As an anxiety sufferer, sometimes just getting out of the front door can be a struggle. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have worried about everything on your way out –whether your rain coat can fit in the bag you’d wanted to take, why you were mad enough to wear red lipstick on the way to lunch, or if you can even justify a little treat in the first place.
Assuming you’ve courageously made it outside, the last thing you want is to sit in a total sensory overload of a café with uncomfortable chairs and music so loud your face might fall off. That’s why I went about town to track down some of my favourite ‘zen gems’ – places you can be a total house cat in, curl up in the corner and watch the world go by in peace.
Old Market is home to some cracking coffee shops, making it well worth wandering just a few streets away from the city centre for. Each one has its own quirks, but my personal favourite has to be 25A - the younger sibling of the ever popular 12A in Easton. From its rows of very locally brewed beers (Good Chemistry and Moor Beer are literally around the corner), to its copper walls, you just feel so cool being sat in there. It’s a real treat. You can tell that owner Chris has taken great pride in its creation, even down to the playlists. It goes without saying that their coffee is brilliant too, with guest roasters featuring each week.
The newest resident of Portland Square, Milk Teeth is another coffee shop geared towards supporting independent businesses and the local community. Speaking with owner Josh over a colourful selection of locally baked cakes and treats, he shared his passion for helping start-up businesses flourish; and this really is what makes Milk Teeth so special.
On my visit I set myself up in classic house-cat style in the corner on the snuggliest sofa, surrounded by mismatched wicker furniture, opposite a beautiful old piano. Its décor makes it feel like it’s been here for years, not weeks – it’s a real home-from-home in the middle of the city, and a well-placed escape from the mayhem of Cabot Circus.
Playground is the kinda place you go to with your laptop and a long to-do list, telling yourself you’ll get loads of work done and be productive – until you remember they have a swing in there and several thousand board games you can help yourself to. You really wouldn’t know that Playground is a city centre café, which is why it takes pride of place on my list.
A short stroll from Corn Street, you can duck in the door here and know you’ll always be greeted with a warm atmosphere and a mean blondie (the delicious tray bake treat, not a member of staff). A people-watchers paradise, I’ve spent what’s felt like hours perched on the swing by the window pretending to work here.
Staying in the city centre, like Playground, Ironworks is much needed oasis amongst the mayhem of the city centre. This Australian-run coffee house, bar and retail shop neatly ties together the owners passion for good food, good drinks, art and fashion. This is what I love about Ironworks – you can set up in a corner of the shop, drink your coffee (direct from Sydney), and just take it all in. It has a real community feel to it, and from the moment you walk in, you really do feel a part of something. If you’re after more than just coffee, I’d highly recommend their pancake stacks –they’ve nearly killed me twice, but I can definitely find it in myself to forgive them.
The last time I visited Spoke & Stringer, I’d just left a very unsuccessful flat viewing. I’d really had enough of that day. We hadn’t planned to stop by, but their outside seating area was just so damn inviting. As soon as I sat down, the weight fell from my shoulders. For a relaxing coffee after a stressful day, you couldn’t ask for a better location.
Slap bang on the harbourside, you can kick back and watch boats sail by and sea birds flying overhead, all while the water laps up by the decking. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a sunny day – and you’re even luckier to get a seat – you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in another country all together. It’s an idyllic, peaceful little corner of Bristol.
The day I visited Young & Foodish, it was absolutely hammering it down with rain. A welcome sanctuary from the storm, as soon as I ran through the door, I was greeted with the smell of a rich tomato soup, toasting bread and freshly ground coffee. A group of friends were nattering away at the far end of this bijous Cotham café, and I sat on the nearby comfy cushioned seats.
Being in Young & Foodish feels like you’re sat in someone’s kitchen/dining room, and you’ve been invited in to share a delicious cooked breakfast with the owners. Moments from Whiteladies Road, you’ll be guaranteed a moment of tranquillity at this little gem of a place.
If you venture just slightly off the main thoroughfare of Stokes Croft and follow some very well placed signage, you’ll find yourself at Door & Rivet. When I first stumbled across it (and I really did, I walked right into their chalk board), it felt like such a little secret.
Based in the old crypt of the City Road Baptist church (not as spooky as it sounds, I promise), you can perch yourself outside and stare up at the beautiful old exterior of the church – on colder days, you can head inside and sit together at a long communal table. This place is a haven for homemade bakes (oh man, their brownies), small batch coffee, and is a welcome pit-stop for a moment of peace in the city.
A Latin American inspired family run café, Este Kitchen is just one massive hug. The team there have dedicated a great deal of time and effort into this café and its décor – hiring local artists to help along the way - making sure it feels as welcoming as when you step into an old friends front room.
Aside from its cosy, effortlessly laidback vibe, one of my top reasons to head to Este Kitchen is their own unique brand of comfort food. My best friend is Brazilian, so whenever I visit I always have to treat myself to some of their joyful little brigadeiros (homemade Brazilian truffles) as a happy little reminder of home.
So when you’re next off adventuring in Bristol, I hope one of these little sanctuaries comes in as much handy for you as they have for me. Lorna, The Calm Kitchen