Date Night at the Red Dragon Centre, Cardiff Bay
I think it’s incredibly important as a couple to keep spending quality time together – away from the kids. This is easier said than done, and 7 months on from little William’s birth we’ve only been out without him three times. Our anniversary, my birthday and now my husband’s birthday. As he gets older, we hope this will get easier and in the meantime, I’m very mindful of the fact that there are many elements to a family and the relationship between mum and dad is just as important as the relationship between parents and child. It’s all too easy to be consumed with sleepless nights and entertaining a little one, but you and your partner need some good quality alone time too!
For my husband’s birthday, we opted to go on a date night down Cardiff Bay. Although this is quite close to our house, we decided to cement this as being “us time” by grabbing a hotel, away from the distractions of work and computers, phones, pets, and baby. We left him behind with grandma, but the whole experience would have been baby and family friendly.
The Red Dragon Centre
I’ve been going to the Red Dragon Centre since I was a teenager, so that’s over 20 years ago now. In fact, I remember it opening in 1997 when it was called Atlantic Wharf instead. This is a large entertainment complex down Cardiff Bay, with a massive (free if you’re using their facilities) car park and a lot of fun things to do inside. It’s just a few minutes away from the main shops, restaurant and Opera House and this area has just gone from strength to strength over the last decade or two.
Inside the Red Dragon Centre is the Hollywood Bowl for a fun bowling experience, Hollywood Pub, Cardiff Bay Tavern, Grill & Shake, Oriental Garden, Bella Italia, Spice Route, Five Guys, Cadwaladers and of course the massive Odeon cinema complex which houses a Ben & Jerry’s and a Costa Coffee too. Through a separate entrance is also Grosvenor Casino, which has a restaurant and bar, and another separate entrance takes you to a large, state of the art gym. This time of year it was very festive with a lot of Christmas decorations and lights, and the three sets of Snowdogs were still on display too, so I got to mark those off on my App!
Odeon Cinemas – IMAX 3D Gallery Experience
We went to see Justice League as it just happened that my husbands birthday was opening night for this!
We booked in advance for the Gallery experience and chose to see it on the IMAX 3D screens. At just under £22 a ticket this isn’t a cheap cinema experience, but it does come with unlimited – yes unlimited – nachos (with salsa, cheese sauce and jalapenos), popcorn (sweet or salted), soft drinks (bottles of Diet Coke, Coke, Sprite or Fanta Zero) and Roses chocolates! It also comes with the extra special gallery seating to the rear of the theatre, with large, comfortable leather seats and proper plastic 3D glasses which are comfortable to wear.
We got to enjoy the exclusive Gallery lounge for 30 minutes before the theatre opens with a bar that also serves alcohol, and I ate so many nachos I was pretty full before it even started! I do think this offers good value when you factor in the cost of even a single bucket of popcorn to share usually, although we couldn’t budget for doing it too often. It’s definitely worth it for a special occasion.
As we pre-booked our tickets we also got to choose our character Justice League wristbands for a bit of bonus nerdiness.
I’m not going to review the movie as I’m no entertainment critic and everyone’s tastes are different. I enjoyed it and thought the sound and image quality were amazing. It’s a really different experience watching a big action movie on a screen like this compared to watching it at home. The overall experience got a big thumbs up from both of us.
Cardiff Bay Tavern
We weren’t massively hungry after stuffing our faces with nachos and popcorn but wanted to grab a bite to eat and some drinks, so we chose the Cardiff Bay Tavern as it was buy one get one free happy hour on cocktails.
This is very much standard pub fare. It wasn’t that busy, but the service was incredibly slow. There were no servers, just someone who bought food out from the kitchen, so no one checked if we needed anything or everything was okay. My food was meant to come with a salad that never materialized and considering it had taken 20 minutes to get drinks sorted and an extra 30 minutes for our food to come, I couldn’t be bothered wandering off and trying to find anyone. The food quality was fine and in all fairness, it cost us £17 for 2 cocktails (buy one get one free happy hour), a pint of Strongbow (which came in a Bulmers glass) and two main meals.
We had Fish and Chips, and Loaded Chicken Strips with Mexican Salsa Salad (absent).
If you are looking for a budget pub meal then you won’t get better value than this and it’s very handy if you’ve just been to the cinema or bowling – but it’s not going to rank very highly in my list of Cardiff restaurants overall. If you’re eating out with a family I think this could be a good pick, as prices really add up when there’s a lot of you and you can definitely get a large quantity of food for an excellent price here.
Rather than getting a dessert in the restaurant, we wandered back out into the main Red Dragon Centre and opted to get a hot drink and some ice cream in Cadwaladers. This is a little cafe serving hot drinks, cakes, sandwiches, ice cream and sundae in the middle of the Red Dragon Centre. I had a deluxe hot chocolate which was awesome, with whipped cream, marshmallows and a chocolate flake, and Ben had some blackberry ice cream which was very unusual and delicious.
We were the only people in the cafe so it was quiet and relaxing. At 10pm on a Friday night I think everyone was already inside the cinema or bowling, which was bustling.
Future Inn Hotel Stay
I booked my Future Inn stay through Booking.com which gave me an excellent price and meant I had the booking along with all my other travel plans stored easily on their App. I find that generally, they have the best prices for hotels and always check with them before booking.
We dropped our bag off in our room at the Future Inn at 3pm before heading to the Red Dragon Centre and then arrived back at around 10:30pm after the movie and dinner. The staff were attentive and check in just took a few minutes. This is a bright, clean, modern and fairly new hotel located just 5 minutes walk from the Red Dragon Centre. It’s right next to Miller & Carter, which I reviewed for my birthday meal a few months ago, and it’s only 10-15 minutes walk away from the Opera House and the main waterfront of Cardiff Bay. It doesn’t really have much in the way of views, but it is an excellent location and considerably cheaper than the other hotels in the area.
The room was extremely spacious, well thought out and very comfortable, and it cost us £80 for a Friday night, which I thought was an excellent price. There was a Queen bed as well as a large sofa.
It came with bath robes and slippers included.
As well as the British essential – tea, coffee and biscuits.
I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone wanting to be close to Cardiff Bay. It’s also only a 5-10 minute drive away from the city centre so would be an easy uber or taxi for anyone going into the city centre. It also had tons of free parking, and has a very nice bar and restaurant, both of which were fairly bustling and looked like a great spot to grab a nightcap. Free wifi too, which we took advantage of to watch an episode of Stranger Things 2 on the iPad before bed, although I had to resist the urge to check on work stuff! Check out was at noon, which is pretty late for hotel standards and excellent for anyone wanting a lie-in after a night out. We headed out at 9:30am though and opted to get Breakfast at Bill’s Restaurant, although it was available in the hotel for an additional £10 per person.
Breakfast at Bill’s
Bill’s is my favourite restaurant down the Bay, and I’ve previously written about eating out there for an evening meal with the baby. It’s good quality, wholesome and incredibly tasty food that’s always full of spice and flavour, in a modern, ethical (somewhat hipster) environment. It’s always a great atmosphere and the staff is so friendly and attentive.
For breakfast my husband had a stack of pancakes with banana, strawberries, and blueberries, and I opted for the Vegetarian breakfast, which was toast with guacamole and poached eggs, toast with tomato hummus, mushrooms, and pesto roasted plum tomatoes with a drop of sweet chilli sauce on top. I added a cheeky potato rosti to the side.
It was so full of flavour and the perfect start to the day. With a pot of tea and an Americano, the bill came to £27 which is quite expensive for a breakfast for two, but I think the quality and service is well worth the price.
Then it was back home after a thoroughly refreshing night away. It was a fantastic date night, but would be a great place to visit with the whole family. I have no doubt we will be back to The Red Dragon Centre again very soon.
What would you like to do for a date night?