Saturday night in Cardiff Central, and the hungry and inebriated have gathered at their greasy Mecca: Chippy Lane.
“RHYS! You don’ give a shit about me, do you?”
Tottering on tart stilts, one of many, many drunken girls is screeching at her boyfriend. Increasingly wild gestures cause cheesy chips to fly from their polystyrene container, joining the river of discarded food packaging, vomit and despair that have accumulated in the gutters.
“You never does nothin’ for me. You don’ love me, do you?”
Rhys, built like a brick shit-house, resolutely ignores her and concentrates on his large meat feast pizza (he’s bought it for himself. What he doesn’t eat now, he’ll have for breakfast). Feeling as though she’s not getting the attention she deserves, the Banshee hits Rhys on the shoulder. Turning to look at her isn’t easy with a neck as thick as his head, so he rotates his whole torso to address her.
“Look, I fucks you an’ I buys you chips; what more d’you want?”
Ah, Chippy Lane.
Originally named Caroline Street, Chippy Lane is a pedestrianised street in Cardiff Central and the place to go for a takeaway at the end of your night out. At 375ft in length, it’s home to 11 takeaways, two pubs, a bookshop that deals exclusively in porn, and a Greggs. Perfectly located to catch hungry traffic (no matter how much they’re drunkenly pin-balling around the centre) the street sits inconspicuously twixt Millennium Stadium and St Marys Street; home of many a get-em-in, get-em-drunk, get-em-out nightspot.
Caroline Street was originally named after Caroline of Brunswick, the wife of King George IV. George liked a drink or ten, and the pair managed to rack up numerous extramarital affairs between them. In a way, Caroline Street’s modern day tradition of boozing and misdemeanour is in keeping with its namesake’s own tumultuous lifestyle. In another tale of relationship woe, legend has it that Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson met on Chippy Lane. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that it’s true cause their best mate’s boyfriend’s sister went to school with Charlotte, so it’s definitely true. Even I, dear readers, once consoled myself with a sad kebab after being unceremoniously dumped on Chippy Lane. As for the street’s trading history, it hasn’t always been occupied by takeaways, but used to house butchers, cobblers, barbershops and all kinds of shops and trades.
It was in 1964 that Chippy Lane’s longest running takeaway Dorothy’s opened. Since then the street has filled up with takeaways, offering a selection of the very best and worst in late night eats, from your classic fish and chips to some questionable kebabs. When the Millennium Stadium opened in 1999, Dorothy’s in particular benefited from the surge of international visitors. Their regulars come from all over the world, usually stopping in for a ‘Chicken Curry off-the-bone and Chips’.
There were initial worries that businesses on the street would suffer as a result of the major redevelopments in the city. Between 2007-2010, a shiny new shopping and food complex, St Davids 2 (guess what the first one was called) was in construction next door. Fortunately, drunk people will always need chips, and Chippy Lane continues to prosper.
The atmosphere is as much a draw as the food. You go for the chips and curry sauce, but you stay for the carnival that is The Great Unwashed on a Saturday night. Sure, you can see tarts eating chips in every city, but Chippy Lane is a must-see.
To cope with an average footfall of 40,000 (110,000 on rugby weekends), St Marys Street is closed off to traffic from 8pm on Friday and Saturday nights, leaving the hammered to spill out of Chippy Lane and roam freely: eating, sleeping and excreting wherever they land. For the South Wales Police, or Heddlu (pronounced ‘heth-lee), the weekly routine of breaking up fights and herding cats is particularly concentrated around the street.
“(It’s) an area subject to a special policy as a result of the problems of alcohol related crime occurring. During the peak period between 11pm-4am this area is a hotspot for crime. Caroline Street is a honey pot for anti-social behaviour. ”
And how. I know someone who was mugged for his cheese, chips and beans. Not even his phone. Just the food.
A debate still rages on between locals old and new as to whether the officially nickname is ‘Chippy Lane’ or ‘Chippy Alley’. Well, I was first introduced to it as Chippy Lane, so that’s whor’ I calls it, ahrl-righ?
I was first told about it by an old bar fly at my then local pub, The Tut & Shive (now The Poet’s Corner).
“There’s two things you do in Chippy Lane: you ‘as a curry an’ you ‘as a fight. And a piss. Ahlright, there’s three things you do: curry, fight, piss. And you cops off. OK. In Chippy Lane you does four things: curry, fight, piss and cop off. If you’re having a really good night, you does it all at the same time.”