THE festive season has passed but trading isn't over for businesses facing January and February with dread as they fight to survive in an economic bowl of chaos.

In its first look into trading in 2023, the Penarth Times has been meeting some of the town’s most popular restaurants to find out how they are feeling about the coming months.

We went to the hugely successful Bar 44 and spoke with owner Natalie Isaac, as the restaurant celebrated its tenth year on Windsor Road.

We also spoke to the exceptional Mint and Mustard, just off the corner of Windsor Terrace and Stanwell Road.

Both restaurants are small independents that focus on quality food.

The award-winning tapas at Bar 44 has made waves in Cowbridge and Cardiff, as well as elbowing a place on TV making appearances on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

But despite this Natalie says the business is existing in some of the hardest times she has seen, with a combination of the cost-of-living crisis and Brexit placing huge pressures on the restaurant.

Extraordinarily, Natalie has seen her monthly energy costs rise from £2,000 to £10,000 a month, while she struggles to fill vacancies as a plethora of her staff returned to Europe after Brexit.

“If sales dip in the new year, that's a huge concern,” said Natalie as we spoke over a coffee in the warm surrounds of Bar 44.

“Utility bills for us have gone up approximately 400 per cent and that’s with the energy cap.

“We’ve lost staff from Italy, France and Spain and can’t find people to replace them. There's a massive skills gap. We are getting students and 16,17,18s applying for roles, but they do not want to do this as a career – to them hospitality is transient.

“There is a huge concern about how we attract hospitality professionals in the future.”

Bar 44 is going to put in place plans to help ease the pressures of the new year by perhaps having to reduce opening hours.

“This is a big restaurant,” said Natalie. “If you only have 10 people coming in, is it worth opening? And prices might have to be looked at – all the basics for the kitchen and bar have gone up.”

Penarth Times:

(Bar 44 started in Cowbridge and moved to Penarth where they have been hugely successful)

Prices are also a major conundrum for the popular Indian, Mint and Mustard, with general manager Ram Sapkota saying that for them, it’s not as simple as passing the increase on to the customer.

Ram has been through the works having to close restaurants in Cardiff and Chepstow because of Covid, as well as rebranding others into ‘social dining joints’ to try cover overheads.

The Mint and Mustard has also seen massive price hikes in energy bills, similar to Bar 44.

Ram identifies a key issue in the pandemic that stopped people going to restaurants.

“What we find is takeaways have increased more than dining out,” said Ram. “That is what has happened because of Covid and people are still doing that.

“We do not know how far we can go. It is not looking nice at all.”

Ram says he is trying hard not to increase prices because he knows the cost-of-living crisis is affecting everyone.

“You have wage costs, food bills, and energy bills which have gone so high,” said Ram, “but we cannot increase our prices because our customers cannot afford it. They are struggling as well.”

Penarth Times:

(Mint and Mustard has been in Penarth since 2015)

See below a video of Ram wishing everyone a Happy New Year and inviting them to Mint and Mustard in 2023.


For Mint and Mustard, they are also trying to come up with desperate plans to survive, with a new spring menu on the horizon as well as a special Valentine’s menu, and you can get £10 vouchers to use in the restaurant when you dine in.

For Ram, he is the eternal optimist and says he’s not going without a fight.

“We want to be here,” said Ram. “We are highly motivated. Penarth is a small town with a personal touch, that is why we like it.

“We are small, but we are going to keep going. Please support us.”

Bar 44 is located on Windsor Road and will be open for trading through January and February. Click here for details.

Mint and Mustard is also open. Click here for details.