A ‘hole in the wall’ bar is how Vermut describes itself, in homage to the classic Spanish style.
It’s easy to miss it, tucked against Curado Bar. Though it’s just next door, there’s a very different emphasis here.
This little bar punches above its weight, its walls a rich yellow. Depending on your perspective, it either mirrors the ‘tropical’ Cardiff climate, or provides a sunny antidote- but the impression is of a snug little haven from the city centre bustle, and that’s always worth having.
There’s no mistaking the inspiration. Spain is writ large, from ceramic tiles picked out in blue and white to the dark wooden floor, from wall-mounted casks to shelves with scores of bottles and distinctively branded tins of seafood.
This is a celebration of that quintessentially Spanish ‘hora del vermut‘ and the drinks menu is dominated by a few categories: Vermut (slightly bitter red or white, fortified with herbs); Montilla-Moriles (mostly dry wines, similar to sherry) and Sherry itself, in all its varieties: and if you’re not sure where to start, the knowledgeable staff will be happy to suggest what you might like based on current favourites.
Vermut is part of the Ultracomida family, so this little bar has grown out of more than two decades’ experience of working with Spanish producers.
That’s clear in the food menu, which is firmly for ‘grazing’. Here it’s all about bar snacks to complement your drinks, served with a minimum of fuss.
Boquerones in vinegar and oil; crisp Andalusian mollete slathered with grated tomato and garlic; Valencian salted almonds. These are classic accompaniments to the civilised habit of taking a glass and a bite to awaken the appetite.
Those tinned enlatadas are the star, highlighting that Spanish love affair with preserved seafood.
You’ll find true treats in those tins- tiny sardines, mussels en escabache or prized cuts from Atlantic bluefin- belly, loin and more. (The pictures of a tuna- and its various cuts- in the menu and on the wall leave you in no doubt as to its importance here.)
Vermut is obviously a destination in its own right, somewhere to decompress after work, or to grab a drink and bite before you head out for dinner. It’s open until late, so you could happily finish your night here. It feels like a well-kept secret: one you’ll be glad to discover, and one you’ll be keen to share when you do.