Tag Archives: new

Spoke & Stringer, Harbourside, Bristol

In a little corner of the ever-developing Harbourside there is a shop-cum-cafe that is the pantheon of all things trendy. The shop is artfully decorated with expensive jumpers, leather goods and a casually placed bicycles that are worth more than the rest of the gear combined. Their website is scattered with headlines like cryptic crossword clues: ‘Triumph Bonneville Bobber Unveiling Event’, ‘Wavelength 245’; messages clearly meant for those initiated only.

The cafe next door takes a similar approach, the subtle signage and roped-off outdoor area giving the impression of exclusivity that even stretched to a small queue of people waiting hopefully at the door. It being the first sunny Saturday of the spring, the tables inside and out were full, and creatively pierced staff did a fine job ferrying rounds of drinks to patient diners as the kitchen struggled to meet the demands of the well-scarfed hordes.

Finding ourselves perched on high stools in a much coveted sun trap we glanced through the menus and it was soon clear that the food matched the fashionable surrounds: avocado, samphire, harissa and chimichurri were all regulars, ingredients combined in interesting ways to complement the more standard offerings of poached eggs on toast, shakshuka or a full breakfast. It all sounded undeniably delicious, but, with half an eye on our bank accounts, it was a struggle to find anything for much less than a tenner.

Feeling a little like the poor cousins at the wedding we decided to go rogue, opting instead for food meant as sides or starters, hidden as they were under a section named ‘Custom Parts’. This caused a moment of confusion that led to the Egg Poacher’s fresh croissant arriving well before my sourdough toast, but the added touch of spiced plum jam and real butter rolled in salt flakes made for a delicious start to the day.

As tables emptied and quickly filled again around us, we were left to enjoy our coffees and the waterside view. It’s a fabulous spot for people watching, where boat folk, families and modish couples in matching sunglasses bring their variously pedigreed dogs to mingle. With summer fast approaching there’s no doubt Spoke & Stringer will continue to fill – if you save the pennies and make an early start, there won’t be many finer positions for a sunny brunch.

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Price: mains from £6.95 (banana panackes) – £9.50 (Full English). ‘Custom parts’ from £3.50 (toasted sourdough).

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Ceres, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Melbourne and Bristol have a lot in common – a competitive street art scene, randomly changing weather, narrow alleyways hiding well-loved eateries and a whole herd of hipsters around every corner. It even has a north/south divide, the rivers Avon and Yarra dividing the cities’ inhabitants into rivalries not seen since Coyote vs. Roadrunner.

It could be argued that where the cities most align is in their respect of the most sacred of weekend meals – brunch. When in Australia we spent a good proportion of our days moving from cafe to restaurant and bar being served by beautiful people in tiny bowler hats and tattoo sleeves, and in Melbourne the food is particularly great. There foods from across the world combine into great plates of breakfast fare – and they take their coffee very, very seriously.

So it’s perhaps surprising that Melbourne hasn’t come to Bristol sooner, as it has now in the guise of Ceres, a sparkling new start-up cafe in the fashionably ramshackle Stokes Croft. Across the road from the great vintage market and nestled between dub-themed cafes and Halal grocers, it’s minimal signage and stark white interiors give a sense of someone having just moved in. The homemade feel continues inside, with simple wooden tables and upholstered crates for chairs, a few key pieces of graffiti, a shining coffee machine, and not much else.

Once your eyes have adjusted to the white wall glare they can settle on a truly excellent breakfast menu – baked eggs, sweetcorn fritters and smashed avocado, smoked salmon bagels, bircher muesli, pancakes with salted caramel and banana… The flat whites – surely a requisite when dealing with Antipodean baristas – were as strong as you’d expect and, in a post-brunch delirium, the inch-high millionaire shortbreads were just too tempting to ignore.

Barman and chef both mingle with diners and have a cheery word for the local business people who drop by for take-away sandwiches and afternoon treats: they’re clearly doing all they can to join the community. And, with a passion for good cooking and a brunch menu this interesting, perhaps even those south of the river might beat a path to Ceres’ door.

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Price: from £2.50 (toast and Vegemite) to £8 (avocado, marinated feta and poached eggs on sourdough).

 

 

 

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The Crafty Egg, Stokes Croft, Bristol

It’s a common phenomenon on many city streets that one building – usually somewhere near the middle – seems to have a new business in it every other week. Whether through bad luck, bad neighbours or plain geography, the signage changes as regularly as the seasons, the next owners either gamely carrying on in the same vein as the previous, or making a bold new reach for something entirely different. At home one such shop front peddled wedding lingerie, computers and antique furs (though sadly never all at the same time); in Bristol it’s not uncommon for one cafe to form into another in the space of a weekend.

The Crafty Egg was once Hooper’s House, and before that, perhaps, something similarly caffeine-themed. It sits in a thoroughfare of Stokes Croft, the buy bus route of Cheltenham Road grinding past the windows and the clash of locals, students and those of no fixed abode converging on the pavements outside. New businesses crop up a lot here, fitting in amongst the street art and various pop ups, and like the murals on the walls opposite it can be hard to know how long they’ll stay. Yet the Crafty Egg seems comfortable in its new home, offering just the right balance of Montpelier-pleasing artisan coffee with a no-nonsense approach to food (an accolade surely confirmed by the preponderance of workies that can be found tucking in to breakfast rolls of a Saturday).

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Despite the occasional chaos of its surroundings, the Egg itself is a beacon of calm: soft music plays, diners are usually in quiet concentration immersed in laptops or the morning papers, and the waiters-cum-baristas move with a well-paced elan. Our orders took a reassuring amount of time to arrive, and were truly excellent when they did. Good sized portions of poached eggs, perfectly seasoned cheesy bubble and squeak and a selection of breakfast meats complimented with excellent flat whites were the right way to start the day; we were eyeing up the homemade cakes (holy jam-filled Viennese Whirl, Batman) for a pit-stop on our return home later that afternoon.

Safe to say we hope The Crafty Egg is here to stay – and with a bustling weekend atmosphere and the promise of more enticements to come, there’s a good chance it just might.

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