Under “ground” coffee? Off Track Coffee Lounge, Jacobs Market, Cardiff

I love a decent cup of coffee and Cardiff has more than its fair share of independents which offer rather fine examples of the barista’s skills, including Uncommon Ground, Little Man Coffee, Corner Coffee, Brodie’s, Hardlines, 200 Degrees and the Plan (to name but a few) in the City centre.

On this basis, a flyer (sucker for an offer me) I came across in my office relating to a new (at least to me) coffee lounge called “Off Track” peaked my interest.

I have no love of the “chain gang” in the form of Starbucks, Costa and their ilk (gawd awful coffee and bland, rip off, food if you ask me) so a new independent close to my office sounded right up my street.

The place

Situated in the basement of Jacobs Market, to say it is well hidden is an understatement. No discernable signage at the main Jacobs Market entrance is perhaps a mistake, although there is signage around the side (from where you access Off Track, when Jacobs Market itself is closed).

Inside the only indications of the place’s presence in the basement are coffee bags on the walls and a very small (and easily missed) sign in the stairwell to the basement.

Downstairs it is what I think people refer to as shabby chic (well I would if I actually knew what that meant). I would say a bit rustic, but nice enough with some rather good (if a bit too trendy for a Radio 4/3 listener like me) tunes playing the the background.

I thought it was quite nice (in an oddball sort of way – so prefer something a little different to the same old, same old blandness) with sofas and a chilled out vibe.

The drink

As it is predominantly a coffee shop/lounge, food is somewhat secondary to the coffee (at least at the moment), I have reversed my usual format with drinks first.

The menu is quite short, but has all the classics on it (with perhaps the exception of a cortado).

I went for a flat white (£2.50), as my preference coffee wise of a cortado was not in evidence on the board (if you ask they will do it – I checked on a subsequent visit)

This was a very pleasant cup of coffee, with rich mocha notes and an element of fruitiness as the flavour lingered in the mouth. It has that trademark velvety texture of a properly made flat white.

Pricing seems reasonable to me for what was (to my mind) a nice cup of coffee.

On a second visit I got a cortado (wasn’t on menu, but I asked and they were happy enough to provide one off menu) and very nice it was too (a double espresso, cut with some hot milk).

The food

The food offering currently is quite limited, with just soup (£3.50) and a choice of two grilled cheese sarnies (£3 for the three cheese one and £3.50 for a ham and cheese one).

On the day of my first visit, the soup of day was leek and potato, which came with a choice of white or brown bread (I asked for white – they had run out so I had to settle for brown).

This was a rather good bowl of soup, which eschewed the tradition blending of the main ingredients (which can make it a bit gloopy), with the leeks and potato (the latter cut into thin batons) sitting in a very well flavoured and well seasoned broth. It came in a good size bowl, with no skimping on the portion here.

To my surprise this was one of the nicest bowls of soup I have had in a while (Mrs. SF makes a mean bowl of butternut squash soup). Whilst not a fan of brown bread, it was nice to see a very liberal amount of properly salty butter coating it.

All very enjoyable and perfect as a light lunch.

Cakes are also on offer and with reasonable price tags.

The carrot cake looked suspiciously like one they sell in Costco – which is a shame. I love Costco for their wine (serious bargains to be had), but I am not a fan of their cakes.

I was kindly offered a complimentary try of their banana cake, but passed as I was surprisingly full from the soup and I need to be in the mood to eat banana cake (quite partial to it if in the mood for cake, but not usually up for anything sweet at lunchtime).

On a second visit, I ordered the three cheese (parmesan, mozzarella and cheddar) toastie.

This was very pleasant with lots of gooey cheese (nice to see a decent balsamic dressing applied to the more that superfluous side salad on the plate),

without hitting the heights of the soup I had on my first visit. Not the biggest, perhaps, but perfectly fine for a light lunch. In town Quay Street Kitchen’s toasties are bigger and better, but a fair bit more pricey at £4.95.

The verdict

I rather enjoyed my visits to “On Track”, with a decent cup of coffee and a surprisingly good bowl of soup. Great as a pit stop if you are browsing the antiques in Jacobs Market

or are on route to or from the rear of Cardiff central train station.

Would I go back? Yes, nice place with nice coffee and decent (if limited) food. I have already made a return visit.

It is open all day from 07.30, so is perfect for picking up a coffee in the morning (straight off the train) or for a light lunch or a cake and a coffee in the afternoon (would be better if they sourced their cake from a local baker rather than – if my suspicion is correct – Costco).

Add to that the people who run it are really affable and this all makes it, to my mind, a nice spot to chill out.

They are open when Jacobs Market itself is closed and at those times you can only access the place via the side entrance on West Canal Wharf.

The details

Being slightly lazy all the pertinent details, bar from it being actually located in the basement of Jacobs Market, are in the flyer photo below.

Website is a work in progress at moment it seems.

Always nice to see a new independent – better to support them than the corporate behemoths if you ask me.


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