BBC Radio One's Huw Stevens gets to the heart of Cool Cardiff

Picture this. Huw Stephens, Radio One’s man who chooses the coolest new bands to play on air, likes to eat in a Cardiff café that plays classical music all day. Huw is like that; an engaging man, Welsh to the core, born and brought up in Cardiff. Now living and working in London he returns to Cardiff regularly and names Café Minuet in Castle Arcade as one of his favourite spots.

“It’s really good,” he says. “They do amazing Italian food I haven’t seen anywhere else. A great place to eat during the day.” He should know – he has been going there regularly since he was a little boy.

As a rising national radio star, Huw has kept tight hold of his Cardiff roots. Six years ago he set up the Sŵn festival (the Welsh word for sound, pronounced ‘soon’) Festival in Cardiff to showcase Welsh musical talent. The festival has been a big success and is now an autumn fixture in the city. “I am very pleased with how it has gone,” he says. “It attracts thousands of people to the city centre every October and it has become a big highlight in the Welsh musical calendar. It has grown a UK-wide reputation for quality, with a great line-up. Sŵn has also been able to show that Cardiff is a diverse and creative cultural centre.

“Wales has always had huge musical talent and Cardiff has a really strong live music and concert scene. You get small, intimate venues like the legendary Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street and you have the Motorpoint Arena, St David’s Hall and the Wales Millennium Centre at the other end of the scale.

One to watch

GRETA ISAAC – A young Cardiff singer/songwriter with a great voice. Very talented.

“Cardiff is a small capital but has so much going for it. The city centre is pure Cardiff but with a hint of a European atmosphere about it. The Hayes, with its tea shop and elderly gentlemen playing chess in the open air, is what you expect to find in a European capital.”

The Hayes is at the heart of Cardiff’s shopping, with John Lewis guarding one end and Cardiff Market at the other end. “Cardiff Market is not talked about enough,” says Huw. “It’s a place where you find friendly people selling interesting and different goods. It’s one of the things that distinguish Cardiff. It’s a small, friendly place and it’s the capital city of Wales with a lot going for it.

“I go to a lot of cities across the UK, DJ-ing all year round and nowhere compares to Cardiff. I’m not a great one for shops but I do love Cardiff’s arcades and I wouldn’t want to be without Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, right there in Morgan Arcade. Drop in and ask the friendly staff to recommend something good from the local music scene.”

One to watch

KUTOSIS – A really gutsy band, purveyors of powerful, whiskey-soaked blues songs.

Apart from Minuet, Huw recommends the Bangkok Café in Canton for Thai, the Potted Pig in the city centre and the Purple Poppadom, also in Canton. Clearly a man quite taken with his home town, what would he look forward to here in the future? “Without a doubt, Cardiff is now ready to be European Capital of Culture. There is enough going on here to justify receiving that title. It would make people realise that it is a world class city, innovative and with a growing focus on media and creative industries.”

This post is from the Cardiff Essential Guide, our quick, printable guide to Cardiff (PDF). Check out the guide in full.