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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hotel review: Jolyon's at No 10, Cardiff

Cardiff, Europe's youngest capital, is going through its brash and bright late-teens phase and isn't short of hotels, from budget backpacker bunkbeds to rockstar luxury, though there aren't too many boutique options.

Jolyon's at No 1010 Cathedral Road,CardiffCF11 9L J029-2009 1900jolyons10.comDoubles from £75, suites from £100, breakfast included

Welcome then, to Jolyon's at No 10, younger sibling to Jolyon's in Cardiff Bay, (which opened in 2003) and which has been open since August. In a previous life it was an architect's office and had lain derelict for 10 years, crumbling and ivy-crawled, until, two years ago, Jolyon Joseph saw its potential.

Jol's eye-catching design and quirkiness abound in the new hotel, from the Moroccan chandelier kaleidoscoping the lushly papered stairwell walls to the rococo chairs and the child's-bed headboard used as a corner table in one of the suites.

Even the smoking area is inviting – all gazebo'd and tinkling water-featured, with bronze cherubs and scallop shells hovering over a lily pond. And this munificence seems to infect the clientele in the open-to-non-residents Cwtch Mawr (meaning "big hug") bar.

My partner and I spent half an hour with our table neighbours singing the praises of the magnificent triple-fried chips (which accompanied chilli and lemon prawns, butter bean stew and local cheeses). Moretti beer on draught, too. Can't go wrong.

The bar soon got busy, but the dark wood and maroon decor, and the tactful lighting, as well as the attentive staff, kept the atmosphere cosy and relaxed. Multi-coloured lighting enhanced the sensation of sanctuary.

You are close enough to the city centre here for the bright abandon of it to be felt as a nearby fact but there's an air of pleasant remove to this welcoming and wonderful place. It's full of hidden jewels: Japanese plunge pools in the suites, light therapy Jacuzzis, mini-kitchens hidden in wardrobes, spectacularly grand and ornate bedsteads.

The suite names (Orpington, Venetian, etc) suggested a theme, but the link eluded me, even when Jol offered us a clue – that he had refrained from calling one of them "Bombay".

There are no leeks or daffodils or red dragons rampant, yet the place's identity nevertheless remains somehow Welsh: the Wales of rich wood and cool smooth slate and expansive vistas. It's individual without in any way being twee.

In the morning – after a deep sleep in a bed big enough to get lost in and a bath that filled in an instant – over a breakfast of Glamorgan sausages and field mushrooms, I remembered something that Jol said the night before, which made me laugh: You can be a duck here.

So there's the link for the room names, and why not? Nothing wrong with ducks. I'll be back, quacking.

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