Bristol’s independent cafe and food scene is renowned nationwide. On occasion, a stroll down Gloucester Road into Stokes Croft is called for, to check out new developments, old favourites and enjoying Bristol’s chilled out vibe on the way.
I lived in a shared flat on Gloucester Road when I was a student. It holds happy memories for me, as my friends and I would go out in search of fun and stimulants. Now, I’m sadly grown up but happily moved out to the countryside the stimulant I needed in the city was strong coffee.
My first port of call was Baker and Co. It looked busy, friendly and comfy and I was greeted briskly and showed to a table. I was just here for coffee but the menu looked good. I like testing the water before I commit to ordering food but I would choose anything on the San-Fran Spanish fusion brunchy menu. Love sourdough bread, and there seemed to be lots of homemade sourdough on the menu. People were enthusiastically tucking in to brunch on every table. The flat white I chose was, however a little on the weak side and failed to deliver the kick I needed.
No matter! I continued my journey, window shopping in Iota and Grape & Grind on the way. Gloucester Road has some great independent shops and makes a refreshing change from identikit high streets with their Starbuck and Costas which are the same wherever.
Eventually I found myself at Cafe Kino. I’ve heard lots about this vegan co-operative in Stokes Croft. It is open in the evening and has live music, as well as life drawing. Its high ceilings and pared back decor looked cool and the staff were friendly and attentive. I ordered an americano and a raw chocolate brownie. The barista offered me a wide selection of milks – hadn’t realised there were so many – and I settled down to enjoy the atmosphere. The raw chocolate brownie was very good – but the americano wasn’t. Unfortunately the americano was a little on the feeble side, and lacked punch. It was served in a big mug and I wondered whether the mug was just big and too much hot water had been added.
Never mind! I did a lot more mooching, some shopping in the centre then on the way back popped in to The Crafty Egg. A lovely little cafe with a selection of home-made looking cakes. The girl who served me was friendly and welcoming. The Crafty Egg was full of people chatting or working on their laptops. I chose another americano and a chocolate brownie (for the sake of comparison of course). Again, the coffee was lily-livered and I started to get slightly cross. What was wrong with these people?
As I drove back to the Mendips, awash with weak coffee, I reflected on my expedition. To misquote Oscar Wilde one poor coffee might be misfortune, two looks like carelessness and three – well – perhaps it was just me. I have three cafes near my home that serve reliably strong americanos so I headed back to the hills for a stiffener.
Cafes stand or fall by the quality of their coffee, and all of these cafes use good coffee. Has it put me off these independents? Not really, I would give them another go to try the food, which looked great. Did I yearn for a Costa? No. I would prefer weak coffee and some character, with local food and a buzz to a chain store with its reliable yet dull menu. Next time, however, I know to order two shots of espresso in my coffees on Gloucester Road.