Tag Archives: restaurant

Hare & Hounds, Bath

It’s fair to say life’s been busy of late. Following our return home from South America we quickly became whirlygigs of activity – reunions, weddings, hen dos, weddings, family holidays, weddings – followed by the inevitable return to the real world (and all of the CV-writing, interviewing and house hunting that goes with it).

While this has, for the main part, been great fun, it was with some anticipation that I looked towards this weekend. A weekend of nothing. No plans, no responsibilities, no need for alarms, or airports, or even to dress myself properly if I so chose. Having relied heavily on the Egg Poacher to make sure life at home continued in roughly the right direction while I got to grips with a new job and utterly new pace to life, it seemed only fair that he be treated to the same sensation, which meant one thing: a long and lazy brunch, made by an expert, brought to us by someone else, preferably in a fine setting with enough time to enjoy at least two coffees and the entire newspaper.

While Bristol has no shortages of breakfast options, we chose to venture out of the city to try somewhere new. A short search on the most middle class breakfast terms we could think of brought us to the Hare & Hounds, a country-style restaurant that sits on the top of one of Bath’s steepest hills. Despite my initial horror at the prospect of rising early, it proved the perfect plan – making it for just after nine, we had the pick of the tables by the huge windows that framed the stunning views down to the red-tiled villages down below. The restaurant was made up of wooden pews and slate floors, earthy Farrow & Ball walls and agricultural paintings that make bulls look like Victorian bodybuilders; all muscle, hair and inquisitively raised brow. Though refined it didn’t over-do the polish, and made a refreshing change from the stark steel and wood that’s so ubiquitously Bristol hipster (the only unfortunate nod to fashion being the list of prices shown as fractions, rather than real money).

The menu gets to the point, with the usual classics alongside the equally important coffee list. Though it doesn’t trumpet it’s sources like restaurants of a similar style, it was clear from the off that the ingredients were well-considered and excellent quality. This being an important brunch we didn’t mess about, both ordering the Full English which were freshly made in the open kitchen at the back and served by a friendly waitress who also made good lattes and didn’t blink an eye as I quietly sobbed in the corner with pure joy.

Two hours later we finally disentangled ourselves from Guardian supplements, coffee cups and cutlery, and wended our slow way back home, the prospect of a nap our only solid plan. But it’s fair to say we’ll be back and, with views like these and some really reasonable prices, we won’t have to wait for another special occasion to do so.

Price: from £2.25 (two slices of toast) to £8 (Full English).

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Coffee, the traveller’s treat: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica & Colombia

Having made it from one end of Central America to the other, we are, by now, fairly used to travelling by bus.  In Mexico we started slowly, opting for plush coaches to tackle day-long journeys. In Guatemala and Nicaragua we favoured the chicken bus, where more people than you can possibly imagine are pushed on, usually to the soundtrack of loud reggaeton and the competing yells of people selling food, drinks or disposable razors while miraculously squeezing between hot and grumpy human sardines. Costa Rica and Panama opt more for the wide-bottomed single decker, where most get a seat and fewer people share the aisle. Generally, the speed is somewhat reduced here too, though bus drivers in almost every country seem to take an indifferent approach to traffic lanes, other vehicles or slow-moving pedestrians.

Despite the occasional sharp intake of breath when a chicken bus plays chicken with another chicken bus, there’s lots to be said for this mode of transport: you’re in amongst the locals, and will often be engaged in conversation or a friendly staring contest with a tiny child; hilarity levels rise as the number of passengers reaches ridiculous proportions, and it is almost always unbelievably cheap. We’ve travelled hundreds of miles for tiny amounts, even with the occasional ‘tourist tax’ added on. It’s so cheap, in fact, that we can find ourselves spending far more on the coffee we reward ourselves with on arriving than the entire journey itself. (Bus station coffee is scalding hot, readily available and cheap, but, coffee snobs that we are, generally ear-marked for emergencies only.)

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Cafe Loco, Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Having hiked our way to Lago Atitlan and settled ourselves in hilly Santa Cruz, it would be a short and soggy boat ride to the villages dotted around the lake. Panajachel is best known for its thoroughfare of stalls, selling all manner of tourist tat and offering fried chicken every hundred metres. We didn’t hold much hope for breakfast, but, in coffee at least, we would be very pleasantly surprised. Hidden amongst the hammocks and ‘authentic’ Guatemalan outifts, Cafe Loco is easy to miss – but this would be a terrible shame. Framed barista awards from around the world nod to the skill within these walls; the giant, gleaming coffee machine and its industrial-sized water filter are the well-tended tools of the trade. The menu is a coffee lovers dream, with every combination conceivable. We opted for a simple latte – blended to perfection – and something more akin to a fine cognac than a cortado: a deep, dark shot of espresso, topped with an exact measurement of foam, served in a glass tumbler and pronounced the Egg Poacher’s Best Coffee, ever. The owners left Korea and learnt their skills in New York, Barcelona and London. Luckily for Guatemalans, they seem set to stay.

Serious beans need serious machines #coffeeporn

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Espressonista, Granada, Nicaragua

Having woken at dawn and taken three buses that screamed through countryside and crawled through busy towns, we arrived, hot and dusty, in Granada. Our hostel was close to the ubiquitous Parque Central, and we were soon following our noses in search of caffiene. Espressonista came up with the goods. Inside the high ceilings, potted plants and interior courtyard gave an airy, tropical feel, while calming electro, striking modern art and beautiful staff added a trace of hipster. As well as complicated salads and an expensive wine list, there were freshly whipped cakes and a host of European coffees on offer. Soon the early start and strains from a bumpy ride had dissolved. Despite the price – more than three times what we’d paid to travel for four hours, though still only amounting to about $12 – we didn’t begrude the expense, chalking this one up as a well-earned (and very well-made) treat.

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Como en mi Casa, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

We didn’t plan on being in Puerto Viejo for long, using it as an overnight stop before crossing the border into Panama. Having stayed – and quickly left – our first hostel (home to giant cockroaches and run by highly-strung travellers who forgot to leave) we looked forward to moving on; but not, of course, without breakfast first. Como en mi Casa fits with the town’s hippy theme nicely, run by friendly vegetarians with a penchant for tattoos and comfortable sandals. There are all manner of soya, raw and vegan options, as well as real milk for those less averse to all things bovine. The coffee here is strong and flavourful, and our cakes so well-intentioned (raw strawberry muffin and gluten- and dairy-free pancakes) we might have even lost weight eating them. Or there’s the hope.

All you need is love. And pancakes. #puertoviejo

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Museo de Antiquoia, Medellin, Colombia

We set down in Colombia late at night, so only had the sea of lights to guide our impression of the very sizeable Medellin. By morning the unique landscape was revealed – great swathes of high rises that cover the hills all around, with an equally built up and bustling centre. Despite the fact that everything is industrial-sized, the city is not without its charms: a shiny, new Metro whisks people across the city, allowing us to sample the noisy centre dotted with old churches and galleries, or the far lusher and calmer Botanical Gardens in the university district. On our first morning we opted to head straight into the city’s heart to take in the wonderfully rotund sculptures of Fernando Botero, a man with great fondness for boobs and bums (and not necessarily only on the ladies). There’s a gallery dedicated to him, too, and though the attached cafe might not have had the best coffee in the world, the setting – overlooking the square, aforementioned bums in view – is hard to beat.

Not sure which bit of the view I'm enjoying more. #botero #bottom

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Breakfasts from Mexico to Cuba, Belize and Guatemala…

A broken wrist followed by a phone lost down the great well that is a Guatemalan chicken bus makes for a poor attempt at blogging over the past few weeks. So as to save going back through a months’ worth of gluttony and poor personal hygiene in detail, here’s a round up of brunch spots from the Pacific coast of Mexico to the highlands of Guatemala.

San Cristobal, Zipolite, Mexico

Though only a short bus journey down the coast from Escondido, Zipolite felt like a different world altogether. Gone were the long-of-short and short-of-board surfers and Spandex clad Mexican tourists, replaced instead by ageing hippies, sleepy beach dwellers called Socrates and a handful (so to speak) of nudists.

Having checked in to the fabulously wonky Brisas Marinas hostel we ambled down the beach to San Cristobal, a restaurant providing shade and a book exchange for ever-pinking tourists. The menu was a mix of American and Mexican recipes, with hot cakes, fruit salad, huevos al gusto and mollettes all on offer. Fruit juices seemed to come from an entire watermelon shoved into a blender, and there was decent enough coffee (no mean feat here).

Duly sated, it was time to head back to our hammock for a strenuous day of lazing about – a routine we’d repeat for almost an entire week.

Carajillos, San Cristobal, Mexico

A couple of long overnight buses would transport us north, back to the mountains where the air was enticingly cool. San Cristobal is extremely pretty in a tourist-focussed way – one long vein of pedestrianised street runs through the middle, with all manner of ‘traditional’ artisinal crafts on offer.

There’s a pleasant hubbub around the town, with street sellers moving between tourists dressed in sensible shoes and newly-purchased ponchos. Though there are plenty of cool bars and coffee shops around, the poverty in the area is clear. Carajillos is part of this stark contrast, set apart from the main drag in it’s own private courtyard.

Inside the sun streams through the open roof, casting light on the tropical plants, orchids and parasols. The fashionably freelance come for excellent coffee, a modish lunch menu and free WiFi; elsewhere there are photo exhibitions and local paintings on sale.

They are somewhat snobbish about what they do – mottos rebuking sugar-takers can be found on their business cards – but the coffee is unarguably fantastic. Fully caffienated, we went back to join the stream of happy traffic outdoors, with a new resolution to spend our money on more local pursuits.

Carajillo, San Cristobal

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Adele’s Authentic Mexican, Cancun, Mexico

Ah, Cancun. Seasonal playground for the rich and adolescent, filled to the brim with slogan T-shirts (I’M IN CANCUN, BITCH), tequilla deals and poor decisions. Mercifully we’d chosen to stay away from Playa del Carmen and opted for a hostel in the town itself; still busy, loud and incredibly hot, but with a slightly more local feel.

It was here that we found Adele’s, an excellent coffee stop incongruously placed slap bang on a motorway roundabout. Across the road music blared from a garage; two women danced in the midday heat in their pants, brandishing over-sized spanners in an attempt to entice truckers to make that famously impulse purchase, a whole new set of tyres.

Adele’s is no bigger than a wardrobe, with a sparkling coffee machine squeezed in the back. Coffee is taken seriously here (the beans are imported from Chiapas for the best blend) but it’s Adele herself who makes the visit worthwhile. Wonderfully welcoming and a little batty (no real surprise with a constant supply of espresso), she was happy to point our wayward Spanish in the right direction: we shared stories of home, a few photos and contact details before wending our merry way, resisting the strange temptation to buy a complete set of Goodyear’s.

Cafe Bohemia, Havana, Cuba

A short hop across the water from Cancun and we found ourselves in Havana. Busy, loud and passionate, we took a while to settle in to the new pace, eventually relaxing into the constant soundtrack of ancient car horns, offers for taxis, cigars, souvenirs… and, of course, live salsa.

The Old Town is full of crumbling buildings and darkened doorways leading who knows where. What appeared to be an abandoned townhouse would turn out to be a grocers or sometime hairdressers; elsewhere shops would be open with nothing on their shelves. A warren of streets wind together to meet around one of the many plazas, and it was in the most famous one – Plaza Vieja – that we stumbled across Cafe Bohemia.

Huge canopies shelter diners from the light in the blue courtyard, with vines and potted plants creating a Mediterranean feel. The staff are young and fashionable, and they have a menu to match: Illy coffee, continental breakfasts, an entire cocktail menu dedicated to gin (we’d be back for that). The ingredients were good, if the portions a little small; coffee came as a shot of espresso with hot milk and water jugs to make it to your taste. It’s not the cheapest, and is clearly a spot targeted at the comparitively well-off tourist. But with live music flowing in with the breeze, it’s a very pleasant one at that.

Cafe Bohemia

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Carribean Colours Art Cafe, Caye Caulker, Belize

From Cuba we were back to Mexico, moving from Cancun down the coast to Tulum then Chetumal, known best as the departure point to Caye Caulker, an island in the Caribbean Sea off the Belize mainland.

Caye Caulker is reknowned for it’s clear, turquoise waters, excellent snorkelling on the second largest Barrier Reef and a laid-back attitude to just about everything. Still part of the Commonwealth, Belize is largely English speaking, meaning Brits and Americans flock here all year round.

There are a host of cafes, bars and restaurants on Middle Street (one of three main streets on the island, the others being Front, and Back – even this geographically challenged person struggled to get lost). The Art Cafe does what it can to benefit the community, only hiring single mothers from the island; the owner also donates reading glasses to those in need.

The menu here befits the water sports lifestyle – great plates of pancakes, stacked sausage and egg rolls, nourishing salads and a huge coffee menu. Somewhat understimating the portions, I had enough to keep me going for a week, perfect fuel for a day of encountering turtles, sharks, rays and manatees in Caye Caulkers crystal waters.

Slightly over ordered…

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Hostel El Portal, Semuc Champey, Guatemala

Having walked across the border from Belize to Guatemala, we found ourselves inadvertently employing two kids straight out of Central America’s casting for Oliver! to find us a local bus to Lanquin. From here we took a pick-up truck to Semuc Champey, clinging on for dear life while trying to balance a mysterious crate of eggs on the seat beside me. This would be the first of many adventures in Semuc.

Next we signed ourselves up for the tour, a ‘must see’ according to the internet… Within an hour we were in chest-height cold water, gripping a wax candle in one hand as we picked our way through a set of caves in the national park. Adding to the adventure were metal ladders bound together with wet rope that scaled sharp-edged rock with little in the way of head room above, ‘slides’ into pitch black water and, best of all, a hole no wider than 2 foot from which we were encouraged to plunge from an unknown height into water of a mystery depth.

Next we would get in rubber donughts and head down river, comparitively relaxed other than the hoardes of children desperately paddling towards you in the hope of selling cold beer; that, and the need for the Egg Poacher to come and rescue me as my doughnut caught a light slip stream that took me way off course.

The following day was promised to be more relaxed, so we set about our breakfast at a leisurely pace. The menu is short as the kitchen at El Portal is small, but there were perfectly fine plates of pancakes and fresh fruit and OK coffee, too. The view is spectacular, with mist-covered mountains providing the backdrop to the fast-flowimg river I’d become so familiar with the day before.

Heading back to the park we set off on a light hike – to be met with sheer drops of clay-covered rocks, suspicious looking stairways and nests of tree roots lining our way. Once at the top, the view was undeniably spectacular. The route down, however, slippier than the ascent.

Finally at the turquoise pools, a cooling dip was our promised reward. However, first there were algae-covered rocks to step manoeuvre, some exciting ‘challenges’ such as the solid rock slide into deep-ish water, and a cave visit where water reached our noses and there was no more than two inches of space above our heads. Finally free to explore at our own pace, we didn’t stay long – instead heading back for a much needed lie down.

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Goldbrick House, Park Street, Bristol

IMG_1240[1]Shoppers, students and street fundraisers fly past the tall windows of Goldbrick House, the harsh winds and driving rain turning umbrellas into makeshift sails. Inside, all is calm, with velvet armchairs, flock wallpaper and a soothing soundtrack all adding to the sense of being enveloped into a coffee-scented bosom.

Goldbrick is well known in Bristol, offering as it does a classier way to drink than the Scream pubs and pound-a-drink establishments elsewhere on Park Street. It’s a popular spot for weary shoppers and on weekends it can quickly fill with the Clifton set looking for a bottle of fizz to start the evening off. At breakfast time, however, it’s altogether more sedate, with staff soft-shoeing around tables to take orders and deliver coffees while you peruse the menu, the service more restaurant than café bar, and very pleasant to boot.

A good-sized menu offers familiar breakfast options – full English, Eggs Benedict, a round of toast – with some more unusual additions in the veggie options, with tomato and mozzarella bruschetta sitting alongside your more regular fried potatoes and beans. The flavours are good and are complimented by fresh juices and a host of teas, but their coffee isn’t the strongest, so you might opt for double shots if your weekend requires a kick start.

With a steady supply of hot drinks and the weekend papers you might find you’ve started to become part of the well-loved furniture, and the staff seem happy to let you stay. A breakfast you can linger over – just as it should be.

Price: from £2 (round of toast) to £8.95 (full English).

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EYE, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

IMG_5209A thick fog sat heavily on the water, surrounding the ferry and our fellow, silent passengers, all of whom seemed wrapped for stormy seas in woolen jumpers and oilskins.  Nary a word was spoken, and I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d stumbled into the Dutch version of The Killing, with something dark and hurty just around the next corner.

Mercifully, the short and free commuter journey merely deposited us onto the bank opposite,  and, once the haar had cleared, we could find our way to one of Amsterdam’s most striking modern architectural achievements, the EYE Film Institute.

Looking a bit like something Captain Kirk might have double parked while he nipped in for some milk, it’s a stunning home to all things film, with a dedicated film library and a rolling series of exhibitions. It’s worth the journey purely for the stunning design – inside Labyrinth-style corridors empty you out on to levels above (or below) the one you started on, the sleek wood-and-stone surrounds are lit up by the giant windows that look out to to the water.

Its restaurant is at its centre, with tables placed as if on one giant staircase so all can make the most of the view. The menu is both modern and traditional (perhaps a nod to the variety of films they show here); croquettes or herring with onion and gherkins or homemade cakes made by ‘Kuyt’ or ‘Lanksroon’ – the traditional apple cake was delicious, served with fresh mint tea and honey. For those with bigger appetites to sate, there were extravagant Breton white bean soups or smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, all ready to be matched by a large selection of wines or dark, Dutch beers.

As with many places in Amsterdam, the service was efficient but somewhat cool, though they seemed more used to faltering tourists here than elsewhere. The location, interiors and 180 degree views across the water make this a trip worth making – and the food’s not too bad, either.

Price: €3.25 (tosti)  – €7.50 (smoked salmon sandwich).

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Hapuku Lodge, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Though it’s not one for regular Saturday morning, this rates as one of the finest breakfast venues we’ve seen. Rumbling into the perfectly coiffed driveway in our beaten up hire car, we were a hotel’s worst nightmare – grubby, tent-laden and skint. Nevertheless, the staff at Hapuku Lodge welcomed us with an ingenious mix of informality and attention to our every want and need, while subtly offering us the use of their laundry service as soon as we’d found our room.

Kaikoura itself isn’t much to look at, with a strip of tourist shops, off licenses and shifty looking skateboarders hanging around the (one) street corner. Hapuku, however, is a wonder: there are six treehouse lodges that have been built to take in the incredible views, with balconies on either side for sunrise and sunset. From the rooms on the highest ‘bough’ you can see both the snow-topped mountains and the sea, though it would take keener eyes than mine to spot the sperm whales which make this such a popular spot to visit.

Amongst joys such as a stocked woodburner, coffee grinders for fresh coffee beans, self-heating jacuzzi baths, a DVD library and a fridge stocked with beer, there’s also some very fine food. Breakfast was as local as you can get, with eggs from their own hens, olive oil from their own groves and home-smoked bacon and salmon; the water even comes from their own well. Having been spoiled in their restaurant the night before, I opted for porridge that was perfectly cooked, the Egg Poacher’s eggs were declared ‘divine’ and the spread of fresh breads, pastries and tropical fruits were every hungry backpacker’s dream.

Price: B&B from $600 per night.

New Zealand 167

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Bordeaux Quay, Harbourside, Bristol


A fine sight on the Harbourside
Bristol’s Harbourside is a curious place – it’s where the cultural landmarks of the Watershed cinema and Arnolfini art gallery collide with the somewhat less salubrious nightclubs and bar chains that are a haven for Saturday night revelers and short-tempered bouncers. Mop up the evidence from the night before, however, and it can also be a very nice place for a spot of breakfast.

Business folk and food fans have been coming to Bordeaux Quay for years, renowned as it is for well-sourced ingredients and a rather good wine list. The restaurant upstairs brings the menu up a notch, and fine dining is very much the focus there; downstairs is more low-key, but the food is still pretty good. Braving the watery April sunlight we opted for the chairs outside, but wasn’t long until we were being offered fleece blankets to keep out the chill. It took a while longer for someone to come and take our order, but with the to-ing and fro-ing of the canal boat folk and the first of the early rising hen dos tottering past there was much to keep us entertained while we waited. To start the days’ eating we opted for coffees and pastries: though my latte had less of a kick than I’d hoped for, the espresso was perfectly made and the pastries crisp and piped full of thick, yellow custard. Not long after we delved into deliciously deep bowls of granola with yoghurt, poached apples and toasted nuts, grasping for a sense of worthiness while knowing, deep down, we were not.

The friendly staff were happy for us to linger as tables around us began to fill; in summer this place will pack out before you can say “pink glitter L plates”.  At weekends they also offer breakfast specials (pancakes with bacon, Eggs Benedict), and those looking for a traditional full English or bacon sarnie won’t be disappointed. As with most places with a view like this one it’s not cheap, and I do begrudge paying the best bit of a fiver for bacon in a roll, no matter whether the ‘bap’ is ciabatta and the garnish comes as standard. Despite this, it will make many people happy: there’s heaps of space and the kids can colour to their hearts’ content while their folks nurse a Bloody Mary, or two. 

Price: from £2 (toast & jam) to £9.50 (BQ Breakfast).

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