#GuardianCoffee, Shoreditch, London

IMG_1667[1]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.

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Katie & Kim’s Kitchen, Picton Street, Bristol

IMG_1576[1]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).

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Workhouse Cafe, St Michael’s Hill, Bristol

IMG_1355[1]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.

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Rocket Cafe, Morningside, Edinburgh

IMG_1433[1]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)

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The Grazing Goat, Portman Village, London

IMG_1014[1]As the sun beats down on Oxford Street, harried shoppers streaming past bright, shiny shops blaring music from their doors, The Grazing Goat, just a few streets away, basks in its oasis of calm. Tucked into the salubrious Portman Village, it makes the most of its situation with a handful of tables outside, perfect for watching London luvvies totter past on high wedges as their bear-like, pedigree hounds take them for a stroll. The clientele match the location, with well-heeled couples and their Mini Boden’d babies, perfectly plucked gym buffs and a rugby team’s-worth of chinos all stopping by for cocktails, European beers and some seriously good food.

After a night in their smart, townhouse rooms (with a fabulous bed, Farrow & Ball walls and walk-in shower room) we rose early to make the most of the breakfast menu. The space outside extends into the bar, with great windows that open out to let in the morning sun, so our bed heads were soon being soothed by the summer breeze and some seriously good coffee. The menu is a sight to behold, with every brunch combination you could hope for – made to order omelettes, granola, pancakes, the full English – as well as beautiful morning cocktails that will banish the last of the hangover. The ingredients are carefully sourced, with Severn & Wye smoked salmon, Bath Pig chorizo and Fivemiletown cheese all featuring, and the rest is as local, organic and free range as you’d hope.

Finally making a decision, we opted for the 3 egg omelette with chorizo and the wonderfully stacked avocado, goat’s cheese and sundried tomatoes on sourdough, both delicious and served in good-sized portions. More coffee and fresh mint teas helped to wash it all down, and the proper salted butter and extra homemade bread made the Egg Poacher’s morning complete.

This being London, it’s not cheap – but the quality is so high you don’t begrudge the price. In such a prime location it would be a shame not to treat yourself and stay the night, though you might forgo Big Ben in favour of mining the menus for all the wonders that they can provide.

Price: from £3.50 (sourdough toast) to £12.50 (the full English). Rooms from £205 per night.

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Cookie, Southside, Glasgow

While it may seem somewhat redundant to write about a place that’s recently closed, Cookie has been held in such high esteem by those who’ve been that I couldn’t help but add it to the collection; who knows, someone might pick it up as a rallying call for it to open its doors once again??

IMG_1255[1]In the wonderfully named Strathbungo – an up and coming, close knit community in Glasgow’s southside – Cookie is a haven for foodies, families and a host of Scotland’s own hipsters (like England’s, but with better accents), serving freshly made goodies with an Italian bent. On a typically biting spring day the long windows were invitingly steamy, the sounds of coffee percolating and good-natured chatter bringing you in from the cold. Small tables and long booths were filled but the head waiter soon made space, bustling across the room while holding the stream of hopeful diners at the door with good banter.

Once settled it was time to turn to the well-thumbed menu, a lengthy read full of Scottish ingredients – black pudding, tattie scones, haggis – and one incongruous continental option. Being back in the homeland I had to opt for the Full Scottish, full of earthy flavours accented by sweet roasted tomatoes with rosemary and accompanied by strong Italian coffee. The Haggis Hen spoke well of her Veg Volcano (veg haggis, French toast and a poached egg) and the Sassenach in the party deemed the poach eggs “sublime”.

And it’s not just breakfast – there are prints and books from Cookie’s resident artist Conzo Throb and a popular night called Chef Wars where Glasgow’s up and coming chefs fight it out one course at a time (much to the delight of the lucky locals); the menu stretches to lunch and dinner and there are fresh deli options ready to take home. Hard to fathom why such a great spot has to go. I for one will look in hope for news of its re-opening.

Price: from £3.95 (French toast) to £8.50 (Full Scottish).

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Goldbrick House, Park Street, Bristol

IMG_1240[1]Shoppers, students and street fundraisers fly past the tall windows of Goldbrick House, the harsh winds and driving rain turning umbrellas into makeshift sails. Inside, all is calm, with velvet armchairs, flock wallpaper and a soothing soundtrack all adding to the sense of being enveloped into a coffee-scented bosom.

Goldbrick is well known in Bristol, offering as it does a classier way to drink than the Scream pubs and pound-a-drink establishments elsewhere on Park Street. It’s a popular spot for weary shoppers and on weekends it can quickly fill with the Clifton set looking for a bottle of fizz to start the evening off. At breakfast time, however, it’s altogether more sedate, with staff soft-shoeing around tables to take orders and deliver coffees while you peruse the menu, the service more restaurant than café bar, and very pleasant to boot.

A good-sized menu offers familiar breakfast options – full English, Eggs Benedict, a round of toast – with some more unusual additions in the veggie options, with tomato and mozzarella bruschetta sitting alongside your more regular fried potatoes and beans. The flavours are good and are complimented by fresh juices and a host of teas, but their coffee isn’t the strongest, so you might opt for double shots if your weekend requires a kick start.

With a steady supply of hot drinks and the weekend papers you might find you’ve started to become part of the well-loved furniture, and the staff seem happy to let you stay. A breakfast you can linger over – just as it should be.

Price: from £2 (round of toast) to £8.95 (full English).

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