Tag Archives: bristol

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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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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Bear Pit Social, City Centre, Bristol

20130825-163447.jpgBristol is a city full of change: once drab walls become beautiful design projects, empty shops turn into temporary theatres and, occasionally, homeless pianos are left for the public to play. So it seems particularly apt that one of it’s most infamous eyesores is slowly transforming into an arts space, home to a shipping container that now hosts the Bear Pit Social coffee shop.

Much of the rough patina remains, of course – market stalls and ping pong tables mingle with cans of Scrumpy Jack, broken phone boxes and muscly, ankle-height dogs and there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re in the sunken centre of one of the city’s busiest roundabouts. The view to the Premier Inn does little to inspire, and the locals’ welcome is not always one you’d expect… but it’s Bristol to the core.

The Bear Pit opened it’s sides to the public in January this year and has been doing a decent trade ever since. It’s run by a lovely couple who’ve graduated from hastily assembling gazebos in winter to the more solid walls of the container, their professional coffee maker brightly polished whatever the weather. As well it should be, for the coffee is great.

Most coffees comes with 2 shots of espresso – though the faint of heart need only ask for less of a punch – and there are shelves full of loose leaf teas that can be served in proper teapots (fans of the former Lahloo Tea Shop will be well served here). Cakes, meringues and friands add something sweet, while the artistic amongst us can borrow chalks to make the Bear Pit all the brighter. A lovely space indeed.

Price: from £1.50 (filter coffee) to £2.20 (latte).

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Zazus Kitchen, Gloucester Road, Bristol

20130821-220004.jpgZazus has been a Bristol regular for a few years now; for a time, they moved restlessly from area to area, not quite content in their pokier spaces in Stokes Croft or Clifton village. Finally they’ve settled in the northern quarter of Gloucester Road and it seems a perfect match: as couples move towards Horfield in search of a strip of grass and space for a toddler, ZaZus offers a family friendly space around the corner with just the right amount of street cred to keep their friends coming, too.

Toby stays at the helm, moving around the floor like a foodie, moody rock star, but with time to greet familiar faces. The rest of his staff are good looking and efficient, though less warm in the bustle of a busy Saturday service. And they are busy – it doesn’t take long for the wooden tables to be filled, and even in gloomier climes the outdoor area will fill. There’s a distressed, Scandinavian feel to the surroundings with wooden floors and cool tones, there’s modern art on the walls and an electro soundtrack playing in the background. As you’d expect from the crowd, there are crayons, high chairs and stickers books to keep small ones entertained – and noise. Lots and lots of noise.

The food, however, is dependably well-sourced, using quality ingredients from largely local sources. Egg fans are well served: the Egg Poacher’s chorizo and black pudding hash with poached eggs and hollandaise were declared “awesome”, while you can have them served every which way elsewhere on the menu. I was less impressed with the veggie breakfast – the bubble and squeak was slightly bitter, the spinach a little too well-cooked – but in fairness my own ovaphobia had it’s part to play here. Their coffee, however, is excellent.

Zazus’s has a loyal following and it’s serves it’s neighbourhood well. Perhaps in a few years’ time we’ll be back with our own bundle of joy in tow; for now, I’ll leave the colouring-in books for someone else to enjoy.

Price: from £3.50 (bacon bap) to £7.50 (chorizo and black pudding hash).

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Havana Coffee, Cotham Hill, Bristol

20130513-140159.jpgNicely ramshackle and comfortably worn in, Havana Coffee provides a welcome relief from the “boho-local-mimosa” joints so easy to come by in Clifton. Che Guevera and Diego Rivera look down upon the mismatched tables and worn tiled floor, with rumba music continuing the Cuban theme. There’s a sense of timelessness about the place: students in slogan’d T-shirts delving into fry ups and deep bowls of filter coffee, the owner and his cronies putting the world to rights in the corner, bathrooms that haven’t seen a paint brush for a decade or two.

The food itself has both a North American theme – thick milkshakes, pancakes of all denominations – and a more traditional bent; the full English comes with artery clogging hash browns, boiled, buttery mushrooms and square toast. Seeking some grease to soak up last nights’ excesses their excellent (and enormous) bacon butty hit the spot, while their coffee is as unforgiving as you might hope.

Compared to the organic options nearby (HFW’s River Cottage Canteen is just up the road), Havana isn’t sophisticated – but, happily, it isn’t trying to be. Instead, it serves no-nonsense breakfasts cooked to order from a small kitchen out back, with not a jot of pretension in sight.

Price: from £2.90 (beans on toast) to £7.50 (Big Breakfast).

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