Bristol was full of unexpected delights. And I’m sure if I’d had even half a day more to look around, I’d have unearthed even more…
I’d never been to Clifton before – what a beautiful part of the city!
And it’s even better if you can enter by crossing the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge (one of those 19th century masterpieces by Isambard Kingdom Brunel – you need 50p in silver to pay the toll, but they have a very civilised layby just before the bridge with a bloke in a change booth: wonderful!)
But I needed to be in Clifton, partly because that’s where the Catholic Cathedral is; and partly for that tea room…
The Cathedral first. Wow, a bit of a 1970s concrete block, more reminiscent of the Plymouth shopping centre than a place of worship. And rather unusual to have a Catholic cathedral in the wealthier bit of town (they are usually slap bang in the middle of the local council estate…).
But actually, the longer I spent inside it, the more I warmed to the place: very distinctive Stations of the Cross; interesting thought behind the seating arrangements; and rather spectacular windows in coloured glass (all 1970s of course, but it’s not ALL bad!).
More fitting with Clifton’s bohemian/well-to-do demographic was the Lahloo Pantry, where I had one of the best tea experiences I can remember.
I do like it when I find top quality modern tea rooms (I love the olde worlde too, but tea can be contemporary, and Lahloo shows us how).
A brilliant menu of teas – greens, white, rooibos, herbals – but I always like to go for their most basic brew. And, wow, Grandpa’s Brew made a great cuppa.
This is a Kenyan tea, grown by the guy they reckon must be the oldest tea planter in the world at 113. They bring it to you already steeped (ie no leaves in the pot), which I often find a bit risky if their view of temperature and strength doesn’t fit with mine, but in this case it was spot on. A good, hot and strong brew.
And the food was out-of-this-world. I normally only review cake, but hey a guy has to have lunch too, sometimes, And their quiche and salad was so good, I even wanted more sprouts (how did they do that? – I don’t even like sprouts…).
Down in the centre of the city, the Anglican Cathedral is a wonderful place. Free to get in (take note, Exeter!), it has lots of stories to tell, from the Home Guard (that’s Dad’s Army to you and me) to the local journalist, who was apparently a ‘beautiful character’.
And it’s only a few minutes’ walk further towards Temple Meads Station to find our main choice for coffee in Bristol.
George set up Baristas in Victoria Street back in 1999, when hardly anybody knew what an independent coffee shop was. He says it began as a bit of fun and then just took off.
A great cup of coffee and a Naughty Bar (though the chocolate flapjacks looked far naughtier than my multi-berry chewy bar…). No wonder they’re queuing up here in the mornings before the office day begins.
And it’s housed in a wonderful old shop building from the 15th century. Couldn’t be better for the Fancy a Cuppa? template.
The only problem with Bristol was that I was in town a week too early.
Yes, by the time this blog is published, Small Street Espresso will be open in…Small Street.
It’s an even shorter walk from the Cathedral than Baristas, but when I dropped by in the first week of December, they were still installing the fixtures ahead of the December 10th opening.
It’s a definite for next time I’m in Bristol, especially as everyone was raving about the coffee from the reviews I’ve seen from its opening few days.
So Bristol was brilliant: one of the best contemporary tea rooms I’ve ever been in; one of the first wave of independent coffee shops; and a new espresso bar about to open.
And I’m sure we haven’t seen half of it…Any other recommendations, anyone?