The last gasp of Gloucester Road that congregates around the Arches is often the popular hub for students and weekend drinking, when every inch of al fresco space is taken in summer and dark and cosy bars fill on rainy Autumnal nights. But travel north and things get more interesting still – amongst the greasy spoons, hardware shops and sports bars are a healthy smattering of new and interesting independent businesses: a pub in an old drapers, a Persian-Korean fusion restaurant and the best Thai in the city, a comic and beer emporium and FED 303, an excellent addition to the north Bristol cafe trail.
FED 303 certainly ticks the modern Bristol boxes – hanging plants, chalkboard menu and soothing electro pulling in parents with babies, business people on morning meetings and commuters taking a caffeine detour. But where some places seem to think it’s only about appearance, this cafe clearly believes in its own enterprise. The staff are friendly, taking time to chat and check their punters have all they need; babes and dogs get a cheery welcome, as do local celebrities who pop in for a quick debrief in the kitchen before heading on.
Most importantly, the food is fantastic – there are plenty of options all invested with intriguing flavours that make the ingredients sing. Perfectly poached eggs on French toast and roasted tomatoes proved popular with our Monday morning crew, while eggs atop rich harissa tomatoes, kale and sourdough were delicious and satisfying.
This being our pre-wedding breakfast, we decided to stay while our friends and their teeny milk guzzler moved on to a baby stand up show (this is Bristol, after all). A second coffee and freshly baked chocolate and hazelnut bun polished off an excellent morning’s dining. A truly excellent way to prepare for a week of wedding madness.
Price: from £2.95 (sourdough toast) to £8.50 (harissa spiced eggs).
The brief hiatus between Christmas and New Year is often referred to as ‘Betwixtmas’, a a sparkly, magical sounding time deserving of its own fanciful characters and festive cheer. There should be soirees where everyone dresses in velvet and cocktails are served under heaving yet tasteful chandeliers. Frosty days should be spent yomping out into the countryside, spaniels in tow; at night the children will play together quietly while grown ups lounge beside the fire.
The reality is often a little different. Parties have been banned until at least the 31st; the closest you get to velvet is the soft and over-washed pair of PJ bottoms you haven’t stepped out of since Christmas night. The only festive characters are the ones left to repeat on the TV and the kids are both exhausted and riding high on the never ending supply of selection boxes. It’s a time to give in to the inevitable and shelve being presentable until 2019. You may as well just have that cheese plate as a second breakfast and be done with it.
Slovenly and indulgent as this is, surrendering to such a low bar does however have its downfalls: when you find you actually do have to step out into the fresh air, the watery wintry light can be cruel. The power of speech has left you, leaving a stream of baffled neighbours and shop assistants in your wake. You’re sporting 8 different nail varnishes from a 6 year old manicurist. You appear to have been dressed in the dark by a toddler. All of which is a challenge at the best of times; more so when you find yourself pulling up at the doors of a rather grand looking Lake District hotel.
Thankfully this particular hotel is both grand, and very understanding. Another Place does a fine line in understated grandeur – everything is beautifully presented, but your entirely encouraged to wander around in your bathrobe. It’s the perfect prescription for post-Christmas jitters: beautiful rooms with excellent beds and claw foot baths, a pool and sauna with lake and mountain views, kindly Northern massage therapists to work away knots left by passively demanding relatives. Children are welcomed with board games and cleverly secreted away bean bags and games consoles under the stairs; at night the lounge becomes an indulgent adults-only space with roaring fires and smart waiters who bring warmed bottles of red to your spot on the sofa.
There are also food options for every taste. For those still game for a three course dinner, the fine dining restaurant awaits. Those of us open to the idea that not all festive meals need the calorie content for an Arctic expedition can opt for dinner in the bar instead (even more excellently, dogs are welcome here too). And it’s worthwhile leaving some room – back in the dining room, breakfast is as good as the rest of the rest of the stay would suggest. It is “DIY”, but in the most refined sense: a row of waffle makers, freshly cooked local sausages, bacon and eggs, artisanal breads and freshly made mueslis and juices encourage multiple courses. Pink-shirted staff take coffee orders and there’s a happily relaxed conviviality amongst the varied clientele, with toddlers still in their onesies tucking into giant plates of eggs on toast as hikers fuel up for a days’ hike in the hills, the rest of us happy to sink into the freshly delivered papers and – go on – just one more round of toast.
Price: rooms from £180 (breakfast included).
Often the best lazy weekend brunches happen by accident. Following a lovely evening of comedy and beer gardens on a Friday night, we ambled inevitably to the chat about plans for the rest of the weekend. Ours was to be a decidedly, determinedly quiet one, with all alarm-capable technology banished to the no-man’s land beneath the bed for 48 hours.
Our friends, being the sort to arrange a dinner party, game of squash and macrame workshop on a ‘quiet’ Wednesday evening, were of the mind to fit in breakfast before they set off for a weekend in the country. Luckily for us, this didn’t require an early start, so a beer-soaked agreement was made to head east for brunch, sometime before 2pm.
Remarkably, and despite varied strengths of hangovers and navigation skills, we all found ourselves at Dela at the same time. As it was midday already there were tables to spare (with Easton a young family’s game, cafes are often quietest when those in the student-y north are just waking up) and we slid into a booth that gave us the best views of the light and plant-filled space. An open bar and kitchen was astir with activity, the spirits selection refracted sunlight from the huge windows and the decor was soothingly minimalist and calm – the perfect spot to clear the previous evening’s fog.
This being a Swedish-inspired eatery (‘dela’ means ‘share’ in Swedish) the menu offers some Scandi options such as a sharing board piled with smoked trout, boiled eggs and rye bread or a Danish Bloody Mary; there are also more familiar options like toast and jam, bacon sandwiches and granola. Starting with enormous fresh pastries (the cinnamon buns are a must) we moved on to our main brunch plates, adding extras such as goats curd and bacon to our already generous poached eggs and greens before rounding everything off with excellent fresh juices from the bar.
Duly stuffed, it was time to wend our way – our intrepid friends to their weekend full of activity; for us, a fearless journey back to bed. For those with less pressing deadlines, there’s always the option to segue straight into Dela’s evening menu and intruiging cocktail list – certainly one for another, less hungover time.
Price: from £3 (toasted sourdough & jam) to £8.90 (smoked mackerel Dela bowl).
In Leeds, there is something for everyone. Dressed up clubbers mingle with hirsute hipsters in many and multifarious bars and breweries; bag-laden shoppers, students and tourists do-si-do around the centres’ streets and arcades. There are posh restaurants and brand name bakeries, deconstructed cocktails and real ale pubs (one the finest, a combination of rough and ready boozer and fantastic drag queen cabaret).
Away from the centre there are student-y enclaves in the suburbs and a host of green spaces to walk out in; one such, Headingley, has a bustling high street, a wonderful early 20th century cinema, and Sebby’s, a cafe-deli on the popular Otley Road.
Inside the space is stripped back and simple, with cement floors and exposed brick walls. Colour comes in the tropically themed art and fabrics and a garden centre’s worth of hanging plants, tiny squashes and cacti. The open kitchen is framed by counter tops and cake stands groaning with fresh baking and sandwiches and diners sit on a diverse selection of furniture. Outside is equally simple and inviting, with wobbly tables migrating to the sunniest corners (a perfect spot for Blue the Wonder Dog to snooze in).
Apart from the cakes there’s a fantastic brunch menu to choose from, all served until 4pm. Inspired by their travels in America, the owners offer breakfast burritos and Mexican corn hash, as well as poached eggs on toast, 3 egg omelettes and ‘Eggs Sebby’ – poached eggs and avocado nestling on a bed of hash browns. It’s unfussy and delicious, and can all be washed down with pots of Yorkshire tea. And, this being the north, you won’t bankrupt yourself in the process. Lovely stuff.
Price: from £3.50 (bacon sandwich) to £8.50 (large English breakfast).
Muiño cuddles up next to some of Bristol’s hippest restaurants (Pasta Loco, Bellita, Bravas…) and offers a menu clearly intent on capitalising on the fashionable foodie set who come here. The evening menu offers seasonal British fare in the now ubiquitous form of ‘small’ and ‘large’ plates, all sourced from the south west and its surrounds. There’s a healthy cocktail selection and a strong wine list, too – surely making this an intriguing stop for Bristol’s refined – and unforgiving – diners.
Brunch is a more familiar affair, with weekend standards such as the full English, Eggs Benedict and smashed avocado on toast, alongside a ‘bottomless Prosecco’ offering lifted from London’s latest breakfast trends. The provenance is equally notable in the morning menu, there are good vegetarian choices and the coffee is decent, too. They’re generous in the option to swap and add extras – the cheddar and leek patty was a definite plus – and yet, it still felt like something was missing.
The portions are fairly small (not unusual in Bristol, yet worth mentioning when dishes are close to £10 each), and the flavours less exciting than they could have been. The full breakfast was a little lacklustre with limp bacon and a watery tomato, the pancake a single coin slathered with runny compote; the huevos rancheros came without the expected chilli bite. With a touch more seasoning and some more generous plating the local ingredients could have packed a proper punch.
There’s much to like here: the staff are fun and welcoming (even allowing Lola, the miniature schnauzer, to be smuggled under the table) and the fresh, calming interiors make this a refined place to dawdle in of an afternoon. But with Cotham Hill’s capricious clientele to contend with, the devil will most definitely be in the detail.
Price: from £7 (smashed avocado on toast) to £9.50 (large traditional).
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).
No. 25A is the younger sibling of Easton’s No. 12 yet feels decidedly more grown up. The grand copper wall is matched in details around the room, from the exposed light bulbs and script on the board outside to the giant numbers inlaid in the door. Despite a nod to an industrial theme it’s welcoming and warm, with an excellently mellow music selection, lovely staff and the bustle of the Old Market shut out behind you.
Everything is stylish and nothing over-complicated. The brief menu offers sourdough toast and jam and homemade granola for breakfast, they make excellent coffees and source outrageously good pastries from their friends Farro: the cinnamon buns and crisp, sticky almond croissants are as big as your head and come highly recommended. There are sandwiches and salads for lunch (including the suggestively labelled ‘meat in a bun’) as well as a real ale pump and a selection of wines for an evening soiree.
And there’s space for all and sundry – business folk swing by for a caffeine hit ahead of the morning commute; music sorts in uniform black hang by the bar and down espressos as fuel for the night ahead; mums park prams and decamp to the space downstairs for a debrief. All are welcomed and many appear to be locals, greeted by name and engaged in a good dose of banter before they set out from the warmth into whatever Old Market has in store.
Price: from £2.50 (toast and jam) to £5 (tart with salad).
Setting an alarm on the weekend is sacrilegious enough. Setting an alarm for sport on a Sunday one step closer to insanity. So to set an alarm for Sunday sport that never materialises is damn near devastating. We were two Lycra-clad women with nowhere to go. But then, of course, came the salve and the saviour to all unmade weekend plans – an impromptu brunch.
With some mild jostling and promises of caffeine partners were pulled from their slumbers and a small party set off for the freshly-washed hills of Whiteladies Road. Though the street was calm we quickly found that we weren’t the first to cotton on to Tradewind Espresso, as the small cafe was full to bursting with groups of washed out parents and soggy dog walkers. Luckily for us they have a space outside rigged up with an almost entirely shower proof roof. Decked out in in wood and free of sunlight its somewhat like stepping into the hull of a boat, with rainmac’d pensioners and shaggy-headed students making an unlikely morning crew.
Peering at our menus in the half light we were soon salivating at the imaginative options before us. Avocado pico de gallo with salmorejo, french toast with rum and caramelised pineapple, spice chorizo with pineapple relish and padron peppers – this was clearly a place more interested in inventive cooking that followed the seasons than the standard full English and scrambled eggs on toast. Duly warned in stern terms that menu alterations were not an option, we chose a good selection from which we could sample, and weren’t disappointed by our choices (a side of the delicious spicy chorizo also an excellent addition). Though expensive, the coffees were well made and delicious, and in all felt the bill represented good value for excellent ingredients and a kind and helpful staff.
Fully fed, we were ready to brave the rain for the journey home. And, having exercised our brunch muscles there was only one thing left to do – retreat for a well-deserved nap.
Price: from £3.50 (toast & jam) to £9.50 (The Full Easterly).
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).