Tag Archives: take-away

Hobbs House Bakery, Gloucester Road, Bristol

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.

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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.

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Milk Teeth, Portland Square & Albatross Cafe, North Street

Though we’d purposefully made few plans this summer, it turned out to be just as busy as ever. With long weekends and trips to the seaside, the requisite hen dos, weddings, festivals and after parties, family to visit and friends to host, this year we fall into Autumn with a pleasantly knackered face plant.

So it’s in this sleepy frame of mind that we seek quiet shelters from the hubbub; places to linger and ponder life outside the windows. As luck would have it, two recent additions to our cafe rotation offer just that: the rather lovely Milk Teeth on Portland Square, and a rival in restfulness, Albatross Cafe on North Street.

Milk Teeth is a cafe-cum-store which prides itself in being part of the BS2 community. Great big windows let light stream in over well-worn wood and a hotch-potch of furniture; there are posies in recycled bottles and an old piano in the corner waiting for a tickle. The central bar boasts a beast of a coffee machine and a selection of cakes and biscuits, while elsewhere there are pickles, jams and juices to stock up on.

On each visit the baristas (spectacularly bearded or ‘fro’d) are unfailingly kind and relaxed. A smooth and funky soundtrack flows at just the right level, making you wish other cafes nearby would take note and stop trying to turn their early morning shift into a tribute to their former rave days. The coffee is delicious, and that’s really all there is to it: simple, satisfying, and really rather nice indeed.

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Albatross Cafe is a recent addition to the increasingly hip North Street, now peppered with independent studios, a plethora of coffee shops and all the vintage homewares one could need. Taking a sidestep from the usual stark black-white-and-exposed-lighting interiors, it instead opts for a 70s San Francisco feel, with cacti, Formica tables and wicker chairs all brought together with a pleasing spearmint and pink colour scheme.

A simple food menu offers sourdough toast with spreads or avocado, pomegranate and feta; buttermilk pancakes or toasties and some delicious vegan baking with the best no-butter icing around. Coffees and cakes are served on beautiful handmade pottery (also on sale) and there’s a grown-up menu of cocktails and bar snacks for those who linger long enough for a sundowner.

Ever the sign of a properly relaxed establishment, the friendly owners could be found enjoying their own spot in the afternoon rays when their customer were attended to. Though they’re very new to Bedminster (no sign of a website, yet) there’s no doubt they’ll fit in just fine here.

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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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Door & Rivet, Stokes Croft, Bristol

Lodging in Clifton – where the Brunel bridge is a short stroll and the morning alarm comes from the peal of church bells and the occasional hot air balloon passing overhead – is no real hardship. At the weekend the streets are taken over by alfresco cafes and organic grocers and the pavements throng with freshly pressed Hilfiger shirts, boat shoes (no socks) and a menagerie of coiffed poodles, bichons and French bulldogs. The delis do a roaring trade; there’s even a man in a beret and a Breton top who sells garlic from the basket on his bicycle.

Yet it was walking through Stokes Croft where I truly felt back at home. Here the dogs are multitudinous and mongrel and the streets heave with deep bass and dreadlocks in various stages of construction. But while the setting couldn’t be more different, the creep of the ‘DIY Dalston’ mould is equally plain to see, with yet more black-walled, drop-lit, pallet-heavy bars and cafes filling shop fronts and abandoned spaces. Thankfully there are those that resist scrawling sans serif font across their plant-filled windows or hanging a fixed-gear bike on the wall to justify their prices.

One such place is Door & Rivet, hidden in the crypt of the old Baptist Church on Upper York Street. It’s corrugated frontage makes an understated welcome, but the promise of good coffee and Saturday brunch were all it took to lure me in. Inside it’s darkly inviting, with a collection of mismatched tables and chairs at the back and an open kitchen, giant coffee machine and well-used record player up front. The 70s soundtrack proved a little fierce first thing, but the narrow alleyway outside boasted plenty of space to dine, so long as we didn’t mind mingling with the pigeons.

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We lingered over coffees as we waited for our food – here everything is freshly made and demands a little more time. Having opted for the small breakfasts (one veggie, one meat) we were greeted with a great pile of good food – well-seasoned bubble and squeak, homemade baked beans and excellent eggs, alongside delicious sausages or grilled halloumi and a proper portion of sourdough toast. It was all so excellent we decided to stay, ordering more home-roasted coffee to enjoy in the unseasonable September sun, the friendly staff taking the time to chat and explain why decaff coffee is the work of the devil and therefore banished from this, the holiest of breakfast places.

Brunch lovers, rejoice.

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Price: from £2.50 (granola) to £9.50 (Big breakfast).

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Tobacco Factory Market, Raleigh Road, Bristol

On a grey and windy Sunday that surely heralds the start of Autumn (apologies to those who blinked during summer – you missed it) the Tobacco Factory market still shines, cheerily decked in candy-striped awnings and bright white tablecloths, summer tunes blasting in an attempt to drive the clouds away. There’s an eclectic mix of things on offer here: tiny clay dolls huddle together on one stall, retro jumpsuits and faded slogan T-shits hang from another. There are bottled potions to spice up your morning tea, handmade furniture and homemade curry kits, local art and enough LPs to make Fat Boy Slim feel positively malnourished.

While there’s plenty to peruse and many a trinket to buy, one of the main draws is the food court that sits near the back. Having packed our Macs and set off with our usual food-based enthusiasm, we’d actually arrived before the majority of the stalls were open. Luckily (and in what is surely a clever marketing ploy) the Rolling Italy coffee stall was set up early and doing a steady trade.

As we drank our first, very excellent coffees the market slowly began to fill with a cross-section of Bristol’s (mostly) middle class. Cyclists in full gear swinging by to pick up fresh bread packed carefully in to panniers, grey-haired couples being led by dogs that ranged from bear to floor mop and arty students with canvas bags and turned up trouser cuffs all mingled, carefully stepping between the market’s most obvious clientele: young families. The market, is seems, offers a kind of Mecca to those with tiny people in tow; there’s enough confined space for toddlers to roam while dishevelled dads and morning-eyed mums make haste towards sustenance and the ever-necessary caffeine. As the day progressed the child population increased, many adding tricycles, scooters and the occasional well-staged meltdown in to the mix of legs and leashes.

Turning our attention back to our own bellies we decided it was time for round two and were drawn to the chalkboards of The Muffin Man & Co. I opted for the breakfast classic: fried egg, sausage and bacon jam between a lightly toasted English muffin, while the Egg Poacher upped the ante with the addition of melted cheese and a chunk of pork belly. After a minutes’ pause while we figured out how best to tackle the stacks before us, we were soon tucking in and following the golden rule of breakfast – don’t think about the mess, and clean up once at the end.


Round two duly demolished, we considered removing ourselves from temptation. It didn’t last – Rolling Italy called once again, this time with the addition of a sugar coated ricciarell, a Tuscan macaroon filled with almond and orange, and surely too light to be truly bad. Finally setting off for home we braved the knee-high hoards and emerged into the open – highly caffeinated, full of food, and very happy indeed.

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The Lighthouse Coffee Shop, La Serena, Chile

There are certain moments in life that signify proper adulthood. Home ownership, marriage or co-creating a tiny, angry version of yourself are some of the most ubiquitous (certainly where social media is concerned) but having spurned a career and our flat in favour of a year of travel, none of these are particularly within reach. But no matter. For me, there’s a much more significant indicator that I’ve become a proper grown-up: I’ve started to eat eggs.

This may seem insignificant to many, and it probably won’t make front page news. I doubt world leaders have gathered to discuss the economic impact of an extra half dozen eggs being bought every fortnight; the housing market and world population (other than for a handful of would-be chickens) will remain unaffected. Nonetheless, this is a large gastronomic step for me – for three decades I have spurned the oddly globular foodstuff that is such a staple for many. In part this was through necessity, as breakfasts throughout Central and South America will often be egg-heavy and it’s an undeniably cheap way to guarantee some sustenance at some point in the day.

However, things have gotten so out of hand that I now actively seek them out on menus. Where once I’d have to sigh and order another round of toast (an odd thing to do when you almost always have bread – and a toaster – at home) the world’s of Florentine, Benedict and Sakshuka are now open to me, though boiled eggs can stay safely in their shells surrounded by the crumby remains of their fallen soldiers, thanks all the same. It must also be said that my own cooked eggs would make Gordon Ramsay weep into his chin gristle, usually fried out of all recognition as a wobbly white is still a step too far, though I’m coming round to a soft-poached as long as there’s plenty else to mop up the golden goo.

Luckily there are lots of cafes offering to cook eggs pretty much any way you please. One of the finest examples we’ve found was The Lighthouse Coffee Shop in La Serena, a Chilean beach town that’s unfailingly popular despite (or perhaps due) to the giant malls, central screaming motorway and uninspiring beach. A quick internet search will proclaim The Lighthouse ‘best for breakfast’, and though the pitchfork-wielding hoardes of TripAdvisor are so often wrong, in this case they are undeniably wise.

The cafe and tea shop are secreted down a side street, away from the pedestrianised shopping centre and therefore far more tranquil. A small space indoors spreads out to a wood-heavy courtyard decorated with bright bird boxes and battered metal signs, upside-down umbrellas and hanging plants, and as the menus are delivered one thing is clear – they take their coffee very, very seriously. Coffee weight, temperature and milk proportions are listed to the decimal point, presumably meaningful to the better informed; either way, the coffee’s delicious. More exciting was the promise of brunch served until 4pm, and with a days’ worth of bus travel only just behind us, we set about it with gusto. Soon great plates of poached eggs, spinach, homemade bread and some unusually decent bacon and sausages were before us. They didn’t last long. After another coffee we left with an over-caffeinated wave and a promise of “hasta mañana” – little did they know we’d be back every day until we left town.

Best #brunch @lighthousecoffeeshop, La Serena.

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