At 10am on a Saturday morning, No. 12 is stacked floor to ceiling with children. They spill out onto, under and into the handful of tables available, cosying their way onto window seats and other people’s chairs. As you’d expect, there’s a sense of weekend chaos in the air: toast crusts and pastry crumbs fly, and over-caffienated parents read stories at a rate of knots. The staff assure us this is nothing new, and indeed they squeeze past tiny heads and adult legs like pros, delivering piping hot coffees and plates of fresh breakfast with a patient smile.
Having hovered long enough to bag a table, we set about devouring crisp, fresh pastries and well-made coffees before moving on to the main event. The menu is short and satisfying: there are bacon or sausage sandwiches and a pork pattie creation that stands 4 inches tall. Veggies (a popular breed in Easton) are served by scrambled eggs or waffles with fresh fruit, and trays of freshly made granola bars and cakes wend their way from the kitchen at the back. As well as café food (for which they won a Bristol Good Food Award) there’s a deli that provides artisan cheese, charcuterie and craft beers to the foodie masses; take-away coffees prove popular, too, with the barista ready to share a laugh while whipping up the perfect flat white.
By 11, the children have dispersed, their parents no doubt taking them on to their third breakfast or pre-lunch snack. Meanwhile, those unencumbered with heirs can order another coffee and settle back (perhaps letting a soupçon of smugness creep in). A popular spot, and rightly so – just pick your times carefully if you want to avoid the miniature hoards.
Wooli – straight-talking, no-nonsense beauty sandwiched between the sea, meandering river and national park. The brunch setting at Waves is sublime – from the back deck the river flows, the fish so close you could tickle them. The mangroves around are full of life: pelicans, cormorants and sea eagles face off against one another in the hope of bagging a morning snack; in the ocean across the road, dolphins can be spotted patrolling for their breakfast.
After a morning’s “surf” (10 ways to fall off a surboard) we retreated to the cafe, one of a handful of buildings that makes up the bustling centre (there’s also a bowling club-chinese-bookies-pub, and a post office). The staff looked somewhat surprised as the two of us in an otherwise empty cafe created the morning rush, gave us a semi-friendly g’day and took our order.
Flavours were simple – their mushrooms on toast constitutes mushrooms, and toast – but hearty, with excellent portion sizes and good quality ingredients. And, despite the warning from a fellow coffee snob, our flat whites were surprisingly good, too.
This being Wooli, things run at their own pace. Drinks might turn up late and the staff might not always be on show, but a teenage kitchen porter can usually be rustled up if you really need something. And, with a setting as bucolic as this, you’re best to sit back and take you’re time anyway.
Price: from $7 (cheese melt) to $17.50 (Big Breakfast).
Last weekend it was wet. Cats-and-dogs, heaven’s opened, where’s Noah when you need him? wet. As we squelched through Queen’s Square, mulched leaves fusing to our feet as rain drops filled our pockets, a small black sign glowed in the distance, it’s white Swedish font making it look all the world like welcoming Bang & Olufsen store, but with promises of coffee.
And very nice coffee it is too. As well as the house there’s a guest blend that makes all the right provenance noises – single origin, natural process – and the baristas make each cup carefully, no matter what the well-heeled clientele request (soya-decaff lattes proved particularly popular. Shame really.) The interiors match the minimalist signage, with the ubiquitous exposed lightbulbs, brushed steel and plain wooden tables made softer by the low ceilings, quietly cool music and a well-formed list of menu options chalked up on the wall.
As well as simple options – toast from many breads, fresh pastries, granola – there are some bolder offerings like brioche French toast with chai spiced plums and maple syrup, or mushrooms with thyme wrapped goats cheese and a poached egg; the Egg Poacher’s eponymous breakfast choice came with smoked bacon, harissa and rocket in a roll that was artfully crammed into his face, lest the eggy goodness escape down his chin.
During the week this place fills with busy bankers, office workers and freelancers, dropping in for giant toasties or stocked salad boxes. At the weekend, the pace slows and shaggy-haired creatives, offensively well-off students and day-glo’d gym folks can take their time over brunch that’s served ’til 2pm. With another site recently opened in Clifton, there’s little doubt that Spicer & Cole are here to stay. Head for a corner table and settle in.
Price: From £2.25 (toast) to £6.95 (brioche French toast & chai spiced plums)
Shoreditch – the kind of place that wholeheartedly embraces its own stereotype, and no more so than in #GuardianCoffee ensconced in the @BoxPark, sandwiched between an #Apple store, #Nike shop and something so urban and artisan it didn’t even have a hashtag (an @BoxPark naming convention, which tells you about as much as you need to know).
It’s like stepping into a version of the future where politically left-leaning, bearded baristas rule the world: the Guardian headlines are projected onto the walls, coffee-related Tweets run along the bottom and a constantly updating Instagram feed keeps all informed about the latest in sepia-toned latte art.
It’s all very meta – as well as free copies by the door, there are screens on every table and iPads at the counter, ensuring you don’t miss a second of the latest edition of the Guardian. The update everyone’s surely waiting for, however, is on the digital leader board, where every drink purchased pips the cappuccinos against the cortados, macchiatos against mochas, in a never-ending feud not seen since the Montagues and Capulets failed to get along. Even the wallpaper is self-referential, with picnicking hipsters on fixed gear bikes printed repeatedly around you like a middle-class hallucinogenic migraine.
This being Shoreditch, the clientele are achingly hip, with grown men rolling in on Brompton-style scooters and beautiful women, clad head to toe in black bar their neon Nike Airs and ombre hair, ordering coffees to go, forgoing pastries in favour of a caffeine hit from “London’s leading micro-roastery”, Nude Espresso. The coffee is good, and – for London – reasonably priced, but for this cynical Scot, the heavy handed concept somewhat overwhelms the quality. Despite being a regular liberal Guardian fan, I left feeling like I’d been beaten over the head by Saturday’s bumper supplement edition (magazine and all), and been asked to pay for it afterwards.
Katie and Kim’s represents all that is good with eating in Bristol. Simple, delicious fare from good sources is served on plain wooden plates to one big communal table – all are welcome to take a pew and you could find yourself sat next to any variety of beardy local, hip bike fiend or wandering tourist. Theirs is a small space next to the fruit and veg shop, with the eponymous chefs at the helm in a small kitchen at the back.
Katie is the baker, and from the oven come freshly made sourdoughs, milk rolls and seriously fine looking cinnamon buns. The menu on the blackboard is short and simple, with some surprising flavours adding something pretty special to some brunch familiars – bacon served in a roll comes with basil, aioli and tomato, while poached eggs nestle on a bed of chard and a rosemary and cheese scone. There is much to please egg lovers (baked eggs with ewes curd looked especially good) and everything was so delicious even this self-confessed ovophobe has been inspired to give those poached domes another go.
Though the space is neat, the service is great with happy staff nattering to diners, friends and owners in equal measure. The lovely Kim makes a decent coffee and the mismatched crockery and unfussy surroundings lend a sense of breakfast at a friend’s house – and it’s all the better for that.
Price: from £2 (toasted cinnamon bun) to £7 (smoked salmon, poached eggs and greens).
On a busy intersection at the base of St Michael’s steep Hill, the Workhouse Cafe sits quietly, awaiting the custom that comes in from the bustling roads and pavements around. As the name suggests, it’s a simple, unfussy affair with white tape spelling ‘CAFE’ on the windows, and boards chalked up with friendly mottos about coffee, hastily updated should the sun shine, or rain fall.
Inside there’s a handful of tables and a busy bar where coffee is made and orders are taken. On a bright Saturday, the place was busy, the staff rushing to and fro and doing their best to serve with a smile. With windows all around, it soon heats up, so nab a table by the door or order takeaway and head to their picnic benches by the church up the hill.
Despite it’s unassuming nature, the menu is surprising and the food rather good; the Egg Poacher opted for simple roasted grapefruit with cinnamon while I tucked into thick slices of sourdough French toast, slathered in maple syrup and topped with caramelised banana. All is sourced as locally as it can be, with coffee made from ethical beans. The Workhouse attracts diners from all corners of the city:workmen, medical students and office workers all make their way, and with its early morning opening hours and late night events it’s likely to continue to draw a crowd. A fairly recent addition to the Bristol brunch crowd, there are some kinks to iron out – but once they’re prepped to manage a flurry of covers all will be well here.
A couple of days after a family wedding we found ourselves inexplicably hungover once again, in need of caffiene and food as quickly as possible, lest we explode from pure fatigue. Happily, we fell upon (and into) Rocket Cafe, an inconspicuous yet colourful spot in Edinburgh’s leafy Morningside, and were soon met by friendly smiles and a fulsome brunch menu to soothe our weary heads.
Inside, vintage Alpine scenes stretch across the walls and sunlight streams through the windows onto simple wooden tables and chairs. The chalked up menus boast a healthy selection of specials – huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, mushrooms, thyme and gruyere on toast – as well as more regular features like cooked breakfasts, sausage and bacon rolls and suitably mini children’s options.
The coffee is well made and strong enough to banish the last of the cobwebs, and there are delicious smoothies and milkshakes made to order. Service is fast and friendly, and the food fresh; though my mushrooms could have been seasoned better, the scrambled eggs were light and creamy, generously accompanied by roasted tomatoes and sweet, spicy chorizo. And, while the remnants of our hangovers remained, our stomachs were suitable sated, allowing us to face the day with an excellent breakfast’s worth of energy to fuel it.
Price: from £1.50 (toast & jam) to £6.95 (cooked breakfast)