There’s something of the New York deli about Pinkmans – a long gleaming counter runs along one wall with apron’d staff dashing from one end to the other, collecting orders and passing over boxes of fine cakes, breads and salads to a constant stream of customers while an upbeat jazz soundtrack adds to the bustling tempo.
A healthy slice of Bristol life can be found here. A popular spot for well-coiffed students, shoppers wrapped up against the elements and families whose little ones gape at the delicate patisseries as they are carried past, there are cosy nooks, too, for hungover teens and lunchtime daters to hide in, camouflaged by an excellent selection of hanging plants that are draped all around.
The impressive selection of freshly baked goods are likely to involve their own sourdough (found in sandwiches, pizzas and even their doughnuts) or their wood-fired oven. The breakfast menu takes some deciphering – some options are only available for early morning risers, though there are plenty of brunch dishes for lazier sorts; coffees are ordered at the same time but delivered separately, hastily made by a team of baristas who also juggle the persistent queue of take-away seekers who crowd by the bar. You feel for the staff: though they’re plentiful and friendly, the set up lends itself to organised chaos in busy times.
That being said, the food is tasty (if a little small in some portions) – my custard-dipped, brioche French toast was an indulgent way to start the weekend, while the Egg Poacher opted for a calorific cheese toastie, packed with gruyere. The coffee was decent too, though there are better flat whites slightly further from the centre of town. All in all, Pinkman’s location and set up is perfect for those in a rush – business folks will flock for a weekday lunch, frazzled parents and those looking for a mid-shop pit stop could definitely do worse – and their fast-paced, high volume approach certainly seems to serve the business well. For me, I may just need a quieter spot to linger in (brunch is sacred, after all).
Always a recognisable addition to menus and A-boards across Bristol and the south west, Hobbs House Bakery has expanded from supplying excellent baked goods to cafes and restaurants across town to their own little place on Gloucester Road. The design and typography is instantly recognisable, repeated across framed examples of old bags and flour sacks, on posters and menus and on take-away bags: ‘Put bread on the table’ is their motto, and this they certainly do.
It’s not all about bloomers and ryes, either; their brunch menu includes waffles made from an ancient sourdough starter, salsa verde and roasted tomato on toast as well as the mountains of freshly made pastries, cakes and savouries stacked up on the bar. Coffee comes from the equally identifiable Extract and is served in lovely earthenware cups and everything can be taken home to enjoy at your leisure – including, of course, that morning’s loaves that line the shelves in the window.
It’s undeniably good food, well made with excellent ingredients, and I’m not usually one to begrudge paying for quality when the alternative is so grim. Having said that, paying £9 for a single waffle topped with eggs and cheese or £3 for a slice of toast makes even this brunch snob wince. There’s a sense, too that they’re still bedding in – on our first visit the cafe was in chaos with orders going missing and a persistent but intermittent alarm going off from the kitchen throughout. On our return, the chaos has subsided (though our coffee orders were still wrong) but, strangely, the alarm persevered; a function, it turns out, of their bread oven which may help prevent burnt bottoms but isn’t best placed for such a small space.
Chaos aside, they do know their baking. On inclement days there are table outside that save you from the noise and there are worse ways to start the morning than gathering up some of their finest pastries for a lazy brunch at home. With time, the edges might be rubbed off and this will be a fine place to linger. For now, though, I think I’ll be taking my almond croissant to go.