“Is Roath the new Pontcanna?”
This is the flippant remark from local historian and author Peter Finch during an interview after winning a national poetry prize.
But is he right?
Pontcanna, that mystical place somewhere between Cathedral Road and Canton, beloved by estate agents and Cardiff’s yuppies apparently has its crown under threat as a new pretender emerges.
Amongst the crowded streets and takeaways on City Road and Albany Road a new cultural hot spot is emerging, and Mr Finch believes it’s the place to be.
From the Juno Lounge on Wellfield Road, the quiet surroundings of Roath Park and the refined sophistication of the Waterloo Tea Gardens – is Roath now ‘where it’s at?’.
Kasim Ali, owner of the Waterloo Tea Gardens, said: “I’ve lived in Penylan all my life so I’m biased but I do think there’s a nice vibe around here.
“I only go to Pontcanna for one or two places and the rest are average. We get a lot of students staying on around in Roath after finishing and this gives the area a buzz and vibrant feel. I don’t think Pontcanna has this.
“City Road has definitely changed a lot, before you’d only go there at 3am for some chips but now there’s more upmarket places like Milgi.”
Russell Bullimoore who owns Bully’s in Pontcanna said: “I don’t think Pontcanna is losing its shine. We’ve got lots of new ventures happening around here and the area is changing.
“Roath has its nice parts but I think it has a different offering to Pontcanna. The architecture round here is different, you’ve got some great streets like Plasturton Avenue.
“Certainly as a business we’re refurbishing and expanding, and I think there’s a lot of confidence here. We will definitely see more retail premises opening here in the future.”
Nigel John, managing director of Hern & Crabtree estate agents, said: “Pontcanna still attracts a premium and always will. The thing with Roath is you’ve got pockets of students and this keeps the prices of houses down and limits the desireability of the area.
Mr John gave an example of a two-bedroom house, which needed some work, going for £200,000.
Mark Stavers, director of The Gate arts centre, said: “We’ve got a really virbant community in Roath and it’s definitely equal to if not better than Pontcanna.
“I’ve been in the area 15 years and yes it probably has gone more upmarket. We’ve certainly got more coffee shops.
“We find we’re doing a really diverse range of events and there’s the demand for it. We’re not just an arts centre, for example we’ve got teenagers organising a disco off their own back this weekend.
“The Made in Roath Festival is really great as well. It’s just volunteers, no funding and been organised by the community to promote arts in the area.”
Theatre legend Wyn Calvin, who has lived on Cathedral Road, Pontcanna, all his life feels the area is still special.
He said: “The area is a jewel in the crown of Cardiff. In its day it was the Harley Street of the city, with lots of doctors and solicitors here. Now it’s more dentists and a lot of the big houses are now flats.
“We are lucky to have so many good places to eat here and some good shops.”
Mr Calvin said while Pontcanna was close to his heart the draw of Roath Park Lake tempted him to the other side of the city at times.
He added: “There is nothing nicer than walking the gardens of Roath Park. When I was younger I used to visit the Lighthouse on the Lake with my siblings and we would think about how they set off for Antartica from here.”
Mick McGuire, managing director of Peter Alan estate agents said: “Pontcanna is always in demand because it is attractive to up and coming professionals despite the fall in house prices across Wales. Attractive older houses combined with its ‘Café Culture’ and proximity to the city centre has historically made Pontcanna the epitome of ‘Chic’ in Cardiff.
“But things are changing up the road in Roath. Roath, where people are starting to appreciate that there are lovely older houses close to Cardiff University with its rich cultural activities which in turn has created a vibrant ‘Café Culture’.
“To top it all, prices in Roath are more affordable in this Cardiff hotspot. Our research shows that the average semi-detached property in Roath is 20% cheaper than in Pontcanna.”
Council leader Rodney Berman, who is the councillor for Plasnewydd – which is in Roath, said: “I’ve been proud to live in the Roath area of the city for the last seventeen years and really do think it’s a fantastic part of town.
“Together with my fellow ward councillors, we have worked hard to secure continual regeneration of the area and this has been reflected in a growing diverse offer of facilities to local residents.
“In recent years we have seen the growth of a great new venue in The Gate, the establishment of a weekly farmer’s market, a new venue for live music in The Globe and much greater variety in the types of pubs and restaurants in the area catering for a much broader market than before.
“Roath has become an increasingly ‘happening suburb’ but we have also worked hard to minimise any adverse impact on the local community, such as by fighting against any proposals for unacceptably late opening hours and persuading the council to recognise that we can’t simply have an unlimited number of pubs, restaurants and take-aways in a densely-populated residential area. We need to recognise that quality is far more important than quantity in that regard, but hopefully we have succeeded as far as we could to strike an appropriate balance.”
Peter Morrell, head of multimedia at Media Wales lives in Pontcanna, and feels it’s still head and shoulders above Roath.
He writes: “Roath is a cheap Pontcanna. Nice people, nice parks and it’s still almost possible to buy a reasonably-priced place to live in Roath … but try finding a decent, affordable family home in sunny Pontcanna and anyone on anything close to an average wage will soon discover they can’t do it.
“Which is such a pity because if you want to live in the city, as well as having some lovely property, Pontcanna is simply a good place to be.
“The two dozen or so streets which make up the Cardiff suburb make it more than just that – more of a village within the city than a suburb.
“There’s a real heart to the place around the shops, cafes, bars and restaurants in Pontcanna Street.
“Then Pontcanna Fields and Llandaff Fields provide wonderful green space in the city. It’s within walking distance of Cardiff city centre.
“And as well as the media types for which it’s renowned, it’s populated by a mix of people – families who have lived there for generations and middle-class professionals working in the likes of the law, medicine and education.
“And if you don’t fancy being negatively labelled as one of the Pontcanna set you could honestly say you’re from Riverside or Canton. Street cred!”
We’re opening up the debate to you, is Roath now the most desirable place to live in the city? Is it your go to place for culture? Is Pontcanna under-threat? Let us know your views in the comments below