I went on a food tour 45 minutes from Bristol and got my passport stamped six times

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There are already plans to launch a similar scheme in Bristol

The 45-minute train ride from Bristol Temple Meads to Cardiff Central doesn’t usually require a passport but on this occasion it was the most important thing I put in my bag.

Of course, there’s no actual requirement to show official paperwork when arriving in the Welsh capital but this 16-page A6-size booklet was going to be my passport to a highly enjoyable evening of sampling the best of Cardiff’s hospitality.

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The Cardiff Wine Passport was launched in the summer of 2022 by local hospitality PR consultant Jane Cook who wanted to find a way to promote independent bars and restaurants in the heart of Cardiff.

Two years on and the The Cardiff Wine Passport has gone from strength to strength, with more people buying one and visiting the businesses featured.

The 2024 Cardiff Wine Passport is valid Sunday to Thursday until April 7. Each one entitles the holder to six glasses of wine from their own choice of ten brilliant city centre venues - Bar 44, Asador 44, Parallel, Bacareto, Daffodil, Curado Bar, Vermut, The Dead Canary, Nighthawks and Lab 22.

Swapping passport stamps for carefully chosen glasses of wine in some of the city’s best venues has, unsurprisingly, gone down a storm with the locals.

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On the evening I visited the venues featured in the passport, I spotted several people making use of it with groups of friends.

There are a variety of red, white and orange wines included in the passport – and even a couple of wine cocktails created exclusively by The Dead Canary bar.

Each venue has also selected food pairings that would match perfectly, meaning you could use the passport to create your own ‘tapas tour’ of the city centre.

As I sipped my way around the different venues, I chatted to staff about the passport and they were all enthusiastic about the scheme. They had also noticed a rise in the number of passport-holders who were happy to pay the extra for the suggested food pairing, rather than simply having their wine and darting off to the next venue.

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Staff also said they had already noticed customers returning to their venues having first visited during their passport tour.

The 2024 Cardiff Wine Passport costs £26, which essentially works out at just over £4 per glass of wine if you visit six places and get the passport stamped. That’s a significant saving when some venues charge twice that for glasses of wine.

The passport scheme features ten local venuesThe passport scheme features ten local venues
The passport scheme features ten local venues

My evening tour of Cardiff venues started in Church Street at Venetian-style bar/restaurant Bacareto, where I enjoyed a glass of Sicilian red wine with a delicious blue cheese, honey and walnut crostini sitting at the bar. It was a great way to start.

One of the great things about the passport is that all venues are within a short walk of each other so my next stop was Vermut, a vermouth and sherry bar in Guildhall Place, next to sibling restaurant, bar and deli Curado.

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At Vermut, the knowledgeable staff explained everything I wanted to know about their huge range of vermouth and sherry as I sipped the herbal, toffeeish Lacuesta Rojo red vermouth and tucked into a plate of cured meat and cheese from Spain.

Next stop was Parallel, an off-shoot of neighbouring Pasture steakhouse, a Bristol business that expanded into Cardiff and soon opens in Birmingham.

Vermut is one of the venues that has seen an increase in footfall thanks to the schemeVermut is one of the venues that has seen an increase in footfall thanks to the scheme
Vermut is one of the venues that has seen an increase in footfall thanks to the scheme

Small, buzzy and with counter seating so guests can watch and talk to the chefs as they prepare the food, Parallel is all about small plates. The pairing for the Kosovan riesling was leek and smoked Caerphilly cheese croquettes with black garlic ketchup - a true taste of Wales.

Keeping with the Bristol/Cardiff theme, I then moved on to Bar 44 on Westgate Street. Sibling restaurant to the Clifton business, this Spanish tapas bar was serving sushi-grade sustainable tuna loin with soy, manzanilla and olive dressing with diced apple and cucumber to match the dry white wine Beronia Rueda Verdejo. It was one of the tastiest dishes of the evening.

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For my fifth stamp, I had to track down the award-winning Dead Canary cocktail bar. Styled on a 1920s speakeasy and crammed with antiques, the bar is hidden behind a shopping centre in Barrack Lane and you have to ring a bell to gain entry. It's not easy to find but it's worth the hunt.

For the passport, The Dead Canary has created two special wine-based cocktails. I went for the Gwyn with its sauvignon blanc, hints of pineapple, ginger and Peruvian brandy.

I finished my tour by visiting Asador 44, an award-winning Spanish grill restaurant in Quay Street, in the shadows of the Principality Stadium. Here, the pairing was a white Rioja with scallop, chicharrones and XO sauce - a delicious way to earn my sixth and final stamp.

The 2024 Cardiff Wine Passport is a fun way to tour some of the city’s best venues and support independent businesses at a time when they need it more than ever. It will introduce people to new places they haven’t been to before and it’s also a great way to explore new wines.

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And the good news for people on the other side of the Bristol Channel is that there are already plans to roll out the passport scheme in Bristol soon. To buy a 2024 Cardiff Wine Passport, click here

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