The Galley sits between a rock and a wet place – on one side you have Hotwells Road, home to sinister looking pubs and fast food joints; on the other, you have the river and it’s swans, boat folk and masochistic rowers on a mission to reach the end of the course before their extremities fall off.
Inside, double glazed windows shut out the road noise and seats at the back show a better view than Hotwells Fried Chicken. The walls are adorned with nautical nick-nacks, vintage signs and globe lanterns and a soulful soundtrack plays – though by the third round, Al Green had started to grate a little. It’s not a huge space, so choose a table away from the coffee machine – and caffeine seekers should be prepared to order more than one vintage tea cups’ worth if they want to wake up properly.
Brunch comes from a short menu, and traditionalists will be happy – the full English comes with beans and fried bread, decent bacon and herby sausage; those looking for something a little different might opt for duck eggs on sourdough with spinach, and there are veggie options and lighter bites (granola, crumpets and homemade jam) too.
The ingredients are local and good quality, but breakfast feels like an afterthought here: I’ve heard great things about relaxed, raucous dinners, their Sunday roasts look fabulous and the cream heavy cakes testify to a fine afternoon tea, but there was something a little lacking from the morning menu. A chilly interior, hard wooden pews and a slightly distracted service meant we didn’t stay for long – those looking for a place to linger over their brunch would be better served elsewhere.
Price: from £2.50 (crumpets) to £6.50 (full English). Cash only.
The breakfast stars have aligned over Stokes Croft. The Bristolian has been a familiar sight in Picton Street for years, though its once grubby interior has had a spit and polish and it’s come up shining: on a sunny Saturday the pine floors, bright lanterns and fairylights make the place the feel like the inside of one giant toy box. And it’s full of good food.
The Bristolian is the best of what this city represents – all are welcome, from St Andrew’s poi performers to dads on the morning shift, freelance parents with free-range toddlers and last night’s casualties, invited in from the walk of shame and offered a sympathetic ear and a constant supply of coffee. In fact, this place is the perfect hangover cure, with Bloody Mary and her mates making an appearance, as well as an impressive breakfast menu that will suit all appetites.
Top of the list is the Bristolian Fusion, a Mediterranean delight full of deliciously spiced chorizo, salsa and fried potatoes; their full English is a carnivore’s dream with their bacon and sausages declared the best ever by the Egg Poacher – praise indeed.
This microcosm of Montpelier comes with all the extra options you’d expect – vegan and vegetarian, soya milk and super salads; there’s bread for sale from the wonderful Hobbs Bakery, home-baked cakes, proper leaf teas and a full-bodied coffee. Get here early to avoid the rush – by 11 most of the ‘Croft residents are awake and ready to descend on the tightly packed tables. But it’s worth the squeeze – this counts as one of the best breakfasts yet.
Price: From £3.50 (muesli & yoghurt) to £7.95 (Bristol Fusion).
Lovely Bath. On a chill December weekend we descended on the city in search of romance – the Egg Poacher and I were celebrating 3 years of brunch hunting and needed somewhere with an excellent breakfast reputation. Enter Villa Magdala.
Set apart from the sharp-elbowed tourist centre, the hotel is a sanctum of calm. On arrival our bags were whisked to our room before we’d even noticed we’d put them down, their staff attentive and friendly (with a welcoming waggle from Billy the dog). Following a gorgeous dinner at The Olive Tree (the owner is a gin expert) and a fine nights’ sleep in their lovely beds, we were hoping for another good feed. Things were looking promising with the weekend papers delivered to the door, a buffet table groaning with pastries and fresh fruit juices, Classic FM on the Roberts radio and one of the best possible questions at breakfast: “Would you like some Bucks Fizz?” YES.
The cooked menu is a bible of brunchy goodness – buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, enormous kippers on toast, eggs doused in freshly made hollandaise and a proper full English. Cafetieres of coffee and topped up toast-racks appear from nowhere, and a young waiters were keen to make sure all was well. Nicely full (and with a slight Bucks Fizz buzz) we headed off in search of the Spa, smug in the knowledge we’d be back for more the next morning.
Price: B&B from £120 per night for 2.