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.
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.
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.
Price: from £3.50 (toast & jam) to £9.50 (The Full Easterly).
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.
Zazus has been a Bristol regular for a few years now; for a time, they moved restlessly from area to area, not quite content in their pokier spaces in Stokes Croft or Clifton village. Finally they’ve settled in the northern quarter of Gloucester Road and it seems a perfect match: as couples move towards Horfield in search of a strip of grass and space for a toddler, ZaZus offers a family friendly space around the corner with just the right amount of street cred to keep their friends coming, too.
Toby stays at the helm, moving around the floor like a foodie, moody rock star, but with time to greet familiar faces. The rest of his staff are good looking and efficient, though less warm in the bustle of a busy Saturday service. And they are busy – it doesn’t take long for the wooden tables to be filled, and even in gloomier climes the outdoor area will fill. There’s a distressed, Scandinavian feel to the surroundings with wooden floors and cool tones, there’s modern art on the walls and an electro soundtrack playing in the background. As you’d expect from the crowd, there are crayons, high chairs and stickers books to keep small ones entertained – and noise. Lots and lots of noise.
The food, however, is dependably well-sourced, using quality ingredients from largely local sources. Egg fans are well served: the Egg Poacher’s chorizo and black pudding hash with poached eggs and hollandaise were declared “awesome”, while you can have them served every which way elsewhere on the menu. I was less impressed with the veggie breakfast – the bubble and squeak was slightly bitter, the spinach a little too well-cooked – but in fairness my own ovaphobia had it’s part to play here. Their coffee, however, is excellent.
Zazus’s has a loyal following and it’s serves it’s neighbourhood well. Perhaps in a few years’ time we’ll be back with our own bundle of joy in tow; for now, I’ll leave the colouring-in books for someone else to enjoy.
Price: from £3.50 (bacon bap) to £7.50 (chorizo and black pudding hash).
The Thali cafés have been blazing a sustainable trail in Bristol for years with their original restaurant in Easton soon being joined by sibling ventures in Montpelier, Clifton and Totterdown. Their newest inclusion serves lucky Southville – a place quickly becoming the place for hip young families seeking good living without skimping on the delis, bistros and pubs run by the tattoos-and-vintage-hair-dos crowd more readily available north of the river.
They’ve landed next to the Tobacco Factory in a huge, warehouse-like space, but the food and the service are just as good as in their more intimate venues. Breakfast is a recent addition, but shouldn’t be missed – you can opt for a traditional aloo paratha or a more familiar full English, though the latter brings an Indian flavour in gunpowder potatoes, coriander infused sausage and homemade tomato chutney; all meals come with hot, milky chai which transported me back to my days of traversing Kerala by train (all that’s missing is the wallah).
They’re generous with the portions and happy to add extras, so the Egg Poacher’s carnivorous breakfast came with the King of All Breakfast Additions – lightly toasted halloumi – as well as all the regulars you might hope for (excellent crusty toast, fried tomatoes and great, thick rashers of bacon). They are resolutely friendly, and all are welcome – children can (and will) run free and have their own portions while those looking to start the weekend properly can opt for a pint of Kingfisher, straight from the tap.
Price: from £1.50 (Chai & toast) to £7.25 (Thali festival fry up).