On a trip to Cardiff a few years ago, I visited the Castle Emporium, a hub of independent one-off shops and businesses, including art, fashion and a barbershop, all set in the halls of what was originally a 1920s cinema. I distinctly remember thinking at the time that what the place needed was a speciality coffee shop. Fast forward to the end of 2016, and my wish became true as Hard Lines Coffee moved into the ground floor.
Hard Lines occupies a counter to the right of the entrance, with some seating opposite. Originally known as Outpost Coffee & Vinyl, Hard Lines sells both coffee and records, specialising in newly-released vinyl. When it comes to coffee, Hard Lines is just as specialised, a true multi-roaster, with rapidly rotating options on both espresso and batch-brew.
Bristol-based Clifton Coffee Roasters and Extract Coffee Roasters, along with Liverpool’s Neighbourhood Coffee, provide the espresso, which changes every week. Meanwhile various roasters appear on batch-brew, with a different one popping up each day. During the afternoon, if it’s quiet, you can ask nicely and staff will make you a pour-over on the Kalita Wave. Finally, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cake from old friends Cakesmiths.
October 2017: I’ve learnt that Outpost has re-branded to Hard Lines Coffee, so to avoid confused, I’ve renamed it in this write-up.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Castle Emporium is not the easiest place to find. Indeed, if you don’t know Cardiff, there’s every chance that you’ll walk by without ever realising it’s there. Set on the west side of the long, pedestrianised Womanby Street, which runs parallel to the High Street, it’s near the northern end, where it meets Castle Street. Indeed, your best chance of finding it is to go to the southwest corner of the castle, where you’ll find the broad entrance to Womanby Street. There are some helpful signs to give you encouragement (“really, really good coffee this way” is one), while the emporium itself is a short way down on the right.
You enter via a long corridor in the side of the building, with Hard Lines Coffee immediately to your right as you step into the main body of the emporium. Before getting down to the coffee, it’s worth stopping to admire the space. Open to the ceiling, it stretches out to the left and right, with a number of businesses on the ground floor, each in its own little space. Meanwhile, above them, a balcony runs around three sides (front, back and to the left). There are more shops up here, with access via flights of stairs behind the counter to your right or in the far, left-hand corner.
Hard Lines has a simple layout. The cakes face you as you enter, occupying the short end of the counter, the bulk of which runs along the stairs to your right, facing the back wall opposite you. Next there’s an espresso machine and its grinder, with the batch-brewer behind that. Finally, the back of the counter is given over to the vinyl side of the business, where the records are displayed for sale.
There’s seating opposite the counter, with more upstairs, and since technically it’s all communal, you can take your coffee and sit where you like. Opposite the counter you’ll find a sofa and a couple of wooden bench-chairs built into the wall in a little niche, along with a long, thin table with a couple of benches. Finally, to the left of the niche is a square, eight-person table. Alternatively, upstairs, there’s a bar running along the front and left-hand balconies, seating provided by a number of bar-chairs. The soaring ceiling, complete with skylights, and the generally open layout, give it a magnificent sense of space.
When it comes to coffee, Hard Lines uses Clifton, Extract and Neighbourhood as mainstays on espresso, a different coffee going into the grinder every week. Meanwhile there’s a rotating cast of roasters on filter, with a different one each day. While I was there it was Has Bean, while the previous it had been Small Batch. All of the coffee and more is available to buy in retail bags.
I decided to have a shot of Extract’s Unkle Funka summer espresso, a naturally-processed single-origin from Nicaragua. This was served in an oversized blue cup which, I have to admit, I was a little sceptical about, being something of a traditionalist when it comes to cups. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my coffee was excellent, a well-balanced fruity shot. Whether the cup had anything to do with it or not, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t have any adverse effects!
|CASTLE EMPORIUM • WOMANBY STREET • CARDIFF • CF10 1BS|
|Monday||08:00 – 17:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Bar|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 17:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 17:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||10:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||4th August 2017|
If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Cardiff’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Cardiff.
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