Mocha Mocha, hmm…

I am at home drinking lukewarm instant decaffeinated coffee and it tastes a hell of a lot better than the large mocha I didn’t really enjoy on St Michael’s Hill today.

With 40 minutes to spare before an appointment I wandered down to the cafe which sits right in the heart of the area where Bristol University students gather and pass by. The boards inside advertised beverages such as hot chocolate, americano and cappuccino coffees, specialities such as mocha coconut bounty and a variety of sandwiches, baguettes and paninis.

I ordered a large mocha, thinking it would be a treat to have the speciality after which they have named the cafe, and a flapjack with strawberry jam in the middle. I was charged an extra 30p for soy milk, which is not unusual, but was also charged an extra 30p for decaf coffee. I hadn’t come across a charge for taking something out of a coffee before. The sweet snack was very tasty and not just a mash up of oats. The flapjack was light and delicately textured and while not exactly crumbly it was soft and just sweet enough.

The large mocha was 16 ounces of coffee and chocolate and nearly all of them were bland and tasteless. I didn’t finish it so maybe it was surprisingly delicious at the end.

The cafe was full of students and lunching folk who were just as likely to eat in as take away their baguettes. The atmosphere was pleasant and I was lucky to sit at a table which had copies of the Bristol Evening Post and the Sun. I browsed through one of the papers, which on Thursdays has food reviews, so I managed to catch up with a review of the new restaurant Cote in Clifton which was seen as a welcome addition. I can’t quite imagine that Mocha Mocha is anything but a habit rather than a treat to visit. I was not impressed.

Mocha Mocha. 139 St. Michaels Hill Kingsdown, Bristol, Avon BS2 8BS

The Lounge, North St: Unimpressed

I walk into the Tobacco Factory and my companion reminds me why I prefer to go for coffee alone. Are you sure you want to go here, he asks. Well obviously I’m sure otherwise I wouldn’t have come in, but my grass-is-greener friend sounds doubtful and out we go again. This time we head to the Lounge, part of the Lounges chains round Bristol.

My friend spots an old colleague by the door so we spend some time chatting before we head to the bar to order. I order a second shot with my decaf, soy latte and there’s no green tea so my friend orders a redbush or rooibos tea. The difference in the names is attributed to your accent according to the woman serving us. Not quite a believable statement. She is also apparently the sole one in charge of coffees because when I asked whether they did decaf she replied ‘I do’ so let’s hope she doesn’t drop dead.

We hadn’t found a table yet so I went to get one and tell her the number. By the time I got back she’d moved out to collect glasses so I stood around waiting and then half told someone else but by then she was back and with an oh yeah helped out.

The coffee and tea were brought out to us quite quickly. All three rooms of the lounge were quite busy and full of young professionals brunching which probably explains why the place smelled of eggs. There was constant movement and talking which social people probably find quite friendly. There were newspapers available although only the sports and travel sections were left or there were the news of the world or the Mirror.

The well worn but polished floor boards lent a warmth to the room which suited the autumnal russet colours of the walls. Sturdy wooden tables were well placed with the comfortable armchairs, most fitted with leather cushions.

All should have made for a lovely break but somehow it didn’t quite work. The constant smell of everyone’s breakfast pointed to the fact that there too many tables all together. The coffee was bland and even with the additional shot was way too milky. The rooibos tea was the finest a tea bag could provide and didn’t quite live up to the standards of the freshly made Lahloo tea we’d encountered around the city centre and Clifton. Most of the service wasn’t great and I was glad to leave most of my beverage to go elsewhere.

I can imagine that it would be a great place to run into friends or acquaintances if you lived in the area. There’s a communal feel to it and greeting friends with quick chats seemed normal but I’d rather go somewhere where I know no one rather than suffer through bad coffee

227 North St, Bedminster, Bristol, Avon BS3 1JJ, 0117 963 7340‎

Papadeli, Delicious and Magical

I’ve written before about how much I like Papadeli and I have previously visited to shop around, browse and read a paper while drinking coffee. That all happened downstairs, however, and this time I ventured upstairs to the magical little restaurant above the shop. Some joyful staff members informed me that I could order upstairs and that sitting there to have just tea was not a problem.

As I stepped into the cozy area upstairs the waiter greeted me and I told him that I would like some tea. ‘Tea?’ he asked. ‘Tea’ I replied and he went off to fulfil my order. I hadn’t meant proper tea of course being on a decaf diet due to my pregnancy, however, I was feeling adventurous and didn’t call him back.

I seated myself at a table near the stairs and asked for a menu when he brought me my Lahloo Breakfast Tea (£1.50) in the by now familiar solid white, individual tea pots. My friend Mark, who also had never been upstairs, arrived and ordered a Green Mulberry Lahloo tea and an apple and cinnamon tart (£3.95) from the dessert menu.

My tea was fragrant and delicious, accompanied by milk and made from loose leaves, although I chose to leave out the milk. Mark’s tea was brought in a similar Lahloo pot and his dessert was served with a dollop of fresh cream and fresh, large cherries. The tart was delicious as were the cherries, what a great touch to a lovely dessert.

We managed to stay for a couple of hours and even when the restaurant emptied we weren’t given any funny looks about clearing out near closing time. There was a specials board of food dishes and of cakes for the day which included brownies and other chocolate based sweets.

We went downstairs to pay and had a browse around the shop while comparing the merits of Arch House Deli and Papadeli. Mark had managed to buy some of the risotto of which I’d been so envious a couple of weeks back but I couldn’t feel too jealous as he treated me to some amazing looking Italian capers and of course to the tea. We oohed and aahed over the salads and delicious cakes, on display and freshly made, in the kitchen behind the counter.

I lingered at the cheese counter and vowed to come back when I could have some blue and unpasteurized cheese again. I’m looking forward to a main meal there one day which would also be a treat.

Papadeli, 84 Alma Road, Clifton, Bristol, Avon BS8 2DJ, 0117 973 6569

Arch House Deli, Clifton

Chipotle chilli mayonnaise for £3.00 and lavender rice pudding for £3.50 are just two of the reasons that make the Arch House Deli a special treat to visit. The varied, and mostly imported, products in this emporium mean that it is extremely colourful but also slightly out of reach in terms of cost.

Some events that are a little more accessible are the frequent tasting events which are hosted there such as the free Strawberry Hill Vineyard wine tasting two days ago and a free cheese tasting nine days ago with cheese connoisseur Emma Johnson.

Freshly prepared food is available from the cold counter and this includes a wide variety of cheese and pastries while there are freshly baked cakes on the large table in the centre of the shop. All look delicious and most importantly the selections can be quite unusual. However, trying one of each of the lovely offerings would be a bit too expensive so sometimes the easiest choice is the cafe.

A cup of the decaffeinated Lahloo Rosebud tea costs £1.65 and is served in the heavy, individual tea pot recommended by the company. The tea is delicate and contains actual rose buds.

There are tables just past the shop area, in front of the deli and around the side of the building in the alleyway. On a Tuesday morning the only thing to spoil the quiet of Clifton was the kitchen right next to the tables in the alleyway where two women kept up a constant stream of gossip and singing.

I probably wouldn’t spend hours there, but for a touch of magic and creativity, it’s a nice little place in which to browse and discover new things. The Gustosecco lavender rice pudding is something I hadn’t heard of before but would love to try. The packet contains all the dry ingredients necessary to infuse with milk and then bake in the oven. Apparently it goes well with poached peaches in syrup.

Arch House Deli, Arch House, Boyces Avenue, Clifton Village, Bristol, BS8 4AA, UK

Stoneground Cafe, Bristol Central Library


The Bristol Central Library can be found just past College Green and right next to the Bristol Cathedral in a location that is both beautiful and historical. One recent addition in this area provides a further reason to visit and that is the Stoneground Cafe. Located near the back of the library, just past the DVDs and travel guides, is a newly formed area of eight tables and a central stall selling food and drinks.

A filter coffee sells for £1.40, a freshly squeezed orange juice for £2 and speciality teas, including the peppermint (Twinings) that I bought, are £1.20. On Saturday there is a special offer of crisps and any sandwich for £2.99. The many snacks available on the counter are more of a natural range although see previous special which mentions the crisps. There are muesli bars at 80p and bananas at 60p. There are gluten free brownies among other cakes at 99p which look particularly tempting.

The Stoneground Cafe is a family run business with a passion for cooking great quality food using the finest local ingredients and working with local suppliers apparently.

Its location in the library is not as socially prohibitive or as quiet as I would have thought. I sat at a table with a view of the College Green and the goings on of the passers by. I was on my own but a group of people sat right near me and quietly discussed their work with no real inhibition. Now and then there was the guilty start at a file being closed too noisily or a tap being too loud but it quickly felt normal.

A magazine stand included editions of Focus, The Wisden Cricketer and Ideal Home for those looking to keep occupied. I already had my library books with me but a newspaper could have been handy. Unfortunately they’re kept upstairs.

There’s quite an academic feel to the cafe, more of a college meeting room than illustrious dining area admittedly, but it did feel welcoming.

My only reservation would be about the disposable cups provided. These don’t seem entirely in keeping with the natural and fair trade proclamations littered around the place.

Just before I left to make my way home I glanced out the window and saw the Naked Bike Ride making its way past the Council House. A lot can be said for the view and the location of this place. It may be worth a look, or two.

A detour and a cup of coffee

I set out from the city centre this morning in an attempt to find a coffee and somewhere suitable to read a newspaper. From Colston St, I ventured to the Galleries where I bought the FT Weekend. I thought I’d try the Bordeaux Quay and strolled across St. Nicholas Market where most of the stalls were closed over the holiday period (the Cheese stall doesn’t reopen until the 8th of January).

Down Corn St and past Start the Bus, I passed the fountains and became reluctant to do something familiar so I turned off towards Park St instead. The Folk House looked closed and Boston Tea Party looked busy. Through the Clifton Triangle I barely gave Costa Coffee a second glance and decided on the Clifton Lido. The atmosphere was so nice when I last ventured down there but when I got closer I couldn’t make myself go in.  The little area was all in shadow and so quiet. I circled down Oakfield Rd and then walked up Whiteladies Rd with some faith that I would stumble upon something nice. I was even willing to cross over on to Gloucester Rd if there was nothing immediately obvious.

Luckily I didn’t have to. I hadn’t visited Papadeli for a while and I had never had a coffee there before.

The downstairs space is a delicatessen where every nook and cranny is full of food ranging from dried pasta imported from Italy, to Greek Eleon olive oil, coffee beans (organic and not), Lahloo tea, chocolates, biscuits, olives, capers, artichokes and various other antipasti. There are many varieties and I won’t attempt to describe even half of them so I would recommend visiting for a browse if nothing else.

There is a cafe upstairs which I didn’t visit, there are three tables (wooden, sturdy, medium-sized that seat three people perhaps) downstairs and two (metallic) tables with chairs, outside on the narrow pavement.

I ordered a black americano coffee but the menu offered a whole range of options – soup (de jour);  sandwiches made on ciabatta (£5.95); salads from the counter (all made on the premises) £8.95; nibbles – including bread with olive oil for dipping (under £3.50); and a whole host of sweets including chocolate brownies (huge), cakes, warm croissants with jams and various other bits and edible pieces.

Two thirds of the way through Dan Washburn’s Planet Golf: Letter from Hainan I realised that my mellow, but aromatic and slightly bitter, coffee had long gone cold but I was happy to let it finish rather than refresh.

I went up to the counter to pay for my americano (£1.60) and couldn’t resist some of the food on offer. I ended up buying a selection which included marinated artichokes, red peppers stuffed with goats cheese and some olives with peppers. It all looked amazing.

I said no to the offer of another coffee and reminded myself to investigate the word ‘telegenic’ which I hadn’t come across before and whose origins I couldn’t quite fathom.  Washburn writes in the FT Weekend that ‘[i]t is all remarkably telegenic, and by design’ when referring to the Mission Hills Hainan in China, the multi-billion dollar construction project of what will be one of the largest collection of golf courses in the world.

The deli around me makes quite a contrast to any large scale development. The space is small and is more functional than aesthetically pleasing. The large collection of freshly-made, colourful and occasionally imported food items is pleasing and cosy and cluttered. All very tempting and while not necessarily designed to look good on television it was just right for reading a paper and drinking a coffee.

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