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).
There had been a brief hiatus to my stay in Bogota. It being the festive season I decided to come over all Chris Rea and drive (fly) home for Christmas as a surprise for my family, and in particular the new baby who was topping up the female to male ratio in our immediate set up quite nicely. It also meant abandoning the Egg Poacher for 2 weeks, who coped admirably despite enduring illness, a set of new front teeth and the impolitely timed construction work going on above our flat. Nevertheless, by the time I was getting ready to pick up my backpack again I was receiving photo updates showing him with all hair shorn from his head, wrapped in a blanket, in the dark. Probably time to make a move.
I’d spent a week in Bogota before I left, so setting down amongst the mountains and passing the many and various walls covered in street art on the bus felt like returning to familiar ground, helping me not to feel too spun around by the last fortnight of festivities, and the fact that less than 48 hours ago I had been sitting in my family home with a sleeping niece in my lap. Despite recognising the sights, there was much still to explore, and this time with my own personal guide who’d spent a lot of time walking the city (though admittedly mainly to and from the dentist, chock full of painkillers).
Our first stop would be Azimo’s, a cafe-deli-bakery accommodatingly just around the corner from our apartment in the Macarena neighbourhood. We already felt at home in this part of town as it bore an uncanny resemblance to Stokes Croft in Bristol where we’d lived for 5 years before jacking in all responsibilities: local breweries, cosy restaurants, the occasional bleary-eyed ocal with a few opinions to holler into the dark night. Azimo’s followed the same creative, gentrified pattern we’d seen elsewhere with a space full of sunshine from the enormous sky light, recycled lampshades, walls dotted with chalkboards and potted plants, a focus on local and organic, and a cool and well-heeled clientele.
The food is made on-site and much of it comes from their own bakery; light, crisp pastries and delicious bread, as well as cakes, juices and freshly ground coffee. The staff are laid back and seemed a bit unfamiliar with the menu, but they are happy for people to set up camp with the paper or their laptop, and the brunch, though not massive, was pretty good. At weekends the place fills with fashionable students and off-duty business folk who fill the golden banquette that lines one side of the room. This being fashionable Macarena, it’s not the cheapest breakfast in town, but it’s sure to be our new home from home for our remaining ten days in Bogota (and a blessed relief from the drilling upstairs).
At 10am on a Saturday morning, No. 12 is stacked floor to ceiling with children. They spill out onto, under and into the handful of tables available, cosying their way onto window seats and other people’s chairs. As you’d expect, there’s a sense of weekend chaos in the air: toast crusts and pastry crumbs fly, and over-caffienated parents read stories at a rate of knots. The staff assure us this is nothing new, and indeed they squeeze past tiny heads and adult legs like pros, delivering piping hot coffees and plates of fresh breakfast with a patient smile.
Having hovered long enough to bag a table, we set about devouring crisp, fresh pastries and well-made coffees before moving on to the main event. The menu is short and satisfying: there are bacon or sausage sandwiches and a pork pattie creation that stands 4 inches tall. Veggies (a popular breed in Easton) are served by scrambled eggs or waffles with fresh fruit, and trays of freshly made granola bars and cakes wend their way from the kitchen at the back. As well as café food (for which they won a Bristol Good Food Award) there’s a deli that provides artisan cheese, charcuterie and craft beers to the foodie masses; take-away coffees prove popular, too, with the barista ready to share a laugh while whipping up the perfect flat white.
By 11, the children have dispersed, their parents no doubt taking them on to their third breakfast or pre-lunch snack. Meanwhile, those unencumbered with heirs can order another coffee and settle back (perhaps letting a soupçon of smugness creep in). A popular spot, and rightly so – just pick your times carefully if you want to avoid the miniature hoards.
With minor pomp or ceremony, Bill’s landed on the Triangle a few weeks ago. They’re a familiar sight further south with their original café in Lewes providing the template for six more in London and beyond.
Clearly keen to hold on to the homemade quirk of their first venture, the place comes with cosy booths, mismatched chandeliers and a stripped back steel and wood interior. The young staff are friendly (and may be new to the catering game) and do a great job despite being tested by granola imprisoned in kilner jars, ‘rustic’ wooden boards instead of plates, tall latte glasses and giant pewter teapots placed precariously on tiny trays or miniature tables for two.
The food itself is fine, though served so quickly it left little doubt that it’s prepared in advance. My pancakes were just sweet enough, while the Egg Poacher’s fruit skewers and yoghurt did exactly what they said they would. Traditionalists will find bacon rolls and a full English on the menu, while caffeine fiends could definitely do worse. More unusually, you can order organic goods and store cupboard staples from your table – a move likely to be well received in market-keen Bristol. There are imported Italian antipasti in oversized tins, organic veg in wicker baskets as well as picnic hampers and Bill’s own brewed beer to take home.
Bill’s is perfectly pleasant – fans of Jamie’s Italian or Carluccio’s will no doubt find much to like here, too. This particular brunch hunter may head for more independent shores, but decent coffee and a reassuring menu will bring students and shoppers in their droves.
Price: from £2.50 (toast & jam) to £7.95 (Bill’s breakfast).