Category Archives: Locals

Door & Rivet, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Lodging in Clifton – where the Brunel bridge is a short stroll and the morning alarm comes from the peal of church bells and the occasional hot air balloon passing overhead – is no real hardship. At the weekend the streets are taken over by alfresco cafes and organic grocers and the pavements throng with freshly pressed Hilfiger shirts, boat shoes (no socks) and a menagerie of coiffed poodles, bichons and French bulldogs. The delis do a roaring trade; there’s even a man in a beret and a Breton top who sells garlic from the basket on his bicycle.

Yet it was walking through Stokes Croft where I truly felt back at home. Here the dogs are multitudinous and mongrel and the streets heave with deep bass and dreadlocks in various stages of construction. But while the setting couldn’t be more different, the creep of the ‘DIY Dalston’ mould is equally plain to see, with yet more black-walled, drop-lit, pallet-heavy bars and cafes filling shop fronts and abandoned spaces. Thankfully there are those that resist scrawling sans serif font across their plant-filled windows or hanging a fixed-gear bike on the wall to justify their prices.

One such place is Door & Rivet, hidden in the crypt of the old Baptist Church on Upper York Street. It’s corrugated frontage makes an understated welcome, but the promise of good coffee and Saturday brunch were all it took to lure me in. Inside it’s darkly inviting, with a collection of mismatched tables and chairs at the back and an open kitchen, giant coffee machine and well-used record player up front. The 70s soundtrack proved a little fierce first thing, but the narrow alleyway outside boasted plenty of space to dine, so long as we didn’t mind mingling with the pigeons.

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We lingered over coffees as we waited for our food – here everything is freshly made and demands a little more time. Having opted for the small breakfasts (one veggie, one meat) we were greeted with a great pile of good food – well-seasoned bubble and squeak, homemade baked beans and excellent eggs, alongside delicious sausages or grilled halloumi and a proper portion of sourdough toast. It was all so excellent we decided to stay, ordering more home-roasted coffee to enjoy in the unseasonable September sun, the friendly staff taking the time to chat and explain why decaff coffee is the work of the devil and therefore banished from this, the holiest of breakfast places.

Brunch lovers, rejoice.

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Price: from £2.50 (granola) to £9.50 (Big breakfast).

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Tobacco Factory Market, Raleigh Road, Bristol

On a grey and windy Sunday that surely heralds the start of Autumn (apologies to those who blinked during summer – you missed it) the Tobacco Factory market still shines, cheerily decked in candy-striped awnings and bright white tablecloths, summer tunes blasting in an attempt to drive the clouds away. There’s an eclectic mix of things on offer here: tiny clay dolls huddle together on one stall, retro jumpsuits and faded slogan T-shits hang from another. There are bottled potions to spice up your morning tea, handmade furniture and homemade curry kits, local art and enough LPs to make Fat Boy Slim feel positively malnourished.

While there’s plenty to peruse and many a trinket to buy, one of the main draws is the food court that sits near the back. Having packed our Macs and set off with our usual food-based enthusiasm, we’d actually arrived before the majority of the stalls were open. Luckily (and in what is surely a clever marketing ploy) the Rolling Italy coffee stall was set up early and doing a steady trade.

As we drank our first, very excellent coffees the market slowly began to fill with a cross-section of Bristol’s (mostly) middle class. Cyclists in full gear swinging by to pick up fresh bread packed carefully in to panniers, grey-haired couples being led by dogs that ranged from bear to floor mop and arty students with canvas bags and turned up trouser cuffs all mingled, carefully stepping between the market’s most obvious clientele: young families. The market, is seems, offers a kind of Mecca to those with tiny people in tow; there’s enough confined space for toddlers to roam while dishevelled dads and morning-eyed mums make haste towards sustenance and the ever-necessary caffeine. As the day progressed the child population increased, many adding tricycles, scooters and the occasional well-staged meltdown in to the mix of legs and leashes.

Turning our attention back to our own bellies we decided it was time for round two and were drawn to the chalkboards of The Muffin Man & Co. I opted for the breakfast classic: fried egg, sausage and bacon jam between a lightly toasted English muffin, while the Egg Poacher upped the ante with the addition of melted cheese and a chunk of pork belly. After a minutes’ pause while we figured out how best to tackle the stacks before us, we were soon tucking in and following the golden rule of breakfast – don’t think about the mess, and clean up once at the end.


Round two duly demolished, we considered removing ourselves from temptation. It didn’t last – Rolling Italy called once again, this time with the addition of a sugar coated ricciarell, a Tuscan macaroon filled with almond and orange, and surely too light to be truly bad. Finally setting off for home we braved the knee-high hoards and emerged into the open – highly caffeinated, full of food, and very happy indeed.

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Hare & Hounds, Bath

It’s fair to say life’s been busy of late. Following our return home from South America we quickly became whirlygigs of activity – reunions, weddings, hen dos, weddings, family holidays, weddings – followed by the inevitable return to the real world (and all of the CV-writing, interviewing and house hunting that goes with it).

While this has, for the main part, been great fun, it was with some anticipation that I looked towards this weekend. A weekend of nothing. No plans, no responsibilities, no need for alarms, or airports, or even to dress myself properly if I so chose. Having relied heavily on the Egg Poacher to make sure life at home continued in roughly the right direction while I got to grips with a new job and utterly new pace to life, it seemed only fair that he be treated to the same sensation, which meant one thing: a long and lazy brunch, made by an expert, brought to us by someone else, preferably in a fine setting with enough time to enjoy at least two coffees and the entire newspaper.

While Bristol has no shortages of breakfast options, we chose to venture out of the city to try somewhere new. A short search on the most middle class breakfast terms we could think of brought us to the Hare & Hounds, a country-style restaurant that sits on the top of one of Bath’s steepest hills. Despite my initial horror at the prospect of rising early, it proved the perfect plan – making it for just after nine, we had the pick of the tables by the huge windows that framed the stunning views down to the red-tiled villages down below. The restaurant was made up of wooden pews and slate floors, earthy Farrow & Ball walls and agricultural paintings that make bulls look like Victorian bodybuilders; all muscle, hair and inquisitively raised brow. Though refined it didn’t over-do the polish, and made a refreshing change from the stark steel and wood that’s so ubiquitously Bristol hipster (the only unfortunate nod to fashion being the list of prices shown as fractions, rather than real money).

The menu gets to the point, with the usual classics alongside the equally important coffee list. Though it doesn’t trumpet it’s sources like restaurants of a similar style, it was clear from the off that the ingredients were well-considered and excellent quality. This being an important brunch we didn’t mess about, both ordering the Full English which were freshly made in the open kitchen at the back and served by a friendly waitress who also made good lattes and didn’t blink an eye as I quietly sobbed in the corner with pure joy.

Two hours later we finally disentangled ourselves from Guardian supplements, coffee cups and cutlery, and wended our slow way back home, the prospect of a nap our only solid plan. But it’s fair to say we’ll be back and, with views like these and some really reasonable prices, we won’t have to wait for another special occasion to do so.

Price: from £2.25 (two slices of toast) to £8 (Full English).

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Salt Cafe, Morningside, Edinburgh

To unite the Egg Poacher and Brunch Hunter clans, a suitably smart breakfast venue was required – up stepped Salt Cafe in the heart of leafy Morningside. The stretch of shops along the main road haven’t always fared well, but Salt seems set to stay, offering excellent coffee and a simple brunch and lunch menu for the well-heeled masses.

Inside the interiors take a nautical theme, with great hulls from old rowing boats on the walls, a central bar of wood and metal, and great rolls of brown paper listing the daily specials. Bulbs are fashionably exposed, tables neat and hewn from burnished metal, all built to seat a reasonable number of covers for a relatively small space. Staff are few and very friendly, quick to deliver an excellent flat white while menus are perused.

For brunch the offerings are reassuringly familiar: Eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale, granola, a selection of pastries – and there are daily smoothies, milkshakes and wicked sounding breakfast cocktails to clear the weekend’s fog away. There are local sausages, Scottish fruits and beers from nearby breweries; flavours are fresh and perfectly seasoned.

Salt was doing a roaring trade on a Thursday morning so will fill up fast at weekends. Head there early (brunch starts at the very reasonable 10am) and grab a table by the window to watch the day trundle by.

Price: from £5 (granola) to £9.95 (full Scottish breakfast).

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The Runcible Spoon, Nine Tree Hill, Bristol

IMG_1943[1]The Runcible Spoon is tucked up one of Bristol’s infamous hills, though thankfully only a short hike from Stokes Croft’s centre and therefore unlikely to put off all but the most hardened of calf muscle. It’s been overseen by a handful of different owners, all committed to keeping things fresh, seasonal and as local as can be, and its latest incarnation tows the same provenance-conscious line.

On a chilly March morning, the tall windows steam, hiding the inside from view. Stepping across the threshold is like dropping in to your favourite aunty’s living room: eccentric nick-nacks, pot plants, creepers, antique cutlery and a wonderful old original fireplace set the informal tone, while 6 Music on the radio and the friendly, laid-back staff add a touch of cool. It really is a teeny space – the studious chefs can be seen through the hatch to the kitchen and the bar is within touching distance; long-legged stools and a benchtop by the door help them to squeeze sociable diners in.

With a focus on quality ingredients, the brunch menu is short but compelling: bacon sandwiches with onion marmalade, veggieIMG_1944[1] and full English breakfasts, avocado flat breads with poached eggs. Facing my ovophobia head on, I opted for the baked eggs with chorizo, and wasn’t disappointed. This is brunch in its truest sense, with potions so generous you won’t even remember lunch exists: along with smoky choizo, creamy eggs and sweet peppers, there was a side of properly buttered sourdough, too. Coupled with some decent flat whites this was an excellent way to start a Saturday – and for those who don’t believe in early rising, it’s served until 3pm.

Price: from £2.50 (sourdough toast and cinnamon butter) to £8.95 (Big Breakfast).

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The Cosy Club, Corn Street, Bristol

IMG_1926[1]Corn Street is having something of an identity crisis. Once the Stella-spattered playground for sports fans and students on the hunt for cheap beer and an argument, it’s now the home of some rather classy establishments helping to raise its reputation from the spew-flecked gutter: Pata Negra and The Ox are doing good things for Bristol’s carnivores, while The Birdcage and Small Street Espresso round the corner are bringing quality coffees to the sleepy masses.

The Cosy Club (newest edition to the relatively well-known chain) seems to fit in the middle of this new mould, serving breakfast through to dinner in the stunning situation of a former church and banking hall. Think vaulted ceilings, cornices and marble floors, all set off with chandeliers and a family of stuffed deer heads nestled amongst oil paintings and ancient flags. The staff are dressed in natty waistcoats and deliver jugs of water while menus are perused; a gleaming bar is tended by similarly fashion-conscious baristas who polish glasses and concoct mid-morning cocktails.

There’s no doubt the setting is sublime . And yet. When coffees come there’s something lacking in their construction, with flat IMG_1927[1]whites quickly dissolving into a tepid milky americano, and, though the menu is well stocked, the food is delivered a touch to soon to be truly freshly made. The ingredients are fine, with local sausage, bacon and black pudding, but the execution a little lacklustre (the Egg Poacher’s potatoes were underdone, my mushrooms somewhat sad and cold). There’s nothing that couldn’t be solved with a little more time and care, but for now the style outweighs the substance. A shame, as with such a large and unique space, this could be an excellent and popular addition to Bristol’s ever-blooming foodie reputation..

Price: from £1.75 (toast and preserves) to £8.95 (steak and eggs).

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No. 12, Easton, Bristol

wpid-img_20150207_140941.jpgAt 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.

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