Nothing quite screams ‘bank holiday weekend’ than a leisurely Sunday roast, followed by a nap on a giant double bed in one of Somerset’s multitude pub with rooms. The Swan does all of these things will aplomb: the young staff deliver great plates of roast beef, fresh gnocchi and delicate crab washed down with local lagers or a multitude of wines by the glass, while upstairs the rooms are cool and inviting, with woolen throws and tartan armchairs adding a touch of texture to otherwise neutral Farrow & Ball tones. Ours had a small balcony overlooking the main strip of yellow stone buildings, the nearby church chiming on the hour to complete the Archer’s feel; better still, a claw-foot bath and a host of Bramley products meant an afternoon bubble bath in the sunshine (pint included for good effect).
And of course, one of the best bits about an overnight stay is the fact that breakfast comes with it. Like their dinner menu, the focus is on local fare – the bread comes from a bakery a short stroll from the door, and bacon is home-smoked; elsewhere suppliers are listed on the chalkboards around the bar. The menu is simple and traditional, and offers plenty for those less egg-averse than me (my bacon and mushrooms on toast looked somewhat lacking without the mound of scrambled egg). Nonetheless, with ingredients this good the flavours win the day, and, importantly, the coffee is just as well-sourced and made with equal care.
There’s plenty to love here, and lucky locals flock (expect a troupe of chinos and well-polished sprogs mussing their Sunday Best in the garden out the back). For those less close, it’s worth the journey – come armed with the papers and your PJs and you’ll be in for a weekend treat.
Price: from £3 (toast & jam) to £11 (The Swan Full English) B&B from £85.
The Runcible Spoon is tucked up one of Bristol’s infamous hills, though thankfully only a short hike from Stokes Croft’s centre and therefore unlikely to put off all but the most hardened of calf muscle. It’s been overseen by a handful of different owners, all committed to keeping things fresh, seasonal and as local as can be, and its latest incarnation tows the same provenance-conscious line.
On a chilly March morning, the tall windows steam, hiding the inside from view. Stepping across the threshold is like dropping in to your favourite aunty’s living room: eccentric nick-nacks, pot plants, creepers, antique cutlery and a wonderful old original fireplace set the informal tone, while 6 Music on the radio and the friendly, laid-back staff add a touch of cool. It really is a teeny space – the studious chefs can be seen through the hatch to the kitchen and the bar is within touching distance; long-legged stools and a benchtop by the door help them to squeeze sociable diners in.
With a focus on quality ingredients, the brunch menu is short but compelling: bacon sandwiches with onion marmalade, veggie and full English breakfasts, avocado flat breads with poached eggs. Facing my ovophobia head on, I opted for the baked eggs with chorizo, and wasn’t disappointed. This is brunch in its truest sense, with potions so generous you won’t even remember lunch exists: along with smoky choizo, creamy eggs and sweet peppers, there was a side of properly buttered sourdough, too. Coupled with some decent flat whites this was an excellent way to start a Saturday – and for those who don’t believe in early rising, it’s served until 3pm.
Price: from £2.50 (sourdough toast and cinnamon butter) to £8.95 (Big Breakfast).
I’m starting to wonder whether a trend for quaint tea rooms with gingham table cloths is about to spring up in cosmopolitan capitals the world over, an elemental reaction against the stripped back and industrial style once seen in New York lofts and now ubiquitous to coffee shops throughout the UK. Indeed, it’s rare to see any new café, restaurant or bar in Bristol without exposed light bulbs, graffiti’d art and unpainted concrete walls, and though The Urban Standard fits this mould very neatly it manages to maintain a warmth that’s sometimes lacking with so much sheet metal on show.
The newest venture from those behind The Urban Wood on Colston Street, The Standard opened its doors a couple of weeks ago and is already proving a popular spot on a Saturday night with real ales and guest beers, a healthy selection of whiskies and local delicacies to nibble throughout the evening. It also boasts a sturdy brunch menu with a good selection for all appetites, from simple toast and spreads to the full works, all with a focus on well-sourced ingredients.
It being a Monday morning we were the only ones there to sample what the kitchen had to offer. The dark interiors and electro tunes do leave you feeling that you’re eating your eggs and bacon in the middle of the night, but the food is good and the new staff cheery and helpful; our order took just long enough to arrive to let you know it was cooked with care. The full English is a meat eater’s dream and they politely acquiesced to my fiddly requests, replacing inferior eggs with the queen of all breakfast ingredients, grilled halloumi. When I go back I’ll break up the saltiness with some spinach and might forgo the black pudding, the only let down element (though this was much better served in the Egg Poacher’s black pudding hash with – you guessed it – poached eggs and tomato relish). Their coffee is good, though I might opt for an Americano rather than a slightly over milked latte next time; a selection of herbal infusions is there for those without such need for speed.
Though Gloucester Road is already a mecca for coffee shops and cafés, there’s no doubt The Urban Standard will do well here. A heady mix of hip interiors, good booze and good food will bring the hoardes in at the weekends – head there for brunch and you might find yourself there ‘til closing time.
Price: from £2.95 (toast & spreads) to £7.95 (full breakfast).
The Galley sits between a rock and a wet place – on one side you have Hotwells Road, home to sinister looking pubs and fast food joints; on the other, you have the river and it’s swans, boat folk and masochistic rowers on a mission to reach the end of the course before their extremities fall off.
Inside, double glazed windows shut out the road noise and seats at the back show a better view than Hotwells Fried Chicken. The walls are adorned with nautical nick-nacks, vintage signs and globe lanterns and a soulful soundtrack plays – though by the third round, Al Green had started to grate a little. It’s not a huge space, so choose a table away from the coffee machine – and caffeine seekers should be prepared to order more than one vintage tea cups’ worth if they want to wake up properly.
Brunch comes from a short menu, and traditionalists will be happy – the full English comes with beans and fried bread, decent bacon and herby sausage; those looking for something a little different might opt for duck eggs on sourdough with spinach, and there are veggie options and lighter bites (granola, crumpets and homemade jam) too.
The ingredients are local and good quality, but breakfast feels like an afterthought here: I’ve heard great things about relaxed, raucous dinners, their Sunday roasts look fabulous and the cream heavy cakes testify to a fine afternoon tea, but there was something a little lacking from the morning menu. A chilly interior, hard wooden pews and a slightly distracted service meant we didn’t stay for long – those looking for a place to linger over their brunch would be better served elsewhere.
Price: from £2.50 (crumpets) to £6.50 (full English). Cash only.