Amsterdam – synonymous with long, beautiful people perched on bicycles; dozy teenagers weaving from coffee shop to coffee shop; a penchant for deep fried and round foodstuffs and, of course, canals.
This being our second visit to the city we’d already walked the main galleries and museums, squeezed into Anne Frank’s tiny house, acted cool in the red light district and got lost in the series of cobbled streets connected by bridges that all look remarkably alike. We were in search of a different way to explore the city, and had been pointed to a tourist attraction with a twist – G’s Brunch Boat, a hip-hoped themed canal barge that also happens to serve a great breakfast.
Having wandered the Keizersgracht multiple times, we eventually found our docking spot and clambered aboard with a handful of tourists and the laid-back staff. Once on our way we were settled in with a ‘sober’ (an alcohol-free drink) and a cup of coffee while a waiter dressed in shirt and leather apron took orders for our ‘tipsy’ – drinks that ranged from the classic Bloody Mary or mimosa to a glass of red wine or a Dutch beer. While a heavy hip-hop beat acted as the backdrop we were allowed to peruse our menus made from old records as Amsterdam life slid past. As the bucks fizz buzz kicked in we waved at locals tending to their bicycles and peeked into the opulent apartments above, making up lives for the gorgeous inhabitants framed in the city’s resolutely wonky windows.
In honour of our host city we both chose waffles and bacon, and the plates were delivered with some speed from the tiny kitchen at the front. For dessert, more waffles (this time the syrup-filled kind), more rounds of coffee and drinks or food for those so inclined. Fully fed and slightly merry, we settled back to take in the rest of the trip, skirting around the space-age Nemo museum and heading out across open water before tucking back in to the narrow canals to return us to where we started. Waving (and weaving) as we left, we agreed – while not cheap, it’s hard to imagine a more relaxed and distinctive way to enjoy breakfast on the water.
Price: €39.50 per person
In a busy square in the centre of Bath al fresco diners, vegetable stall holders and off-key buskers with a penchant for Ed Sheeran come together. It’s a popular spot with locals and tourists, away from the long and swarming shopping streets that require nimble footwork to avoid being mown down by buggies armoured in shopping bags or selfie-stick toting school groups with no periphery vision.
Though the strained notes of Galway Girl persisted as a backdrop, at Kingsmead Kitchen it was a scene of relative calm. Indoors it has a distinctly bistro feel with a series of specials chalked beside the bar, a recently buffed coffee machine and an impressive wine selection to choose from. Diners at marble topped tables were neatly packed together, the friendly staff employing impressive hip flexes to weave between them as they delivered great plates of stacked salads, sandwiches and breakfast fare. Outside a series of metal tables were waiting for those willing to brave the British summer – with half an eye on the brooding clouds above us we decided to brave it, not least in the hope that we might witness the long-suffering stall owners lobbing this seasons’ best root vegetables at the guitarists in an attempt to make them stop.
Despite a tempting list of specials – smoked mackerel and spelt salad, venison ragu – we aimed for the all day brunch items, opting for shakshuka and an omelette the size of the Egg Poacher’s head. Italian coffees came in proper crockery (praise be) and, though less full bodied than we might have hoped, were well made nonetheless. The food was hearty and generously portioned, though the proudly local and well-sourced ingredients could have benefited from a little more seasoning.
Though fully sated we had to leave disappointed – there was to be no show down between teenage buskers and the kale-weilding traders today. Nevertheless, it was a perfectly pleasant spot to linger in – and an ideal haven in which to rest before rejoining the dithering masses.
Price: from £4.95 (bacon sandwich) to £9.95 (Kingsmead Breakfast).
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).