Hard Lines Coffee

Details from a sign outside the Castle Emporium in Cardiff, home of Outpost Coffee & VinylOn 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.

  • Today's Coffee Spot is not that easy to find. However, look carefully & you'll see this sign...
  • It points down Cardiff's Womanby Street, a long, pedestrianised street near the castle.
  • Further signs give you encouragement, although you still need to have some faith.
  • What you're looking for is down here on the right...
  • ... through this long corridor.
  • Welcome to the Castle Emporium, home of the lovely Outpost Coffee & Vinyl.
  • Heading inside, you're in the middle of the ground floor. Off to the right is Outpost...
  • .. with various other stores off to the left.
  • This is Outpost, with its counter immediately to your right as you enter.
  • Meanwhile, there's a neat seating area opposite it on the far wall.
  • You have quite a choice: there's this comfy-looking sofa...
  • ... or these two wooden seats against the wall.
  • Alternatively, there's a long, bench-like table in the middle, with another table beyond that.
  • There's also this neat set of shelves...
  • ... which contains a turntable and a stack of old vinyl that you can play.
  • It also doubles as a retail space, selling bags of coffee from various roasters.
  • There's more coffee tucked away around the side.
  • The rest of the Castle Emporium stretches off to the left...
  • ... and above, where the first floor is effectively a balcony runnig around all three sides.
  • There's a set of stairs at the far end, or there's these, behind the counter. Helpful sign!
  • There's more seating up here in the form of bar stools running along a bar on the balcony.
  • This is at the left-hand end. The seating is communal, so feel free to bring your coffee up.
  • There's no seating on the far side though. That's just shop space.
  • The view from the left-hand end of the balcony, looking the length of the Emporium.
  • A view of the seating from above.
  • Looking directly across at the seating from above the counter.
  • This shot gives you a nice idea of the layout down below.
  • One of the nice things is that you can look down on the counter from above...
  • ... and watch the barista at work!
  • So, to business. The counter is in two parts, with the coffee at the front...
  • ... and vinyl (the clue's in the name) at the back. There's a small selection of LPs for sale.
  • Neat display on the front corner of the counter.
  • If you're hungry, there's a small selection of cake from old friends Cakesmiths.
  • Meanwhile the concise coffee menu is on the wall at the back...
  • ... where you'll also find tasting notes for the espresso + filter options.
  • I went for a shot of the Unkle Funka, a Nicaraguan single-origin from Extract.
  • This came served in a very over-sized blue cup!
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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!

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)
Sunday CLOSED Power No
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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1 thought on “Hard Lines Coffee

  1. Thanks for sharing, we love discovering great hidden coffee gems, we’ll definitely check it out next time we’re in Cardiff! Their decor looks really cool, very laid back and relaxed, the hipster scene.. We love coffee shops that bring in feature roasts regularly, it’s a great way to try new coffee and you never know what to expect!

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