The last gasp of Gloucester Road that congregates around the Arches is often the popular hub for students and weekend drinking, when every inch of al fresco space is taken in summer and dark and cosy bars fill on rainy Autumnal nights. But travel north and things get more interesting still – amongst the greasy spoons, hardware shops and sports bars are a healthy smattering of new and interesting independent businesses: a pub in an old drapers, a Persian-Korean fusion restaurant and the best Thai in the city, a comic and beer emporium and FED 303, an excellent addition to the north Bristol cafe trail.
FED 303 certainly ticks the modern Bristol boxes – hanging plants, chalkboard menu and soothing electro pulling in parents with babies, business people on morning meetings and commuters taking a caffeine detour. But where some places seem to think it’s only about appearance, this cafe clearly believes in its own enterprise. The staff are friendly, taking time to chat and check their punters have all they need; babes and dogs get a cheery welcome, as do local celebrities who pop in for a quick debrief in the kitchen before heading on.
Most importantly, the food is fantastic – there are plenty of options all invested with intriguing flavours that make the ingredients sing. Perfectly poached eggs on French toast and roasted tomatoes proved popular with our Monday morning crew, while eggs atop rich harissa tomatoes, kale and sourdough were delicious and satisfying.
This being our pre-wedding breakfast, we decided to stay while our friends and their teeny milk guzzler moved on to a baby stand up show (this is Bristol, after all). A second coffee and freshly baked chocolate and hazelnut bun polished off an excellent morning’s dining. A truly excellent way to prepare for a week of wedding madness.
Price: from £2.95 (sourdough toast) to £8.50 (harissa spiced eggs).
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.