THE ORIGINAL GERMAN BARBERCUE, THE HAYES
Firstly, we must confess, this post should have been published back at Christmas. Unfortunately, various life and work-related matters stifled our ability to press ‘publish’ at the appropriate time, leaving it to gather dust. So, what we propose is that before you read this, pretend you’ve built a time machine, and you’re testing it by ‘only’ setting your co-ordinates back in time for just over a month. And because you’re wondering if it really can be Christmas every day. Do that, and this write-up will make sense, but if that doesn’t convince you, please bear in mind there are only 338 Christmas shopping days remaining. Let that be a warning.
“We’re all friends now”, said a concussed Basil Fawlty in the immortal ‘The Germans’ episode of Fawlty Towers. It’s that time again (for Christmas, not war; although there’s always time for war, it seems), Cardiff Christmas Market is back and is as vibrant as ever.
The Hayes has seen a dramatic transformation in the last five years or so. From a crumbling embarrassment, featuring dangerously uneven pavements and a suspicious smell of stale urine, it has become the prime location for our ‘favourite’ globalised brands – including the wonderfully ethical Starbucks and all its unrelenting friends. Despite originality and interest being a rarity in that region, the masses have flocked to St. Davids 2.0, which is now in the top three busiest shopping centres in the United Kingdom, including a food court in its East Side with yet more ‘favourites’ (including the perma-queue outside the Portuguese chicken and chip shop). It’s all a bit tiresome. Travel six hours by train to Norwich, as we did recently, and the shopping centres there brought on a bizarre jet-lag sensation. Everything was the same, in gloriously buffet-like repetition fashion. Bah!
Step forward the little guys, kindly offering us hope that someone out there might still give a toss.
While the German Barbecue sausage fest might be our area of focus here, the stalls are well worth a look once you’ve picked yourself up a delicious hot dog at its theatrical best or a bag of fresh, warm doughnuts a few doors down.
The terraced wooden huts have popped up regularly in the city centre throughout the year, but the superior Christmas version is always worth the wait. Have a look around. There are independents selling locally fermented whiskies, to woolly wintery attire, to great quality slates designed for port ‘n’ cheese sessions after stuffing your festive faces all day at Christmas. It’s all here, and worth appreciating before it’s cruelly snatched away from us again. It’s a great opportunity to learn of small businesses that deserve the exposure, and time away from attempting to draw blood (or any information) from the temporary Christmas staff at the corporate-led giants.
Food then. If there’s one criticism EATCardiff has of the Original German Barbecue (and we don’t care one bit that the sausages are actually from BA Cash & Carry), it’s that it’s ruthlessly taken from us every year. It’s so frustrating that, with the money, we’re considering a business venture…
At first glance you’ll notice a huge gathering around a hut that appears to be on fire. Alarmed, your instincts will direct you over hastily to see if anyone’s died. No one has, but unfortunately a certain farm animal was harmed during the process of setting up the barbecue.
It’s like nothing else in town, as the Krakauer (red) and Bratwurst (white) sausages take centre stage, sweating above the inferno pit below, it’s a theatrical joy to watch (like that ball boy down the Gower the other night) while it must be living hell to work in, as the relentless public surrounds the hut like zombies to rotting flesh. It took 15 minutes to be served, but with the hypnotic heat from the fire and the bustling set-up of it all, you’ll forget why you’re there.
At £3.80 a pop, you’d be excused for expressing slight disgust at the asking price. But you’d be an idiot to pass it up. Choose either the spicy Krakauer or the herby Bratwurst and you really will wish it could be Christmas every day. They’re chunky, dense, flavoursome and as exciting as they were last year, and not good to write about on an empty stomach. Throw on some freshly grilled onions if you’re that way inclined and some authentic condiments (the sauces are, er, sourced from Munich) and the experience will be short-lived as each bite releases a wonderfully char-grilled, meaty mastication sensation.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So go. Now.