“If you come to the Arcades, you’re looking for something unique, something edgy and different, with real quality,” says Steve Barker. And he should know, his family created the popular Barkers clothing store in Cardiff in 1979, first at St David’s Centre before finding a home in Castle Arcade. Now, four decades later Steve runs the popular Coffee Barker on the site of the former clothing store as well as Barkers Tea House in High Street Arcade and, most recently, Gin & Juice, the only cocktail come salad bar in the city.
Serving a range of raw pressed juices, super-food salads and hearty bagels during the day, Gin & Juice transforms at night, serving over 200 gins and gin cocktails inside the cool, velvet-seated chic of the speakeasy and cosy snug area. “We’ve completely refurbished the site but kept it with the look and feel of the Victorian arcades, which are so unique,” says Steve, “visitors always comment on the architecture and they love that it’s under cover and pedestrianised. People enjoy sitting outside, being able to see the Castle and enjoying a coffee or a cocktail. It feels quite cosmopolitan.”
Over the years, Steve reflects, he has seen a shift from people only wanting to shop, to wanting the full package, from shopping and leisure activities through to somewhere to get their hair and make up done before heading out on the town. “What sets us apart is the Castle, the heritage and history of the city,” Steve explains, “People can spend a day at the Castle or Principality Stadium, shop at some great independent stores, have a meal and a coffee here in the afternoon and then in the evening come back and enjoy a couple of drinks.”
With new eateries and cocktail bars opening nearby, Steve is certain that Gin & Juice, and the surrounding businesses, are part of a renaissance for The Castle Quarter as a destination for visitors to the city. “The arcades are becoming the top evening destination in the city,” says Steve, “They’ve always been for people who are looking for what’s new, something more than what you find on your average high street.”