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).
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).
Gloucester Road is as famous in Bristol as the ss Great Britain, Brunel’s bridge and Massive Attack. A pantheon of the independent shop, it gamely fights on against the slow creep of the high street, branding coffee chains “Imposta” and playing host to the heady aftermath of the Tesco rights last summer. Faces change and venues move on, but when we’re lucky new ventures arrive with something exciting to offer. Such is the case for The Gallimaufry, another recent foray into the world of relaxed, fine dining and long weekend breakfasts.
The Gallimaufry lived up to it’s name (noun: A confused jumble or medley of things) by taking over from The Prom, a fairly dilapidated and uninspiring pub, filling it with hand-made curios, clown-based art, a mismatch of furniture and a shiny bar with European beers on tap. You can sit outside on pilfered pews – the charming staff will come to you and take your order from a short brunch menu. It’s all good value, with most meals under £6, though the hungriest amongst us might feel a little short changed when their eggs come on one slice, not two. We had a guest to impress, and luckily he was: his Eggs Benedict came with flaked ham hock and were expertly seasoned. (Declared sufficiently delicious enough to mark his recent doctorate, he was thus forever christened Dr Pepper for the purposes of this blog.) My bacon sandwich was, well, a bacon sandwich – so if you’re egg-averse like me you may find the menu lacking. However, the breads are freshly made and the coffee is decent, and the adventurous amongst us can delve into plates of devilled kidneys on toast or black pudding, broad bean and poached egg salad. Feeling flush, we also investigated this place for dinner a few days later and were equally pleased with the result – freshly baked mini loaves with cold salted butted were a nice touch. This should be a bustling place to breakfast soon; a welcome addition to the Gloucester Road contingent.
Price: From £4.50 (Eggs Benedict).
So very, very nice. Soft Charleston plays as waitresses soft-shoe around small tables, delivering stonkingly good coffee, fresh leaf teas and organic breakfasts at a leisurely pace.
Now one of Gloucester Road’s most established eateries (and far, far superior to the chain-that-shall-not-be-named next door), Tart’s clientele is a mix of ladies who brunch and Montpelier couples who have stopped on their way to buy organic quinoa and The Observer. Arrive between 11.30am and 12pm on a Saturday and you’ll fall between two meals, but it’s worth getting up early for: the sausages are divine and the bread delicious; it’s baby-friendly, locally sourced and they have proper vegetarian options that go beyond mushrooms on toast (even the carnivorous should try the fantastic potato rösti). Portions aren’t huge, but if you’re still hungry there are some fantastically structured cakes on display in the window, all freshly made and most filled with enough cream to coat a cat in.
Price: From £3.95 (house granola and yoghurt) to £6.90 (full English).