Tag Archives: brunch

Sisterhood Camp Self-Care Event, The Forge, Bristol

Having made a much considered leap into part time working, I had a week to fill between jobs. The time was mine alone to spend in the city I’d called home for over a decade – a first for me, and an exciting prospect.

To kick off a week of contemplation and relaxation, I’d booked myself into a conveniently timed event run by the Sisterhood Camp Community – an organisation run by a lifestyle blogger Lou Archell, positioned as a chance to reconnect personally and network with like-minded women, with a focus on self-care, meditation and communal dining.

I approached with some trepidation (“lifestyle blogger” summoning Gwyneth Paltrow and her eye-watering jade eggs) but Lou and Chinese herbalist Gemma offered a friendly welcome as women arrived. This being a networking event in the Instagram era, there was also a photographer and a carefully set stage at the very beautiful Forge: the simple kitchen at the back adorned with wooden bowls of bright vegetables and fresh bread on the counter; flowers in repurposed jugs; a rainbows’ array of exercise mats on the floor. The morning started with a yoga session quickly followed by a led meditation – both intensely relaxing to the point of falling asleep mid-reverie (I’ll never know how I found myself to be in that forest planting the acorn of a good idea…I just hope I didn’t snore.)

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The main event was the communal brunch cooked by the talented Steph Boote, with a focus on seasonal ingredients served in multiple courses. Given the holistically minded and health conscious crowd, I was heartened to see others hoe into great doorstops of sourdough and real butter before plates of wild garlic soup, poached eggs on a bed of leeks and romesco sauce and delicious panna cotta arrived. There were cafetieres of coffee and herbal teas to follow, allowing us to chat into the afternoon; an eclectic crowd, there were nurses and teachers sat with performance artists and entrepreneurs, full time mums, authors, engineers and government workers. It was this positive sense of mixed conviviality that lasted the longest – a lovely opportunity to speak to women about a variety of things.

It was, of course, a very middle class group – not a criticism in and of itself, but certainly not an experience accessible to all. And it’s definitely not cheap – while everything was well considered, and great quality, I’d hesitate to spend the money again. That said, for those better off or seeking a sybaritic treat, it’s a very nourishing way to spend a morning. Bring your Instagram handles and leave your cynicism at the door.

Price: £125 (9.30am-2.30pm). Early bird prices available. See website for details of next event.

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Sebby’s, Headingley, Leeds

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).

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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).

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Muiño, Cotham Hill, Bristol

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).

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No. 25A Old Market, Bristol

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).

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Hobbs House Bakery, Gloucester Road, Bristol

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.

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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.

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Tradewind Espresso, Whiteladies Road, Bristol

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.

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Price: from £3.50 (toast & jam) to £9.50 (The Full Easterly).

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G’s Brunch Boat, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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.

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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.

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Price: €39.50 per person

 

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