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Pinkmans, Park Street, Bristol

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).

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The Birdcage, Centre, Bristol

20130112-145126.jpgCorn Street is a student favourite, home to Australian drinking dens, coffee shop chains and sticky, leather-clad pubs announcing SPORT! in faux chalk handwriting. It also hosts some of Bristol’s most local of businesses under the canopy of St Nick’s market; and now, just a few steps away, The Birdcage.

The interior is pure Bristol: part boutique festival, part PG Wodehouse production and with bona fide vintage shop in one corner, the arts crowd flock in their oversized shirts, bobble hats and Chelsea boots to sip on pumpkin lattés while reclined in old Chesterfields. Velvet lampshades clustering around fairylights and the ubiquitous bicycle hanging from the ceiling add to the vintage theme, and the staff – some expert baristas, ex- fashion professionals or events organisers – look as if they were always meant to be here.

Happily what could have felt reserved only for those who are intimately familiar with a brothel creeper is actually very welcoming: on my visit one member of staff seemed genuinely delighted to see a young couple with newborn in tow and was quick to offer up the toys they have for such occasions, while drinkers and diners of all ages came in to have a nosy, scanning hopefully for a free sofa.

There’s not a huge amount in the way of brunch, but the coffee is delicious (their Americano on the bitter side of the spectrum, but with a healthy punch) and there are homemade cakes, muffins and sandwiches to fill the hungry hoards. The bar takes central stage and can be noisy, but a decent soundtrack of 60s music soon revives even the most irritable shopper. Pressés and smoothies add a touch of virtue while local beers and a short wine list will tempt you to the other side. Mix in their own ground coffee to take home, live music and some lovely pre-loved finds and you’ve got a perfect pit stop that you’re likely to return to again and again.

Price: from £1.90 (espresso); smoothies £2.75.



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