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.
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.
Corn 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.
The Polish love their food – thankfully, so do the Scots so this was a friendship likely to go far. Once we’d extracted ourselves from our generous hosts long enough for them to stop feeding us full of fragrant stews, rye bread and homemade compotes, we discovered Poznan’s incredible Roman Catholic churches, its historic square and this gorgeous café near the old town.
The rules were stretched as we opted for cake rather than croissants, but as this was the first ‘meal’ of the day it just about counts. A mouthwatering menu of home-baked meringues, cheesecakes and gateaux lay before us, and at Zeilona Weranda they’re not sliced, but quartered. Opting for the nut cake and traditional ‘kruszan’ (a vanilla-chocolate delight covered with fruit syrup), we set about our task with gusto, nobly defeating layers of chocolate icing, hazelnuts, thick sponge and cream all the while overlooked by paper chickens lit with fairylights. Not quite satisfied with our sugar-enduced headaches, we finished it all off with strong, milky lattés laced with syrups from an extensive list. The Poles and the Scots share something else, too: terrible weather. Thankfully, we were invited to stay and wait out the storm, and in the company of such fine cakes and coffee that was just fine.
Price: from 14.00 pln (nut cake); coffees from 8.00 pln.