A lot to wine about here? Nighthawks, Cardiff City Centre.

The title (my usual abysmal play on words) might suggested two things, to (or should the be the two) people who read the blog, these being:

  • oh he’s having a moan again; and
  • Oh dear another typo in the title.

Quelle surprise” I hear you all chortle, but in actual fact it is neither (as I go back and double, double check the title) and I am always pleased when a new wine bar opens up in Cardiff.

In this instance, Nighthawks (in the unit that use to house “Greazy Vegan“) was the venue for a long postponed catch up with two ex. work colleagues.

One is clearly much more cultured than me, as when I suggested Nighthawks as a venue her response was “Sounds great, is it named after the Edward Hopper painting?“, whereas with the name my instant thought was of Terrahawks (an 80s Gerry Anderson creation). She is clearly on the mark and I am a Philistine.

Nice place, with a mix of bar stools and comfy seating. Sort of place you can go with a bunch of people, as a duo or solo happily enough.

The wine list is short, but certainly not lacking in interest. Some “off the piste” and, dare I say, brave wine choices on here (and bravo for that I say).

The traminer could be said to be very much a crowd splitter – you are likely to either love it or hate it. It is certainly brave (but to be commended) to put it and an off dry Uruguayan Petit Manseng as one of only 4 whites on your list (I suspect this may well be revisited at a later date, but hope I am wrong).

The reds are perhaps a tad more conventional. There is a Cote du Rhone, a malbec blend and a Montepulciano, as well as a Toro cab. sauv. The latter is, however, a rare thing on a UK wine list (and if truth be told on most Spanish ones too – Toro is very much tempranillo territory).

Fizz is equally interesting, with the (I suspect terrible) temptation to put a prosecco on the list resisted and in its stead an interesting sounding Fruilli  spumante number

I like the fact that they do by the glass, bottle and carafe options (bar from the fizz, where there is no carafe option).

Drawn to the Spanish white (very partial to a garnacha blanc me), they said they had another on the go that I might like in the form of a natural wine.

Natural wines often set alarm bells ringing in my head, as I have had mixed experiences with such wines. I have been told with certain (rather odd tasting, to my palate at least) natural wines that my expressed reservations as to such wines have been because I just simply don’t get the wines in question, but if getting them is nodding approvingly to something that tastes akin to badly made scrumpy fermented in a bath tub then indeed I don’t. Lots of decent natural wines out there, but also a lot of emperor’s new clothes stuff too (just because it is made “naturally” doesn’t mean it is automatically good – bad wine is bad wine regardless). Be wary and prepared to be disappointed is my mantra with natural wines, so if it is nice I am pleasantly surprised.

Here what was forthcoming, in the form of Le Naturel, was rather nice and thus a pleasant surprise.

A Navarra garancha blanc, it had pleasant notes of citrus (grapefruit and a touch of lime), orchard fruits (yellow apple and pear) and a floral, with a touch of spice, finish.

Just a hint of spritz made it very gluggable. Decent value at £24.95 a bottle (it retails at around the £13 mark in the UK).

On the reds, the Toro Cabernet Sauvignon from Bodegas Mazos

was rich with sweet dark fruit and a, characteristic cab. sauv., touch of the pencil case. On the list here at £34.95 a bottle and £6.95 a glass, it retails at around the £12 mark.

As I worked my way through the list (for research purposes, of course), the Cote du Rhone provided more pleasurable drinking,

with red fruit, spice and silky tannins (on the list here at £29.95 a bottle, and £5.95 a glass and retailing at about £11 a bottle).

Chatting with the people who run it, it seems they will be expanding the list (sherry – hoorah – will likely feature, I do clearly see Spanish Wine Direct’s footprints on the current list) with some interesting off the beaten track stuff.

On the food front there is a short, but enticing sounding, offering of just the sort of stuff I like to graze on when I drink wine.

Olives were plump and juicy

and boqerones en vinagre a generous plate of silvered, briney, loveliness.

Posh crisps entailed a generous portion of lightly salted crisps with a lump fish roe adorned blob of sour cream.

Not entirely convinced as to the merit of the lump fish roe addition, but we ate the lot.

A C&C (charcuterie and cheese) selection (£14 for 4 meat and cheeses or £28 for 8) delivered a good selection of enticing meats and cheeses, good lightly toasted bread

and quality other accoutrements (if you don’t like cornichons or balsamic pickled onions I am afraid we likely can’t be friends) Only let down was an overly sweet (for my tastes) red onion chutney (I could happily have lived without it).

Have to say I have little truck with the current trend for “butter boards” (ludicrously being touted as a valid alternative to traditional charcuterie and cheese boards) or as I like to call them “Fxck you must be bored“. Perfectly normal in the weird and utterly incomprehensible (at least to me) world of Tiktok it seems, but I will stick to putting my butter on bread, crackers etc and applying a topping rather than smearing a block of butter on to a wooden board and chucking stuff on top/mixing it all in together – I mean, notwithstanding the many other issues I have with this sort of faddie bollocks, think of the washing up?!

Anyway back to sensible stuff, a rather fine spread I thought

Finally a cheese toastie (£7.50 +£1.50 if add chorizo/salami and harissa I think but could be wrong as cut off price in photo)

hit the spot nicely with that delightful combo of crunchy bread and uber gooey cheese that is the cornerstone of all good toasted sarnies. It was also very tasty, which is of course what really matters.

I have notice from their Insta. feed that they seem to do specials, so for instance one day they did Permbrokeshire oysters to go with the fizz on the list and very nice they looked to.

All in all a nice place for a catch up or just a solo drink.

The verdict

I rather liked Nighthawks. The wine is interesting, decent quality and not too pricey, with the staff engaging and knowledgeable without stepping over the line into wine geekery (unless you are happy to engage in such geekery – guilty as charged m’lud).

The food may play second fiddle here, but operates as a nice foil to the main event wine offering.

Just my sort of place and I will certainly be back, with the added benefit that it is dog friendly (take note Mrs. SF and J if you have been bothered to read this – doubtful).

The Details

Address: 47- 49 Castle Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 1BW

Website: none as such, only Instagram page as far as can tell. https://instagram.com/nighthawkscardiff?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

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