It’s probably not a good idea to eat a Brownie for breakfast. But when it’s delicious and comes courtesy of the wonderful Dragon’s Kitchen (Cegin Y Ddraig) I think you can just about be forgiven, right?
Anyway… seeing past my sugar induced haze, I had the delight of spending a couple of hours in this Castle Arcade cafe yesterday morning and having a chat with owner JP.
Dragon’s Kitchen is directly opposite the Castle and sells traditional Welsh food as well as the usual takeaway items such as baguettes, teas, coffees and pastries.
JP has only owned Dragon’s Kitchen since 2009. Prior to that it was Celtic Cauldron before being taken over by a charity not long before JP bought the place and transformed it. The charity took away the kitchen from the downstairs, so this is now an extra dining area and everything that is made on the premises is done so behind the counter.
Although you’ll find an array of traditional Welsh food, such as Cawl, Lobscaws and Rarebit, it’s fairly priced and very much not intended to just be a tourist trap for those coming across from the Castle, but offering something for everyone. JP tries to make everything himself, or anything that he buys in source from Wales.
In the short time I was there, a few other local business owners popped in for a quick chat or to ask a question, reinforcing the community spirit you tend to see in these arcades, even when the businesses would traditionally be competing with each other. Interestingly, JP tells me that the businesses try not to step on each other’s toes, making sure that they each offer something different. You won’t find pizzas in Dragon’s Kitchen as Cafe Minuet is opposite, and you won’t find Cupcakes as Madame Fromage is just down the way.
To backtrack a little to the history of JP and the cafe, the name Dragon’s Kitchen was to tie in with the tradition of Celtic Cauldron, but signify a departure. After studying catering at University, JP spent years working at Cardiff Airport before joining the Western Mail to work in advertising. After deciding to quit his job, him and his wife went around the world traveling, came back and set up Dragon’s Kitchen. The logo was designed by JP’s Dad, and in a nod to more iconic Welsh culture was inspired by the dragon from Ivor the Engine.
Popping in the day after a long bank holiday weekend threw up some interesting points. The whole arcade was closed on Sunday, but JP says that it wasn’t as busy on Saturday as usual, and Monday, even when most of the other Arcade cafes and eateries were closed was also very quiet. But apparently it’s hard to spot patterns, even during a normal week, which must make it hard, if not frustrating for business owners.
Like many of the businesses in the Castle and High Street Arcade, JP says that the roadworks on High Street and Castle Street were the biggest cause of revenue loss over the past year, and along with the white-out at Christmas, it’s tough this year as there’s nothing to fall back on.
Thankfully, despite the tough situation, JP remains ever positive, embracing social media to promote the business and speaking fo the great reviews the cafe has had on places like Qype and Yelp. It’s fantastic to see someone so enthusiastic about their business, and hopefully this will translate into good returns.
I’ll definitely be popping in to try some more traditional Welsh food – something despite living in Wales for such a long time I’m ashamedly behind on – make sure you pop along too. Have a look below for some more pictures from the shop, and don’t forget you can find Dragon’s Kitchen on Facebook and Twitter, as well as their main website.