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.



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 

The Burger Joint

9 03 2011

The Burger Joint on Cotham Hill used to be oh so simple. Choose a burger, choose toppings, choose sides. Wait for burger. Eat burger. Pay. Leave. You can still do that, but this is a business with an expanding plan. There is now breakfast, brunch, and – wait for it – choices of salad.

Credit where credit is due to the people behind the Burger Joint, because they can now also offer outside catering to more than 300 people, quite a jump from the restaurant which can sometimes be a bit of a squeeze.

The business may be expanding, but burgers will always remain the key component of the Burger Joint: six-ounce prime beef, Welsh lamb & mint, venison, grilled chicken, peri chicken and three veggie options.

All of these are freshly prepared on the premises (situated next to Flinty Red, a very different type of restaurant) and chosen by the novel system of ticking your selections on a small piece of paper that has always reminded me of a golf scoring card.

It’s possible to have a huge cheeseburger, chips and beer here for just over ten pounds, a few pounds less than Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Park Street which is the Burger Joint’s only real rival in Bristol.

This is a Bristol business founded by Bristol University graduate Dan Bekhradnia in August 2009, anticipating the trend for design-your-own menu eateries that are now popping up all over the place such as The Real Wrap Company and Mission Burrito.

There will always be demand for great burgers and the Burger Joint serves the best burgers in Bristol. Choose, wait, eat. It’s thankfully still that simple.

The Burger Joint, 32 Cotham Hill, Cotham Hill, Bristol. 0117 329 0887.


The Family Practice, Cotham

21 01 2011

When I moved to Bristol, there was only one criteria from which I was going to choose my new doctors surgery: architectural significance. So there was only ever one surgery that could fit the bill, the Family Practice at the top of Cotham Hill, formally Western College.

I had to visit for an appointment this morning and realised that I knew next to nothing of the history of this gorgeous arts and crafts building.

So here is a brief résumé  from the Family Practice website: “In 1993 we took the opportunity to move the practice to our current building, the magnificent Western College. The College was designed by the Bristol architect, Henry Dare Bryan, in the Arts and Crafts style and is a Grade II* listed building. It was opened in 1906 as a Theological Training College for the Congregational Church. From 1968-1990 it served as the offices of the Southern Universities Joint Examination Board.”

Mangia Mangia **closed**

19 01 2011

When La Boheme on Cotham Hill closed last July, the aim was to have it reopened within a few weeks with a fresh new look. That plan didn’t quite come together. Builders were sacked, numerous other problems were encountered and it has taken until today for the doors to this corner cafe to once again open, with a new sign above the door – Mangia Mangia.

As the name suggests, this new incarnation is more Italian in feel to what was here before, although the owners remain the same. The biggest difference is the addition of pizza ovens and pizzas for sale by the slice (£1.95) or calzone (£3.50). There is not a takeaway option as yet, but expect it to appear soon.

The pizza ovens are at the far end of the room where the counter used to be, with the new counter now in a more prominent position by the front door, its tempting selections in prominent view to passers-by. The fresh bread, croissants and brownies are all baked on site. The croissant I ate this morning, on a visit with my friend Kristan who lives so near to the cafe he could shout his order to them from his living room window, was one of the best I have eaten for a long time.

On the drinks side, Mangia Mangia makes a mean flat white alongside more traditional teas and coffees. There are also smoothies, iced coffees and milk shakes.

With the counter in its new position, the room no longer feels so big. The wicker chairs remain the same, however, as does one of this cafe’s best features, the outdoor seating space on the large bit of pavement on the corner of Cotham Hill and Hampton Park.

With The Hill just over the road getting a lick of paint and continuing to offer pizzas, Mangia Mangia will have a job on its hands to compete, but it remains a delightfully friendly cafe in a winning location.

Mangia Mangia, 22 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol. 0117 946 567.

The Friary Cafe

7 01 2011

Fans of Beryl Cook will feel very at home at The Friary Cafe on Cotham Hill. Prints featuring Cook’s famous big-boned figures are spread across the walls of the cafe, alongside notices advertising everything from Chris the Gardener to a roller disco at Motion.

The Friary has stayed true to its roots as everything around it on Cotham Hill has changed beyond all recognition. Steve Taylor has run the Friary for the last 32 years. When it opened, it was the only cafe on the road and “one of only three this side of the city”, Steve told the Evening Post last year.

There is nowhere else in Bristol with such a proliferation of cafes and assorted eateries (the latest, Mangia Mangia, is due to open on Monday in what used to be Cafe Boheme). But the Friary was here long before the others, and remains the only one where you can get a tea or coffee for less than one pound.

When I visited on a wet Wednesday morning, the Friary was full of regulars tucking into a cooked breakfast – a popular hangover cure. Also on the menu are sandwiches and soups, and more substantial lunches such as bolognese and curries.

The Friary always seems to be busy and over the years has built up a loyal clientele as well as pulling in a lot of passing trade. Above the tables there is a large fan, while high up on the walls, pot plants make their bid for freedom.

You might turn into one of Cook’s big-boned characters if you eat here too often, but the Friary Cafe – the original Cotham Hill cafe – has more than stood the test of time and will be here to stay for many years yet as its neighbours continue to come and go.

The Friary Cafe, 9 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol. 0117 973 3664.

Westbury, Clifton, Redland, Cotham crawl

12 12 2010

The latest pub crawl by Tim, Tom and me started in Westbury-on-Trym and then made use of the number one bus to get us to Blackboy Hill from whence we drank in watering holes in Clifton, Redland and Cotham before heading back to Whiteladies Road.

The final total of 21 establishments equalled our record. We started in the splendid Victoria on Chock Lane in Westbury-on-Trym soon after midday and finished in the Vittoria on Whiteladies Road just in time for last orders.

A half-pint of real ale was drunk in each pub, with a stop for lunch in Miss Millie’s next to the King’s Arms and dinner in the Indian Ocean on Cotham Hill, between the Deco Lounge and the Hill.

Early sustenance was provided by Tim’s girlfriend Aleisha’s wondrous chocolate brownies, one of which was tragically dropped on the floor between the White Lion and Casamia (we thought about getting the Sanchez-Iglesias brothers to make us a Michelin star packed lunch, but settled on Miss Millie’s fried chicken).

The full list of the crawl: Victoria, White Lion, White Horse, Foresters, Mouse, Post Office Tavern, King’s Arms, Port of Call, Beaufort Arms, Coach and Horses, Red Lion, Jersey Lily, Blackboy Inn, Shakespeare, Clyde Arms, Kensington Arms, Deco Lounge, Hill, Whitelock and Grace, Penny Farthing, and Vittoria.

Deli Delish

11 11 2010

There are more cafes, delis and other assorted eateries around Cotham Hill and Whiteladies Road than you can shake a bread stick at. And as one unfortunately closes down, another is quick to take its place. Say goodbye to La Boheme and hello to Mangia Mangia, due to open soon.

Located on the corner of Cotham Hill and Whiteladies Road is Deli Delish, a cafe cum deli with the bonus of an added outside seating area replete with funky wicker hanging chairs, perfect to watch lorries trundle in and out of the Travis Perkins depot next door.

Space is tight inside Deli Delish, with seats squeezed into every available space and more tables available downstairs. I was sat this afternoon in a small alcove sandwiched between the counter and the kitchen, orders being shouted over my head.

Opposite was the rather spartan deli section, with a few oils, jams and what looked like every drink made by Luscombe. The choice was rather weak compared to the nearby Chandos Deli, but it did have a good selection of potential Christmas presents including chocolate Scrabble and gourmet mulling syrup.

More a cafe than a deli, Deli Delish is a popular place for lunch with a good selection of baguettes, paninis and sandwiches and a great soup of the day, which today was butternut squash and bacon chowder.

Among all the cafes and other eateries in this corner of Bristol, Deli Delish cannot claim top spot, but is nonetheless a pleasant place to pop in for a warming soup, slice of cake, freshly-squeezed orange juice or bread stick.

Deli Delish, 2 Cotham Hill, Cotham, Bristol. 0117 973 4626.


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.