Last weekend it was wet. Cats-and-dogs, heaven’s opened, where’s Noah when you need him? wet. As we squelched through Queen’s Square, mulched leaves fusing to our feet as rain drops filled our pockets, a small black sign glowed in the distance, it’s white Swedish font making it look all the world like welcoming Bang & Olufsen store, but with promises of coffee.
And very nice coffee it is too. As well as the house there’s a guest blend that makes all the right provenance noises – single origin, natural process – and the baristas make each cup carefully, no matter what the well-heeled clientele request (soya-decaff lattes proved particularly popular. Shame really.) The interiors match the minimalist signage, with the ubiquitous exposed lightbulbs, brushed steel and plain wooden tables made softer by the low ceilings, quietly cool music and a well-formed list of menu options chalked up on the wall.
As well as simple options – toast from many breads, fresh pastries, granola – there are some bolder offerings like brioche French toast with chai spiced plums and maple syrup, or mushrooms with thyme wrapped goats cheese and a poached egg; the Egg Poacher’s eponymous breakfast choice came with smoked bacon, harissa and rocket in a roll that was artfully crammed into his face, lest the eggy goodness escape down his chin.
During the week this place fills with busy bankers, office workers and freelancers, dropping in for giant toasties or stocked salad boxes. At the weekend, the pace slows and shaggy-haired creatives, offensively well-off students and day-glo’d gym folks can take their time over brunch that’s served ’til 2pm. With another site recently opened in Clifton, there’s little doubt that Spicer & Cole are here to stay. Head for a corner table and settle in.
Price: From £2.25 (toast) to £6.95 (brioche French toast & chai spiced plums)
Katie and Kim’s represents all that is good with eating in Bristol. Simple, delicious fare from good sources is served on plain wooden plates to one big communal table – all are welcome to take a pew and you could find yourself sat next to any variety of beardy local, hip bike fiend or wandering tourist. Theirs is a small space next to the fruit and veg shop, with the eponymous chefs at the helm in a small kitchen at the back.
Katie is the baker, and from the oven come freshly made sourdoughs, milk rolls and seriously fine looking cinnamon buns. The menu on the blackboard is short and simple, with some surprising flavours adding something pretty special to some brunch familiars – bacon served in a roll comes with basil, aioli and tomato, while poached eggs nestle on a bed of chard and a rosemary and cheese scone. There is much to please egg lovers (baked eggs with ewes curd looked especially good) and everything was so delicious even this self-confessed ovophobe has been inspired to give those poached domes another go.
Though the space is neat, the service is great with happy staff nattering to diners, friends and owners in equal measure. The lovely Kim makes a decent coffee and the mismatched crockery and unfussy surroundings lend a sense of breakfast at a friend’s house – and it’s all the better for that.
Price: from £2 (toasted cinnamon bun) to £7 (smoked salmon, poached eggs and greens).
Having only just set up shop, Bakers & Co were opting for a soft launch of their new, San Francisco-inspired venture this weekend. The Gloucester Road contingent clearly had other ideas.
Thankfully we’d set the alarm for this one, breezing in by 9am to find only a few bleary-eyed parents perusing the freshly printed menus. By 10 there was a small queue forming at the bar and out the door, such has the buzz been about this latest addition from the folks behind the hugely popular Bravas on Cotham Hill.
The place is pure California, with sunshine-yellow awning, stripped wood and shining chrome contrasting Mexican ceramics in the kitchen, the central point to the neat space. Little picnic benches and a handful of stools along the bar accommodate a surprising number of covers, with just enough room in between to fit the regular traffic of buggies that will no doubt be seen here: offspring are catered for with their own portions and there’s an early morning small bites menu served from 8am to fuel those who have forgotten what the words ‘lie-in’ ever meant.
Making the most of our early start, we opted for salted chocolate and hazelnuts on sourdough and a pot of delicious blueberry yoghurt and pomegranate to go along with excellent coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juices. Chefs quietly prepped around us as we ate, great handfuls of coriander, avocados and limes being carried to and fro and a tower of freshly made maple buns appearing on the bar as if by magic. Later, the main menu proved even trickier to choose from with an eclectic selection ranging from huevos rancheros to the full Baker’s breakfast. The Egg Poacher went all out with pork belly, sweet potato bubble and squeak and (naturally) poached eggs, while I opted for the lighter but equally delicious goats cheese, honey and thyme on toast. The flavours pop and everything’s beautifully made, with a nod to their suppliers on the menu reinforcing the idea that everything has been carefully considered here.
Bakers & Co should get used to being this busy – with food this good, it’s destined to become a Gloucester Road favourite. Lucky, then, that they’re also blessed with a lovely staff to manage the hungry hoards (even the chefs got stuck in to clearing tables with a smile). My advice? Get there early. This is soon to become the hottest brunch ticket in town.
Price: from £3.50 (starters menu) to £9.95 (Baker’s breakfast).
I’m not really designed for London. I always forget the last bit to topping up my second hand Oyster card, have been stuck in the ticket barriers more than once and cause mass confusion whenever I offer someone space to go past me in the mad dash to get, well, anywhere. However, while I’ll probably never desist in commenting on the pure massiveness of the capital, I have come to learn that London, it bite-sized bits, can be very enticing. Victoria Park is one such city soupçon, recently home to one of my favourite couples who were keen to show me what their borough had to offer when it came to breakfast. Enter The Pavilion.
On a blustery Sunday we carried our heavy heads and delicate bellies to the eponymous park, already bustling with beautifully coiffed runners and smart children straight from the Boden catalogue. It’s clearly a local favourite, and with a glance to the chalkboards above the kitchen it’s easy to see why. As well as the regular attendees on the menu (Eggs Benedict, the full English) there’s egg curry with idiyappam (Indian noodles) and a host of interesting options for vegetarians; their milk comes from “happy cows” from one farm, their ingredients are organic and the bread is made on site.
It’s a popular choice for those with sprogs in tow, the small space indoors filling up fast with harried-looking parents being pelted with mashed banana. If you can bring (or borrow) a stiff upper lip you can join folks outside dressed in oversized coats supping flat whites as they contemplate the swans, gamely resisting the chill winds while dodging flying serviettes and plastic cups. You might even be joined by Crufts-worthy dogs snuffling for scraps while their owners dash inside for take-away coffees. Whatever the weather, the food is worth the visit: their bacon sandwich on grilled sourdough was the perfect balm to a banging head, matched nicely with expertly made coffee and freshly-pressed fruit juices downed in one dehydrated gulp.
Price: from £5 (granola & yoghurt) to £8 (Farmhouse breakfast).
With the right honourable Hugh Fairy Whipping-Boy’s passion for all things local, organic and seasonal, it seemed almost inevitable that River Cottage and Bristol would come together. And they have: a church-cum-post-office on Whiteladies Road has been transformed into a high-ceilinged, wood bedecked “canteen” serving the best of the south west’s ingredients, the shining open kitchen and young and enthusiastic staff welcoming in the wind-chapped masses from morning ‘til night.
It’s very much more restaurant than café (or indeed Cottage): polite and smiling waitresses bring water to the table and will hang up your jacket before offering to bring you beverages as you peruse the breakfast menu. Despite the famous name and benevolent HFW looking down from book covers above the bar, it’s surprisingly good value, with most meals sitting around the £5 mark. We opted for muesli topped with extremely creamy yoghurt, spiced figs and poached apple and a Proper Round of Toast (anything under 4 slices and the Egg Poacher will start to eye up the napkins as another source of sustenance). The locally-roasted coffee is excellent, and a peek at the breakfasts around me showed well-crisped bacon, perfect globes of poached egg and sausages that brought murmurs of appreciation from the diners around us.
You’d be advised to phone ahead and, if you can face it, get there early: a 9am start on a Saturday gave us the pick of the place, but by 11 the floor was full; a late brunch may be a quick one if you have to give up the table for an early lunch booking. Children are welcome and catered for with their own menu, quiet music plays and you can watch the resident baker do his thing at the wood-fired oven – no doubt this place will do very well indeed.
Price: from £1.50 (toast & jam) to £8.50 (Canteen 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).
It’s a chain, Jim, but not as we know it… the Boston Tea Party cafés are reassuringly familiar to many a Bristolian, with shops in Clifton, Stokes Croft and the centre of town. Their franchise spreads to the fringes of the south west too, but, thankfully, we won’t find them defacing any UNESCO sights with their signage any time soon.
The BTPs are all about good food and fine coffee that’s well sourced and reasonably priced. Their newest home on Cheltenham Road boasts an impressive patio area set back from the road that fills up as soon as the sun comes out, particularly popular with canine companions who might snuffle out bits of organic sausage or Applewood bacon dropped by careless omnivores. During the week tiny babies and tumbling toddlers take over and make the most of the buggy-friendly space (and the acoustics); it’s also a student favourite and does have the feel of an upmarket union at times. Nevertheless, the food is good: as much as possible is made on site and there’s a delicious sounding menu from breakfast through to afternoon tea. My Scotch pancakes and bacon hit the spot – not too sweet, and just the right size – and there’s a host of eggy concoctions that kept the Poacher very happy indeed. Veggies and vegans are well served here, and there are real ales and ciders should you find yourself in need of some help the day after the night before.
Price: From £2.25 (toasted bagel) to £6.75 (West Country breakfast).