For my first foray into Cardiff’s drinking establishments, I took the recent Famous Grouse 100 Famous Pubs guide featured on The Daily Telegraph’s website as a good place to start. The capital has three pubs on the list, and it was the Golden Cross in Riverside which first caught my eye with the tagline “most spectacular pub interior in the whole of Wales.”
The stunning red-brick exterior’s not bad either and it stands out for all the right reasons amidst the gaudy glassy chain stores on Hayes Bridge Road opposite.
Unfortunately we just missed the start of the quiz, which begins every Monday at around 8.30, but I still can’t tell you Lady Gaga’s real name or what the first, second, sixteenth and twenty-sixth U.S. presidents have in common, so it was probably just as well; as regular readers of Drunk Dragon will come to know, I hate losing a pub quiz.
Once inside the first thing I noticed was not the beautiful decorative tiling on the bar for which, amongst other things, the Cross is famous, but the fact that absolutely everything – and I mean everything – is purple. On carpets, curtains, chairs, chandeliers and even cocktails – the ‘Purple Flirt’ if you fancy one – I’ve never seen so many hues of everyone’s sneaky second favourite colour.
A shade of watery brown that shames my pint of IPA, those ceramic tiles are amazing and are reputed to have been made specially for the pub’s 1849 opening.
Less propping up the bar than cowering in a corner are every gay pub’s most amusing patrons, the up-tight straight couple who’ve just wondered in, accidentally bought a pint, and now don’t know how long to wait before they can leave without seeming rude. The guy sits twisting his scarf between his fingers in silent agony. They leave with half his drink resolutely un-drunk.
I must admit I’m here with my girlfriend too, but that doesn’t stop me from being chatted-up by a guy who looks like the bassist from Blur – you know, the one who likes cheese – which is all good fun.
Unfortunately, she gets some less welcome attention from a ‘refreshed’ straight bloke who assures us “this is probably the best pub in Cardiff because nobody will bother you if you don’t want to be bothered,” while cheerfully refuting that assertion. Still he’s perfectly friendly, as is everyone we meet all night, and warns me away from Brains SA as a few too many apparently induces “skull attack,” which sounds like a migraine on steroids.
Supervisor Anthony Rowley, 20, kindly agrees to chat and fills me in on the pub’s history from when sailors could pick-up prostitutes here, to its present incarnation as a gay pub which it became well over a decade ago. With the King’s Cross losing its gay identity in the summer, he says it’s all the more important for the city’s LGBT community that the Golden Cross stays in the pink.
“I care about the place. I’ve worked here for so long and I’m best friends with the manager; we’d do anything for each other. I love the place to death,” he says.
Without doubt the star of the night though is quizmaster, self-styled Sunday “bingo bitch” and resident drag act, Lambrini Rampage.
This “Rhondda girl on a mission,” runs a very tidy quiz indeed and is only too happy to pose for a picture once she’s sorted her wig.
The Cross’s bingo and cabaret night on Sundays is said to pack the punters in, not that you’re supposed to shout ‘bingo’ if you win- “You have to shout fanny flaps,” says Lambrini. Hear, hear.