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.
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.
Price: from £2.50 (granola) to £9.50 (Big breakfast).
Once the site of the now well-established Zazu’s (relocated to the top of Gloucester Road) Poco had some fairly big, organic boots to fill. Happily, they’ve kept the local and seasonal focus – and, in my opinion, have gone one better than their predecessors with a menu packed with homemade ingredients and Mediterranean flavours.
It’s quietly funky inside with bold paintings and creepers reaching for the Velux windows; indie folk plays and relaxed staff natter by the open kitchen as tables start to fill. Poco is famed for it’s tapas served late into the night, and pigs’ legs and bunches of garlic hung amongst the pots and pans testify to the Spanish theme. Breakfast follows a similar route, with homemade chorizo, chilli and coriander all featuring. Their breads, cakes and salads are all made from scratch too; ask nicely, and they’ll give you some of their sourdough starter (named Cleo) to take home.
Despite a fairly nightmarish shift – flying orange juice, an unidentifiable leak, the fire alarm – we were served a very fine breakfast indeed. Their own harissa added a lovely kick to their scrambled eggs, matched by their spicy merguez sausages. The coffee is strong and they have their own fresh herb cordials: everything is flavourful and well matched. It’s a popular spot throughout the day, though like most Stokes Croft residents they don’t rise early at the weekend (breakfast starts at 10am). Some might find the service a little too relaxed, and there’s a slightly chaotic feel when they first open their doors. Come with time on your hands, though, and you can join the cool kids from the festival circuit and feel right at home.
Price: From £3.90 (organic bacon butty) to £6.95 (Moroccan scramble).
Despite a stubborn pursuit of all thing brunch related, it’s rare to sample the spoils of Bristol’s newest breakfast purveyor – rarer still to enjoy it surrounded by sparkling washing machines. @ The Well is joining a slow trend of cafés moonlighting as launderettes, throwing together freshly brewed coffee, fast internet and clean pants in one easy package. Eating here is like stepping back into the 50s via Latitude festival: bunting abounds, and the place is peppered with black and white photos, vintage tea cups and fresh baking on cake stands to a soothing soundtrack of folk and reggae-heavy tunes. All the soaps, powders and pegs you could need are behind the bar, as is a short chalked up menu for breakfast: American pancakes with blueberries, bacon sandwiches, filter coffee and homemade lemonade were on offer when we were there, all simply made and delicious, and fantastic value. It’ll be hard not to find something you’ll love – children will be looked after with mini portions and little armchairs, there are chairs outside and it’s a fine suntrap in the morning. It’s a well-known Stokes Croft spot – next door was the squat at the centre of the riots last summer– so you might be treated to the occasional souped-up car rev or competing music from the flats above. However, you can be sure there will be a host of characters to meet and greet here, including the staff, who are lovely.
Price: from £2.75 (bacon sandwich).