Tag Archives: brunch

Spoke & Stringer, Harbourside, Bristol

In a little corner of the ever-developing Harbourside there is a shop-cum-cafe that is the pantheon of all things trendy. The shop is artfully decorated with expensive jumpers, leather goods and a casually placed bicycles that are worth more than the rest of the gear combined. Their website is scattered with headlines like cryptic crossword clues: ‘Triumph Bonneville Bobber Unveiling Event’, ‘Wavelength 245’; messages clearly meant for those initiated only.

The cafe next door takes a similar approach, the subtle signage and roped-off outdoor area giving the impression of exclusivity that even stretched to a small queue of people waiting hopefully at the door. It being the first sunny Saturday of the spring, the tables inside and out were full, and creatively pierced staff did a fine job ferrying rounds of drinks to patient diners as the kitchen struggled to meet the demands of the well-scarfed hordes.

Finding ourselves perched on high stools in a much coveted sun trap we glanced through the menus and it was soon clear that the food matched the fashionable surrounds: avocado, samphire, harissa and chimichurri were all regulars, ingredients combined in interesting ways to complement the more standard offerings of poached eggs on toast, shakshuka or a full breakfast. It all sounded undeniably delicious, but, with half an eye on our bank accounts, it was a struggle to find anything for much less than a tenner.

Feeling a little like the poor cousins at the wedding we decided to go rogue, opting instead for food meant as sides or starters, hidden as they were under a section named ‘Custom Parts’. This caused a moment of confusion that led to the Egg Poacher’s fresh croissant arriving well before my sourdough toast, but the added touch of spiced plum jam and real butter rolled in salt flakes made for a delicious start to the day.

As tables emptied and quickly filled again around us, we were left to enjoy our coffees and the waterside view. It’s a fabulous spot for people watching, where boat folk, families and modish couples in matching sunglasses bring their variously pedigreed dogs to mingle. With summer fast approaching there’s no doubt Spoke & Stringer will continue to fill – if you save the pennies and make an early start, there won’t be many finer positions for a sunny brunch.

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Price: mains from £6.95 (banana panackes) – £9.50 (Full English). ‘Custom parts’ from £3.50 (toasted sourdough).

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Pigsty & Mokoko Coffee, Whapping Wharf, Bristol

Though construction has been going on for some time now, Whapping Wharf still seemed to spring up from nowhere, the once dead space next to Bristol’s iconic cranes suddenly crammed with sleek timber-fronted cafes and fashionably renovated containers.

The Wharf is very much in the vein of development elsewhere, pointed towards a young and affluent clientele most likely furnished with at least one toddler and a spaniel (either of whom could be called Rufus; a toss up as to which one is on a leash). On a frosty January morning brightly cagouled couples manoeuvred their ‘transport systems’ and welly-clad tots between huddles of beanie wearing hipsters, with only a stream of boisterous City fans trundling past breaking the carefully cultivated calm.

Within a relatively tight space there are a host of eateries to chose from, as well as a wholefood supermarket, a grandly named flower emporium and a couple of independent off licenses. Sporting fuzzy heads from Friday’s over-indulgence we opted first for Pigsty, one of the many new businesses encased in upcycled containers – and this one is full of bacon. Run by three brothers behind The Jolly Hog and one rugby player, these are folks who take provenance very seriously. Promising meat from happy pigs, their sausages were as flavoursome as you’d hope, and while their coffees were small they were sapid and satisfying, too.

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After a meander around the M Shed and the excellent Wildlife Photography exhibition our need for sustenance returned, and where Whapping Wharf is concerned your only ever a spaniels’ throw from an artisanal roast or two.

Enticed by great windows luxuriating in the winter sun we soon joined the queue at Mokoko Coffe & Bakery, a neat space filled with wooden booths and skinny stools, all within view of the open kitchen. While busy staff were stretched to deal with the weekend crowds, a beautifully made almond and pear muffin and some satisfyingly large coffees eventually gave us all the energy we needed to make the long journey home.

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Ceres, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Melbourne and Bristol have a lot in common – a competitive street art scene, randomly changing weather, narrow alleyways hiding well-loved eateries and a whole herd of hipsters around every corner. It even has a north/south divide, the rivers Avon and Yarra dividing the cities’ inhabitants into rivalries not seen since Coyote vs. Roadrunner.

It could be argued that where the cities most align is in their respect of the most sacred of weekend meals – brunch. When in Australia we spent a good proportion of our days moving from cafe to restaurant and bar being served by beautiful people in tiny bowler hats and tattoo sleeves, and in Melbourne the food is particularly great. There foods from across the world combine into great plates of breakfast fare – and they take their coffee very, very seriously.

So it’s perhaps surprising that Melbourne hasn’t come to Bristol sooner, as it has now in the guise of Ceres, a sparkling new start-up cafe in the fashionably ramshackle Stokes Croft. Across the road from the great vintage market and nestled between dub-themed cafes and Halal grocers, it’s minimal signage and stark white interiors give a sense of someone having just moved in. The homemade feel continues inside, with simple wooden tables and upholstered crates for chairs, a few key pieces of graffiti, a shining coffee machine, and not much else.

Once your eyes have adjusted to the white wall glare they can settle on a truly excellent breakfast menu – baked eggs, sweetcorn fritters and smashed avocado, smoked salmon bagels, bircher muesli, pancakes with salted caramel and banana… The flat whites – surely a requisite when dealing with Antipodean baristas – were as strong as you’d expect and, in a post-brunch delirium, the inch-high millionaire shortbreads were just too tempting to ignore.

Barman and chef both mingle with diners and have a cheery word for the local business people who drop by for take-away sandwiches and afternoon treats: they’re clearly doing all they can to join the community. And, with a passion for good cooking and a brunch menu this interesting, perhaps even those south of the river might beat a path to Ceres’ door.

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Price: from £2.50 (toast and Vegemite) to £8 (avocado, marinated feta and poached eggs on sourdough).

 

 

 

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The Crafty Egg, Stokes Croft, Bristol

It’s a common phenomenon on many city streets that one building – usually somewhere near the middle – seems to have a new business in it every other week. Whether through bad luck, bad neighbours or plain geography, the signage changes as regularly as the seasons, the next owners either gamely carrying on in the same vein as the previous, or making a bold new reach for something entirely different. At home one such shop front peddled wedding lingerie, computers and antique furs (though sadly never all at the same time); in Bristol it’s not uncommon for one cafe to form into another in the space of a weekend.

The Crafty Egg was once Hooper’s House, and before that, perhaps, something similarly caffeine-themed. It sits in a thoroughfare of Stokes Croft, the buy bus route of Cheltenham Road grinding past the windows and the clash of locals, students and those of no fixed abode converging on the pavements outside. New businesses crop up a lot here, fitting in amongst the street art and various pop ups, and like the murals on the walls opposite it can be hard to know how long they’ll stay. Yet the Crafty Egg seems comfortable in its new home, offering just the right balance of Montpelier-pleasing artisan coffee with a no-nonsense approach to food (an accolade surely confirmed by the preponderance of workies that can be found tucking in to breakfast rolls of a Saturday).

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Despite the occasional chaos of its surroundings, the Egg itself is a beacon of calm: soft music plays, diners are usually in quiet concentration immersed in laptops or the morning papers, and the waiters-cum-baristas move with a well-paced elan. Our orders took a reassuring amount of time to arrive, and were truly excellent when they did. Good sized portions of poached eggs, perfectly seasoned cheesy bubble and squeak and a selection of breakfast meats complimented with excellent flat whites were the right way to start the day; we were eyeing up the homemade cakes (holy jam-filled Viennese Whirl, Batman) for a pit-stop on our return home later that afternoon.

Safe to say we hope The Crafty Egg is here to stay – and with a bustling weekend atmosphere and the promise of more enticements to come, there’s a good chance it just might.

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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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