Le Provençal Cafe

23 03 2013

Another month. Another new cafe on Cotham Hill. Le Provençal is owned by the same couple who used to run La Boheme just up the road and retains some of its former features, including French signs on the walls and a spacious outside seating area, this time in the back garden rather than La Boheme’s pavement.

Le Provencal Cafe garden

Pastries, baguettes, paninis, quiches and soups are all made in the kitchen here, with the counter almost audibly groaning under all that weight.

Unusually for a cafe, there are bar stools at one side of the counter. A reclamation yard must have rubbed their hands in glee when the cafe’s owners arrived with their cheque book, with old church pews and lots of reclaimed wood dotted around.

“Oh wow, cute!” said one customer evidently walking in for the first time and looking around her.

Le Provencal Cafe inside

On one wall, there is even the door to an old metal safe, a clue to a former business perhaps in this building.

Will saturation point be reached soon on Cotham Hill? I would be surprised if this many cafes, bars and restaurants can be sustainable for too much longer, especially with Costa just around the corner.

Provençal is a delightful new cafe with a garden that may soon become a prime spot. One just has to wonder, however, whether Cotham Hill is the right place for it to open.

Le Provencal Cafe

Le Provençal Cafe, 10 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 6LF

Cotham Hill’s lost gloves

4 02 2013

It’s definitely hat, scarves and gloves weather in Bristol at the moment. And I don’t know about you, but I always seem to lose my gloves. Perhaps they end up on on Cotham Hill. According to some, there is a top secret government agency who put all the lost gloves in Bristol on these railings:

Cotham Hill gloves

Cotham Hill gloves


19 01 2013

Another month, another new food business on Cotham Hill. The latest to open on what is fast becoming a Bristol food mecca is Japanese restaurant Yume (pronounced “you may”). Located in what for many years was the Friary cafe, Yume will soon be opening at 9am for breakfasts, but until then they are offering a lunch and dinner menu to both eat in and take away…

To read more about Yume, visit the new Bristol Culture website.

Rubicon Too

2 12 2012

Rubicon is the latest business to try to make a success of a prime corner site on Cotham Hill which should fare better than its recent history would suggest. The second opening from the cafe with its original home on Chandos Road, it follows in the footsteps of Mud Dock, expanding into new premises almost within spitting distance of their original home.

Formally Mangia Mangia, and before that La Boheme, this site is blessed by one of the largest pavement areas in this part of town and is a sun trap in the summer, although at the moment many would prefer to be wrapped up nice and cosy indoors, and Rubicon Too offers a warm and homely welcome.

It actually feels like it has been here for years, rather than weeks, with warm orange painted walls and two antique chairs in the window that look more like thrones.

The feel when I visited after sunset earlier this week was one of wine bar rather than cafe. They are only open until 6.30pm, but this is a business that might flourish if granted an alcohol license.

For the time being, it is serving typical posh cafe fare, ciabattas, jacket potatoes and paninis, as well as three different varieties of hot chocolate and chocolate miniatures made in the Chandos Road cafe.

The relaxed vibes were helped with the iPod’s pleasingly eclectic choice of music from Take That to Outkast, in a cafe that should hopefully well outlast its predecessors.

Rubicon Too

Rubicon Too, 22 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 6LA.


North Street & Cotham Hill street parties

19 05 2012

It’s a busy weekend in Bristol this weekend for street parties, as North Street is closed to traffic for the first time today to host their very first street party, conveniently also coinciding with the tenth annual Southbank Bristol Arts Trail; and Cotham Hill hosts its second annual party tomorrow.

Today, North Street will be closed to traffic between the Tobacco Factory and the Hen and Chicken for a day of fun, family activities and a celebration of everything local.

“Come to relax, to enjoy the traffic-free street, stop for a drink and to listen to the live music or join in with a workshop, to find out what’s going on and what different local groups are up to, pick up a new hobby or interest, browse stalls and discover what local traders have to.

And this on top of the great range of shops already in North Street with their doors wide open. In short, we’re packing the road full with great things, so come along!”

Visit www.northstreetbs3.wordpress.com for more information.

Over on Cotham Hill, tomorrow sees the second annual Cotham Hill Street Party, between midday and 6pm. Indepenent traders and charity shops are organising the party, which will see six live bands, Colin the Fool and his friends entertaining the crowds, and lots of stalls; all compered by BBC Points West weather girl Jemma Cooper.

UPDATE: Click here for a photo gallery of the Cotham Hill Street Party 2012.


22 04 2012

At the beginning of this year, I predicted here that a Bristol supper club would become a permanent restaurant. That prediction has now come true with Bravas on Cotham Hill replacing the semi-regular supper club of the same name that has been hosted over the last year or so in the front room of Kieran and Imogen Waite’s harbourside flat.

I never went to one of their supper clubs, but one thing that presumably hasn’t changed from their flat is the proliferation of recipe books, from chefs as diverse as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to Ferran Adrià now spread across one wall alongside bottles of wine and industrial jars of chickpeas.

A restaurant calling itself Bravas must do their patatas bravas well, and Bravas’ bravas are superb. The crispy potatoes are thinly sliced  rather than the usual diced, and the accompanying sauce has a very satisfying zing to it.

I have visited Bravas twice during its first fortnight of opening, once with friends Kristan and Sharon on the buzzing opening night, where the only downer was literally my chair, which had a habit of sinking. A delicious Rioja was the perfect accompaniment to the bravas, juicy chorizo in cider (£4), and delightfully moist tortilla (£3) served with a dollop of alioli.

My second visit was on a quieter weekday evening after work, where I secured a spot at the bar and enjoyed a continental 330ml goblet of Barcelona lager Estrella Damm. I once again ordered the tortilla, and this time also a tapa from the counter on the bar (transported to Bristol from Spain in the back of Kieran and Imogen’s own car), lentils with goat’s cheese and walnuts (£2.75).

An unexpected pleasure during trip one was to see a waiter I have chatted to while he is busking on Pero’s Bridge, often playing songs by Manu Chao on his guitar. The unexpected pleasure on trip two was seeing another of Bristol’s premiere foodie couples walking through the door to scope out this latest eatery, Kristjan Bigland and Alexis John of Mi Casa fame.

Bravas, formally a Greek taverna, is deceptively small, with space for 20 seated at tables, some on chairs upholstered in hessian coffee sacks, and a further ten at the bar, sat underneath wine glasses dangling from what looks like it could have once been a metal coil radiator and opposite an exposed stone wall.

My predictions don’t often come true, so I am thrilled that Bravas now has a permanent home. Could it be a trend setter for Bristol? There is no better example of fulfilling your restaurant dream than this.

Bravas, 7 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol, BS6 6LD
Telephone: 0117 329 6887
Website: www.bravas.co.uk
Twitter: @BravasBristol 

Bristol streets: Cotham Hill

14 04 2012

In the first of an occasional series looking at Bristol streets and a photo gallery of 10 of the shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and curiosities along them, we take a wander up Cotham Hill. Along its length there are some sad sights, such as a few empty shops and The Friary cafe for sale, but also some delights, such as new Spanish restaurant Bravas which opened for business this week.

La Boheme **closed**

27 05 2010

I picked the wrong day to go to La Boheme. When the sun is shining, the scene outside is the nearest thing Bristol gets to continental pavement cafe culture. It is fortunate that the pavement on this corner of Cotham Hill and Hampton Place has such a large pavement area, and every inch of it is covered in tables and chairs on a sunny day.

When I visited on a cold and grey Saturday morning, the purple awning outside was not protecting sun averse customers from the rays, but protecting the more hardy customers from the drizzle.

For a small cafe, there is plenty of seating space inside the friendly and welcoming Boheme, which has a bare wooden floor and wicker chairs. There are a few paintings on the white walls, along with three mirrors, but they are not overcrowded. Things are crisp and clean inside, uncluttered but not basic.

This uncluttered feel is shared by the blackboard, which rather than having a myriad of flavoured syrups and macchiatos, simply has a small list of coffees and a small food menu of baguettes, paninis and jacket potatoes. Behind the counter there are also muffins, flapjacks, croissants and cakes.

A sunny day is the best time to visit Boheme, but certainly should not be the only excuse.

La Boheme, 22 Cotham Hill.


10 03 2010

Cotham Hill is one of north Bristol’s most interesting roads, with a great selection of quirky shops, a couple of trendy bars, cafés and restaurants. I was visiting Corks of Cotham towards the top end of the road to buy a few bottles of Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout to take to a house party when I noticed Chickpea, a café I hadn’t seen before. As soon as the beers were purchased, I made a beeline towards it and ended up staying for a couple of hours until it was time to spruce up for the night ahead.

I was initially received by one of the warmest greetings I have ever had in a café, the young chap behind the bar full of the joys of spring as we chatted about how just a little bit of sunshine puts a smile on people’s faces and a spring in their step. I certainly had a smile on my face by the end of our conversation.

Chickpea specialises in wraps. You choose your size, regular (£4) or large (£4.50), choose your base flavour, hummus or tzatziki, your primary filling (including peri peri chicken and roast Mediterranean vegetables), your extras and your sauces. The wrap of the day when I visited was chicken and chorizo melt with sweet chilli sauce.

All the wraps are made in front of you while you wait. It’s not large inside Chickpea, and I think that their ‘garden’ out the back must be one of the smallest in Bristol, but it is a very fun place with an uncluttered feel. Around me on my visit were students, a white van man and a young mother breastfeeding after ordering her wrap.

Other food on the menu were a number of Italian treats including arancini (£2.95), parmigiana (£4.75), lasagne (£4.95) and Sicilian meatballs (£4.75).

I, however, chose a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel (£3.75) followed by a lovely ginger and lemon cake, a perfect combination if I say so myself and greatly enjoyed in a new café that deserves to be a big success.

Price of a large latte: £1.95

Chickpea, Cotham Hill, Cotham. 0117 923 8230.

Bristol cafes. Cafes in Bristol. Cafes near Whiteladies Road.

Flinty Red

23 02 2010

Isn’t it amazing how some wine experts can not only pinpoint the vintage of the wine they are drinking, but sometimes even pinpoint the corner of the vineyard from whence have come the grapes that have gone into the wine they are drinking.

I cannot even tell the difference between a cabernet sauvignon and a pinot noir, although I think I can recognise a rioja and I can easily differentiate between Tropicana and supermarket own-brand fresh orange juice. My one rule with red wine has been passed down to me from Sideways: anything except merlot.

My wine tastes are very simple and it was a joy to be offered the choice of red or white at Cloak & Dinner last month. Just that, red or white, not a wine list as long as your arm. My choice of wine is usually the second least expensive on the list, so as not to spend a fortune and not look like a cheapskate. If I am eating red meat, I choose red. If I am eating white meat, I choose white.

Flinty Red on Cotham Hill is owned by the team behind independent wine merchants Corks of Cotham just up the street, so it is no surprise that their wine list is substantial. My dining partner Joanna and I decided to share a number of their dishes in starter size, so it was sadly not a simple choice of red with red meat and white with white meat as we were running a gamut of different foods. Our very knowledgeable waitress pointed us in the direction of the red Dos Roques (2007, £25). It was a perfect choice, delightfully complementing our pallet. Okay, okay. It tasted wonderful but whether it complemented anything I really couldn’t tell.

The dinner menu at Flinty Red – which takes its name from a short story by Roald Dahl, himself a wine connoisseur – is divided up into various sections: raw/pickled/salad, cured/smoked/preserved, fried/pan-fried, pasta/rice/dumplings, slow cooked/braised and grilled. This makes it easier for a simpleton like me to choose dishes, but I left the decisions to Joanna.

Our dishes were brought to our table as they came out of the kitchen. First, the tapenade and toast (£2.50). It then became a bit of a blur as more plates arrived and our table began to yawn under the weight of salchichon Iberico and nutmeg (£4), chestnut and pumpkin ravioli with Oloroso butter (£7.50), grilled quail and pomegranate (£7) and grilled onglet, swede and hispi cabbage (£12.50).

I certainly needed help with much of Flinty Red’s menu but once the dishes arrived, it didn’t matter what they were called because they were sensational. The tapernade (minced olives), were strong and gutsy. The salchichon Iberico (Spanish salami) was cut fine and flavoured beautifully with the nutmeg. And the onglet, which I found out is the internal muscle supporting a cow’s diaphragm, was served red raw, a surprise but a great one.

We made our bottle of Dos Roques last until the desserts, tonka bean crème brûlée (£4.50) for Joanna and forced rhubarb, meringue and Seville orange curd (£6) for me. Both were mighty fine, as could only be expected.

Regular tasting evenings are held in Flinty Red for rum, sherry, sake and whisky. And, of course, wine. You don’t have to be a wine buff to enjoy this delightful little eatery, but I think even I might become one if I visit often enough.

Flinty Red, 34 Cotham Hill. 0117 9238 755.