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.
The coffee beans were so fresh that they still glistened as they were scooped up from the choice of the day selection to be ground for my filter coffee.
The barista nodded his approval as I declined the offer of sugar and milk. I don’t think he would have been as impressed with my selection of yesterday’s iced caramel machiato from Starbucks.
The two beverages couldn’t have been more different with the sticky caramel syrup providing a sweetness to the stronger flavoured espresso based soy milk drink. I am unsure of the blend of beans used in the Starbucks selection but the Tomtom choice of the day was the Indian Monsoon Malabar.
These coffee beans, unique to the Malabar coast of Karnataka and Kerala, are exposed to the monsoon winds for three to four months of the year. This removes much of the acridity, apparently, and the result is a much sweeter, full bodied blend that leaves a pleasantly warm flavour. The quality of the coffee is exemplified by the care taken in all the daily choices.
The coffee, however, is not the only selling point of this surprising little cafe. The cakes were very tempting, as were the pasties at £6.50. The last time I was here I had soft-boiled eggs on toast and a dense little fairy cake which was sweet and ideal.
I had almost forgotten about the existence of the cafe Tomtom but I had a 40 minute wait at Victoria Coach Station on my way back to Bristol. As I wondered what to do with myself, I remembered my friend Martin’s recommendation for a place to enjoy some quality coffee and while away the time. Its existence feels like a delightful discovery in the commercially-dense location near the Victoria coach and rail stations. I can’t claim the discovery for myself but I can certainly enjoy what’s on offer and pass on the recommendation. If this is the first place you hear about it then I hope you’ll visit and appreciate Martin’s beautifully discerning taste as well.
Tomtom Coffee House, 114 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9QD, United Kingdom
In the last few years, my experience of visiting the Folk House has been one of walking through the alleyway off Park St, walking into the little concrete garden, noting that there was no one about and then walking swiftly out again. I must have done it three or four times so this time I became determined I would stay and eat something.
The cafe reminds me of some type of school / Uni / community centre dining room where it all feels casual and affordable. The best dressed person in there is a teenager who is in his school uniform still wearing his blazer.
There is a coffee and muffin deal for £2.70 and the choice is either apple and almond or raspberry and banana. I opt for the first and note that the cakes are more of the cup size than muffins and have no icing.
The tables are covered in easy to clean vinyl tablecloths. There is a little ant on mine who keeps trying to find something exciting but to no avail. It walks up to my mug of black coffee and back towards the edge of the table again.
The ‘muffins’ are quite airy and more sugary than fluffy but that’s probably the almond part. I have two poached eggs on toast (buttered) (£3.50) and they are quite nice but there is no visible salt and I don’t ask for any. They already have a little bit of pepper added.
The breakfast was lovely enough and the environment pleasant with the uni students next to me reading the Guardian. I didn’t mind it but nothing particularly stood out although it does seem to offer a lot more than just food and beverages. There is a board by the door outside the cafe where a whole host of activities are listed for all hours of the days of the week. Dancing, writing, cooking, poetry, singing and lots more. The community feel to the cafe may be better explained as a consequence of all the other activities going on. At least I managed to visit this time and stay for a while. Next time I’ll have to take part as well.
40a Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JG, 0117 926 2987 http://www.bristolfolkhouse.co.uk/