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.
The Runcible Spoon is tucked up one of Bristol’s infamous hills, though thankfully only a short hike from Stokes Croft’s centre and therefore unlikely to put off all but the most hardened of calf muscle. It’s been overseen by a handful of different owners, all committed to keeping things fresh, seasonal and as local as can be, and its latest incarnation tows the same provenance-conscious line.
On a chilly March morning, the tall windows steam, hiding the inside from view. Stepping across the threshold is like dropping in to your favourite aunty’s living room: eccentric nick-nacks, pot plants, creepers, antique cutlery and a wonderful old original fireplace set the informal tone, while 6 Music on the radio and the friendly, laid-back staff add a touch of cool. It really is a teeny space – the studious chefs can be seen through the hatch to the kitchen and the bar is within touching distance; long-legged stools and a benchtop by the door help them to squeeze sociable diners in.
With a focus on quality ingredients, the brunch menu is short but compelling: bacon sandwiches with onion marmalade, veggie and full English breakfasts, avocado flat breads with poached eggs. Facing my ovophobia head on, I opted for the baked eggs with chorizo, and wasn’t disappointed. This is brunch in its truest sense, with potions so generous you won’t even remember lunch exists: along with smoky choizo, creamy eggs and sweet peppers, there was a side of properly buttered sourdough, too. Coupled with some decent flat whites this was an excellent way to start a Saturday – and for those who don’t believe in early rising, it’s served until 3pm.
Price: from £2.50 (sourdough toast and cinnamon butter) to £8.95 (Big Breakfast).
At the turn of the year it’s always tempting to tell all those who proclaim it’s time for a “new you” to “naff off” – whatever’s right or wrong with you at 23.59 on the 31st December, you’re likely to be much the same at 00.01 on the 1st (if a little shoutier, backcombed and more glittery). So, with the aim of not making any new year’s resolutions whatsoever, it seems apt to write about the most un-organic, un-seasonal, downright unhealthy breakfast joint in town – The Princes Pantry – perfect for those with a hangover that lasts well into January.
In an unassuming hut on the corner of a busy T-junction, the Princes Pantry has been attracting its own loyal band of clientele for years, all in search of something fried between slices of white, square bread and cooked on a skillet that was last cleaned when news of the Millennium bug spoke of our almost certain demise.
Breakfast options have their own imaginative titles – “Cardiac Arrest”, “Gut Buster”, “Beast” – and are handed to you wrapped in white napkins or encased in polystyrene. Most of the early morning crowd opt for the traditional Breakfast Roll, with or without added sausage, bacon and/or fried egg and all the sauces you’d hope for (red. And brown.) Tea and coffee come from massive urns on the counter and if you’re feeling particularly fancy you can opt for a baguette instead, or even mayonnaise.
In recent times they’ve diversified for the lunchtime crowd and offer homemade soups, falafel, pizza or slices of avocado to nestle in your BLT. But, without a doubt it’s at its best providing cheap, breakfast favourites to the hungry masses. A greasy spoon and proud – as well it should be.
Price: from £2.10 (bacon roll).
Nicely ramshackle and comfortably worn in, Havana Coffee provides a welcome relief from the “boho-local-mimosa” joints so easy to come by in Clifton. Che Guevera and Diego Rivera look down upon the mismatched tables and worn tiled floor, with rumba music continuing the Cuban theme. There’s a sense of timelessness about the place: students in slogan’d T-shirts delving into fry ups and deep bowls of filter coffee, the owner and his cronies putting the world to rights in the corner, bathrooms that haven’t seen a paint brush for a decade or two.
The food itself has both a North American theme – thick milkshakes, pancakes of all denominations – and a more traditional bent; the full English comes with artery clogging hash browns, boiled, buttery mushrooms and square toast. Seeking some grease to soak up last nights’ excesses their excellent (and enormous) bacon butty hit the spot, while their coffee is as unforgiving as you might hope.
Compared to the organic options nearby (HFW’s River Cottage Canteen is just up the road), Havana isn’t sophisticated – but, happily, it isn’t trying to be. Instead, it serves no-nonsense breakfasts cooked to order from a small kitchen out back, with not a jot of pretension in sight.
Price: from £2.90 (beans on toast) to £7.50 (Big Breakfast).