In an age where the traditional pub is dying, it’s always reassuring to come across a venue that is doing well in spite of it all. Victorian pub The Flora had new life breathed into it last year, with some sizey investment, new independent ownership (the same people who own Ten Mill Lane) and the adoption of a progressive foodie ethos. Given the locale, the target market of this Cathays joint is naturally students and young professionals. It's an easygoing venue, though, and all are given a warm welcome (the friendly, laid back staff make it feel as if you’ve casually popped over your mate’s house for a beer).
The exterior still has the look of a public house - you half expect to find an obligatory old man half asleep at the bar clutching a personalised tankard. However, once you're through the doors, the vibe inside is hipster-bar-meets-boozer, with old-school wooden chairs mixed with colourful wall art, plush chairs, pints of real ale and the odd watering can on a windowsill, making it not only eclectic but (most importantly) highly instagrammable. Phones at the ready darlings.
The Flora certainly looks the part of a quality pub, but could it deliver on its promise of ‘exciting and innovative food’? The launch of their new summer menu seemed like the perfect time to taste-test the food and of course, the drinks menu. It would be rude not to, right?
The evening summer menu is small yet well-constructed, with enough variety to suit most tastes. The homemade dishes range from featherblade steak, pan roasted chicken, fish and chips to carrot tarka daal, as well as a selection of starters, sides and deserts.
We opted for a grilled halloumi starter followed by the steak and crispy pork belly main courses to ensure a hearty feast was had. The grilled halloumi was beautifully presented on a bed of mint salad, complete with orange wedges and a zingy sauce - the overall result being a fresh salad that tasted as colourful and summery as it looked.
For those who have yet to try a featherblade steak, it’s one of the more unusual cuts. You can get it from a butcher, but it's growing in popularity and increasingly shows up on fashionable, gastro pub menus. It was served as it should be - medium rare - and was as tender and flavourful as you can get from this type of cut. Served with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and a choice between triple cooked chips or skinny fries.
The pork belly was as crispy as its title promised and was accompanied by creamy mash, greens, cider jus and the cheeky little addition of a tasty black pudding. The perfect balance of moist meat and crunchy crackling was delivered in this well balanced, delectable dish.
The Flora far exceeds the sort of generic ‘pub grub’ that is served in similar venues, adding unique and creative twists to dishes that are not only high quality but are also very reasonably priced. With the added benefit of student friendly £5 cocktails, decent real ales and a rather splendid selection of gins, it’s the sort of venue you go for a ‘swift one’ and end up staying all night, stumbling home whilst merrily singing into your shoe. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.