Bakers & Co, Gloucester Road, Bristol

IMG_1001[1]Having only just set up shop, Bakers & Co were opting for a soft launch of their new, San Francisco-inspired venture this weekend. The Gloucester Road contingent clearly had other ideas.

Thankfully we’d set the alarm for this one, breezing in by 9am to find only a few bleary-eyed parents perusing the freshly printed menus. By 10 there was a small queue forming at the bar and out the door, such has the buzz been about this latest addition from the folks behind the hugely popular Bravas on Cotham Hill.

The place is pure California, with sunshine-yellow awning, stripped wood and shining chrome contrasting Mexican ceramics in the kitchen, the central point to the neat space. Little picnic benches and a handful of stools along the bar accommodate a surprising number of covers, with just enough room in between to fit the regular traffic of buggies that will no doubt be seen here: offspring are catered for with their own portions and there’s an early morning small bites menu served from 8am to fuel those who have forgotten what the words ‘lie-in’ ever meant.

Making the most of our early start, we opted for salted chocolate and hazelnuts on sourdough and a pot of delicious blueberry yoghurt and pomegranate to go along with excellent coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Chefs quietly prepped around us as we ate, great handfuls of coriander, avocados and limes being carried to and fro and a tower of freshly made maple buns appearing on the bar as if by magic. Later, the main menu proved even trickier to choose from with an eclectic selection ranging from huevos rancheros to the full Baker’s breakfast. The Egg Poacher went all out with pork belly, sweet potato bubble and squeak and (naturally) poached eggs, while I opted for the lighter but equally delicious goats cheese, honey and thyme on toast. The flavours pop and everything’s beautifully made, with a nod to their suppliers on the menu reinforcing the idea that everything has been carefully considered here.

Bakers & Co should get used to being this busy – with food this good, it’s destined to become a Gloucester Road favourite. Lucky, then, that they’re also blessed with a lovely staff to manage the hungry hoards (even the chefs got stuck in to clearing tables with a smile). My advice? Get there early. This is soon to become the hottest brunch ticket in town.

Price: from £3.50 (starters menu) to £9.95 (Baker’s breakfast).

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The Buttery, Harbourside, Bristol

Buttery6The Buttery is a Bristol institution, a firm favourite for the mix of canal boat dwellers, office workers and tourists that gather around the Harbourside in all weathers. It’s a bit like stepping back in time – chips in cardboard cones, milky coffees served in brown glass mugs from your granny’s days – and there’s something reassuring about a place that has stayed committed to simple food without the words “hand-crafted” “traditionally sliced” or “rustic” anywhere in sight.

The Buttery itself is a tiny shed from which breakfast favourites are despatched with aplomb – bacon butties, fried egg rolls, sausage baps, any and all combination of the three with extra portions of cheese, black pudding or mushrooms to create a truly cholesterol raising start to your day. On busy weekends you take a number wait – but there’s plenty of aquatic life to contemplate with tug boats, pirate ships and irate swans all competing for space in the busy waterways; you’re likely to be joined by pigeons and the odd hungry dog as your orders arrive through the hatch wrapped in a single white serviette.

In Bristol we’re blessed with many fine eateries, all proclaiming a passion for provenance, few food miles and artisanal beginnings – undeniably worthy, but often beyond the means of many. And it’s here where The Buttery proves its worth – a no-nonsense greasy spoon serving cheap and tasty breakfast to Bristol’s finest.

Price: from £2.20 (bacon roll) to £4.90 (bacon, sausage and cheese baguette).

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The Pavilion, Victoria Park, London

IMG_0968[1]I’m not really designed for London. I always forget the last bit to topping up my second hand Oyster card, have been stuck in the ticket barriers more than once and cause mass confusion whenever I offer someone space to go past me in the mad dash to get, well, anywhere. However, while I’ll probably never desist in commenting on the pure massiveness of the capital, I have come to learn that London, it bite-sized bits, can be very enticing. Victoria Park is one such city soupçon, recently home to one of my favourite couples who were keen to show me what their borough had to offer when it came to breakfast. Enter The Pavilion.

On a blustery Sunday we carried our heavy heads and delicate bellies to the eponymous park, already bustling with beautifully coiffed runners and smart children straight from the Boden catalogue. It’s clearly a local favourite, and with a glance to the chalkboards above the kitchen it’s easy to see why. As well as the regular attendees on the menu (Eggs Benedict, the full English) there’s egg curry with idiyappam (Indian noodles) and a host of interesting options for vegetarians; their milk comes from “happy cows” from one farm, their ingredients are organic and the bread is made on site.

It’s a popular choice for those with sprogs in tow, the small space indoors filling up fast with harried-looking parents being pelted with mashed banana. If you can bring (or borrow) a stiff upper lip you can join folks outside dressed in oversized coats supping flat whites as they contemplate the swans, gamely resisting the chill winds while dodging flying serviettes and plastic cups. You might even be joined by Crufts-worthy dogs snuffling for scraps while their owners dash inside for take-away coffees. Whatever the weather, the food is worth the visit: their bacon sandwich on grilled sourdough was the perfect balm to a banging head, matched nicely with expertly made coffee and freshly-pressed fruit juices downed in one dehydrated gulp.

Price: from £5 (granola & yoghurt) to £8 (Farmhouse breakfast).

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The Urban Standard, Gloucester Road, Bristol

IMG_0912[1]I’m starting to wonder whether a trend for quaint tea rooms with gingham table cloths is about to spring up in cosmopolitan capitals the world over, an elemental reaction against the stripped back and industrial style once seen in New York lofts and now ubiquitous to coffee shops throughout the UK. Indeed, it’s rare to see any new café, restaurant or bar in Bristol without exposed light bulbs, graffiti’d art and unpainted concrete walls, and though The Urban Standard fits this mould very neatly it manages to maintain a warmth that’s sometimes lacking with so much sheet metal on show.

The newest venture from those behind The Urban Wood on Colston Street, The Standard opened its doors a couple of weeks ago and is already proving a popular spot on a Saturday night with real ales and guest beers, a healthy selection of whiskies and local delicacies to nibble throughout the evening. It also boasts a sturdy brunch menu with a good selection for all appetites, from simple toast and spreads to the full works, all with a focus on well-sourced ingredients.

It being a Monday morning we were the only ones there to sample what the kitchen had to offer. The dark interiors and electro tunes do leave you feeling that you’re eating your eggs and bacon in the middle of the night, but the food is good and the new staff cheery and helpful; our order took just long enough to arrive to let you know it was cooked with care. The full English is a meat eater’s dream and they politely acquiesced to my fiddly requests, replacing inferior eggs with the queen of all breakfast ingredients, grilled halloumi. When I go back I’ll break up the saltiness with some spinach and might forgo the black pudding, the only let down element (though this was much better served in the Egg Poacher’s black pudding hash with – you guessed it – poached eggs and tomato relish). Their coffee is good, though I might opt for an Americano rather than a slightly over milked latte next time; a selection of herbal infusions is there for those without such need for speed.

Though Gloucester Road is already a mecca for coffee shops and cafés, there’s no doubt The Urban Standard will do well here. A heady mix of hip interiors, good booze and good food will bring the hoardes in at the weekends – head there for brunch and you might find yourself there ‘til closing time.

Price: from £2.95 (toast & spreads) to £7.95 (full breakfast).

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The New Club, West Pier, Brighton

20140201-191257.jpgThere are some mornings where it’s perfectly necessary to hunt out booze at breakfast time.

Our heads foggy from last nights’ festivities we wandered the lanes of Brighton, navigating a warren of retro emporiums, free-range market vendors and psychedelic postcard shops to find ourselves, at last, at the sea. Greeted by the somewhat sinister scene of the burnt-out pier with a backdrop of brooding storm clouds, we made haste towards The New Club, a diner with a reputation for encouraging drinking way before the watershed.

There is food too, of course. For those able to get out of bed before 2pm they have a robust brunch menu with a heavy emphasis on reconstituted pig. Brilliantly, bacon features just about everywhere: atop their infamous ‘dirty burgers’ and even in the booze. For The New Club is the home of the ‘Breakfast Club’, a pig-infused Bloody Mary with pickles and their own special spicy sauce thrown in for good measure.

This is not for those who think tomatoes are meant for pasta sauce and pizzas; in all honesty, it spoke a little too much of passata for my taste, too. But the bacon-infused vodka is a stroke of genius, and those who enjoy a Bloody Mary or Caesar will be happy here. For those of a more delicate disposition, there’s a host of other brunch cocktails with enough liquor to stave off any two-day hangover (my Kentucky fizz – Woodford Reserve bourbon, Prosecco & fresh mint – was divine).

If you need something to soak up the liquor, aim to get their before the lunch menu kicks in. Their warm pretzels with salted caramel and buttermilk pancakes (with, you guessed it, maple bacon) have had good reviews but their burgers were a little tasteless and heavy on the condiments. Then again, two cocktails in and you’ll just about forgive anything.

Price: from £2.50 (toast & jam) to £9 (full breakfast). Cocktails from £7 (Bloody Mary).

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February 1, 2014 · 8:11 pm

Princes Pantry, Harbourside, Bristol

20140115-233104.jpgAt the turn of the year it’s always tempting to tell all those who proclaim it’s time for a “new you” to “naff off” – whatever’s right or wrong with you at 23.59 on the 31st December, you’re likely to be much the same at 00.01 on the 1st (if a little shoutier, backcombed and more glittery). So, with the aim of not making any new year’s resolutions whatsoever, it seems apt to write about the most un-organic, un-seasonal, downright unhealthy breakfast joint in town – The Princes Pantry – perfect for those with a hangover that lasts well into January.

In an unassuming hut on the corner of a busy T-junction, the Princes Pantry has been attracting its own loyal band of clientele for years, all in search of something fried between slices of white, square bread and cooked on a skillet that was last cleaned when news of the Millennium bug spoke of our almost certain demise.

Breakfast options have their own imaginative titles – “Cardiac Arrest”, “Gut Buster”, “Beast” – and are handed to you wrapped in white napkins or encased in polystyrene. Most of the early morning crowd opt for the traditional Breakfast Roll, with or without added sausage, bacon and/or fried egg and all the sauces you’d hope for (red. And brown.) Tea and coffee come from massive urns on the counter and if you’re feeling particularly fancy you can opt for a baguette instead, or even mayonnaise.

In recent times they’ve diversified for the lunchtime crowd and offer homemade soups, falafel, pizza or slices of avocado to nestle in your BLT. But, without a doubt it’s at its best providing cheap, breakfast favourites to the hungry masses. A greasy spoon and proud – as well it should be.

Price: from £2.10 (bacon roll).

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The Crepe & Coffee Cabin, Harbourside, Bristol

IMAG0561Every so often you find a place so good you don’t want to share it with anyone. But, in the spirit of intrepid brunch hunters the world over, I’m duty bound to write about a tiny and terrific place on the bridge that links Bristol north and south – the Smallest Coffee Cabin in the World™ – that manages to pack more personality, quality and service in its wardrobe-like proportions than a thousand Starbucks could ever hope for.

Nestled on the Prince Street Bridge, it looks right down the harbour, past the famous cranes and steam trains to the left, the bustling waterfront with its plethora of canal boats and passenger ferries on the right. One tiny table and two chairs, replete with vase of flowers, are squeezed onto the pavement and there’s just enough room indoors for two or three (depending on your full-fat-or-skinny preference) when the wind picks up. Inside it’s like a nautically themed Broom Cupboard – mercifully duck-free – with curios that hang from the walls and line the shelves; the menu is chalked up behind the bar and your barista is dressed in full chef whites. Those in the know had already texted their orders ahead, and it’s clear it has its fair share of regulars, all here for one thing – the coffee.

There’s a house (or hut?) blend and a weekly guest coffee and each order is made with care. This is a place in no hurry, but you can while away your time reading the ‘Facts of the Day’ or, if you’re lucky, spinning an old Game of Life wheel for a freebie. Once ready, the coffee is a treat. My house blend was a smooth, subtly syrup-y delight, with just the right amount of dark chocolate bitterness and the perfect coffee-to-milk ratio for a proper latte; there are soya options and flavours to add, too (their hazelnut mocha is legendary).

This is the ideal place for busy folks in need of an early morning pick me up, and there’s food on the go in the form of freshly made crepes with all the fillings you could hope for or homemade tiffins and flapjacks. The service is sublime, and, better still, there’s a discount before 10am to make those dark winter mornings all the brighter. Go forth and be happy.

Price: from £1.80 (latte, before 10am).

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