Another view of the tables. Check out the interesting green wall to the right...
  • ... which is matched by the interesting green lighting under the tables.
  • Those stairs look interesting... On the left, it's down to the toilets (sadly no basement)...
  • The ones on the right, however, are a different matter. This is the view from half-way up.
  • Here's the counter. Sensibly, Uncommon Ground has resisted cluttering the area around it.
  • And here's the seating area to the left of the door...
  • ... and the window bar to the right.
  • Look what we have at the top of the stairs! Sadly it wasn't (yet) in use when I was there.
  • Why do stairs always look so much steeper when you're going down them?
  • I liked this lovely graphic/map, showing where the beans in the house blend come from.
  • I also liked the exposed-brick walls and empty frames. Not that they're empty in this case.
  • Hopefully this won't be here for much longer. Uncommon Ground plans to be roasting soon!
  • Best thing about Uncommon Ground? The amazing lamp-shades!
  • These were everywhere and are made of old copper kettles.
  • They come in a variety of shapes and sizes...
  • ... and can even be found hanging in the windows.
  • See what I mean?
  • Each one has had its bottom removed...
  • ... and had a light-bulb placed inside.
  • Right, down to business. A helpful arrow points the way (past the cake!).
  • The counter, which is at the heart of Uncommon Ground's operation.
  • Me, playing with the exposure on my camera.
  • The menu is helpfully chalked up on the wall behind the counter.
  • That's fairly comprehensive, with the single-origin filters on the left-hand side.
  • I, however, had an espresso of the house-blend, which came in a classic black cup.
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Uncommon Ground occupies a lovely spot on the right-hand side of the Royal Arcade, not far from the entrance on St Mary Street. Its wide front is entirely glass, the windows on either side curving elegantly inwards towards the central, recessed door, almost as if they’re drawing you inside. Outside, there are three small, round tables on either side of the door. These make a good option, particularly on a bright day, when the glass roof floods the arcade with sunlight.

Uncommon Ground is roughly square, being slightly deeper than it is wide. Directly opposite the door, about one-third of the way in, is a brick pillar, all that’s left of what was the back wall of the original units. It’s been knocked out to extend the space to the rear. Behind it, part of a brick wall remains. This used to run all the way to the back, separating the rear part into two separate spaces. Now it forms a rather curious island in the centre of Uncommon Ground which splits what could be one rather uninteresting space into several much more interesting spaces.

To the right of this island, against the right-hand wall, is the counter. To the left, against the left-hand wall, are two large, communal, horseshoe-shaped tables. A cosy two-person table nestles up against the left-hand side of the dividing wall while, on the right, opposite the counter, there’s a narrow bar.

Coming back to the front, there’s a window-bar either side of the door. To the right, a lovely staircase immediately behind the bar sweeps intriguingly upwards to a bright, airy room which is not yet in use. At the foot of the stairs, there’s another cosy, two-person table. To the left, the area behind the window-bar has several well-spaced square tables.

Despite the windows, Uncommon Ground’s quite dark, particularly at the back. There are multiple lights, each with an amazing copper-kettle lampshade, but they add to the atmosphere rather than provide (bright) illumination. The result is quite wonderful, a subdued, cosy space which feels like a basement even though it’s not. This is helped by the exposed-brick walls and black floor/ceiling. The final touch is a fake (but very realistic) living wall on the counter and the lower-half of the back wall. This adds an interesting touch of green, somewhat eerily supplemented by green lighting under the two horseshoe tables.

During my visit, Uncommon Ground’s 2.5 kg Diedrich roaster sat in the back of the store, but hopefully this is off-site by now, ready to spring into action. Until then, Uncommon Ground’s bespoke espresso blend (50% Brazil, 20% Sumatra, 30% Colombia) is being roasted by North Star. I tried it as an espresso, which I found quite bright, although far from being in the pulling-funny-faces category. It was quite acidic, with very much a roof-of-the-mouth taste. I suspect it goes really well in milk, but I was far too caffeinated to try it.

Starving when I reach Uncommon Ground, I was very taken by the bacon & egg brunch muffin. Inconveniently, I don’t eat meat, but the staff made it for me cheddar cheese instead of the bacon. The egg was scrambled with tomato relish, giving it an interesting kick. Needless to say, I hoovered it up and it was just what I needed!

December 2016: Uncommon Ground Coffee Roastery was the winner of the 2016 Coffee Spot Award for Best Lighting.

10-12 ROYAL ARCADE • CARDIFF • CF10 1AE
www.uncommon-ground.co.uk
Monday 07:30 – 18:30 Roaster North Star (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:30 Seating Tables, Window Bar
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 18:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 07:30 – 18:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 21st September 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Cardiff’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Cardiff.


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