The Bristolian

The Bristolian Cafe on Picton Street, offering a warm welcome on a rainy December afternoonIf you know Stokes Croft in Bristol, then you’ll know that The Bristolian was a legend, supplier of fine breakfasts in the best greasy spoon tradition. What you might not know is that, after a short break over the summer (which felt much longer), the Bristolian is back, under new ownership, and it’s better than ever.

The new owners, Anna, Oliver and James, have pulled off an impressive trick in keeping the best of the old Bristolian and building on it. Now, as well as the legendary breakfasts, the Bristolian offers top-notch coffee, lovely cakes, and tapas. No, I wouldn’t have thought of doing tapas either, but what do I know? They’ve also spruced up the interior, bringing out the best in what was already a lovely space, and hired some excellent staff , who make it feel as if the whole place is smiling at you.

The result is the return of an old favourite coupled with the arrival of a new one, all in the same place. As if I didn’t have enough to do, what with all the other great places that I have to visit in Stokes Croft. Sometimes I think they do it just to spite me…

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Bristolian on Picton Street, offering a warm welcome on a rainy day.
  • Inside it was equally warm and welcoming, with lots of seating options.
  • You can sit by the window if you like...
  • ... or even on the nice red sofa.
  • The counter by the door has many treats, sweet and savory, to tempt you.
  • I skipped the apple pie & had the last chocolate brownie instead. I was very tempted though!
  • So, to business. Here's the food menu...
  • ... and here's the coffee menu. And espresso machine. And bags & bags of Extract Coffee.
  • A very poor picture of my very good espresso and delicious brownie.
  • The espresso, up close and personal.
  • My espresso casts its eye over the room from the tables at the back.
  • An even worse picture of my flat white from my first visit in the morning.
  • Veggie breakfast! Again from my earlier visit that morning.
  • Bread and olives to keep me going in the afternoon.
  • Pretty light-fittings and a bare brick wall.
  • Equally pretty Christmas decorations in the window.
The Bristolian on Picton Street, offering a warm welcome on a rainy day.1 Inside it was equally warm and welcoming, with lots of seating options.2 You can sit by the window if you like...3 ... or even on the nice red sofa.4 The counter by the door has many treats, sweet and savory, to tempt you.5 I skipped the apple pie & had the last chocolate brownie instead. I was very tempted though!6 So, to business. Here's the food menu...7 ... and here's the coffee menu. And espresso machine. And bags & bags of Extract Coffee.8 A very poor picture of my very good espresso and delicious brownie.9 The espresso, up close and personal.10 My espresso casts its eye over the room from the tables at the back.11 An even worse picture of my flat white from my first visit in the morning.12 Veggie breakfast! Again from my earlier visit that morning.13 Bread and olives to keep me going in the afternoon.14 Pretty light-fittings and a bare brick wall.15 Equally pretty Christmas decorations in the window.16
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It’s not like Stokes Croft in Bristol needs more excellent Coffee Spots, but we’re talking about The Bristolian, famous for its cooked breakfasts, an essential part of any visit to Bristol. Then, this summer, it closed. “For refurbishment” the notice said. “Opening in November” it promised.

November came. November went. It remained closed. People became nervous, tempers frayed. Would it ever return? Then, in December, it re-opened! The Bristolian was back! Was there rejoicing in the streets? Partying? I couldn’t say since I was in Guildford, but was mighty relieved to know that my favourite Bristol breakfast spot was back, and just in the nick of time, since I was going to Bristol two weeks later…

Given its reputation, it was with some trepidation that I approached the new-look, new-feel Bristolian, but I needn’t have worried. First impressions are important and the Bristolian looks fantastic, especially on a rainy day (I was in Bristol, it rained, nothing new there then), when the lights shine brightly through the windows, spilling warmth onto the pavement. It’s as if it’s beckoning you in from the street. When you step inside, you’re surrounded by warm colours and natural features: a wooden counter and bars, white ceramic tiles, a bare brick wall.

Seriously, this is an impressive trick to pull off and the new owners have done a great job. I spoke to one, Anna, while I was there. A one-time Picton Street resident, the Bristolian had been her local café for many years, so she knew what big shoes she and her co-owners were stepping into. It’s no easy task to take a well-loved establishment, to keep the essence of what made it great, and to build on it, but they’ve managed it.

Probably the most important thing to know, if you remember the old Bristolian, is yes, it has kept the legendary cooked breakfasts. I can confirm that they’re just as legendary: there’s the Full English, with vegetarian and vegan options, and plans to expand the menu once things have settled down. The veggie breakfast I had was reminiscent of the old Bristolian in both quality and quantity.

It doesn’t stop there though. Since Stokes Croft clearly can’t have too many great coffee spots, the Bristolian now serves top-notch coffee and lovely cakes. The bags of Extract Coffee, proudly displayed on the shelf above the espresso machine, give a sign of the new Bristolian’s ambition. However, the proof of the coffee is in the drinking. Purely in the interests of research, you understand, I sampled two flats whites and an espresso over two visits. The flat whites were very good, served in large espresso cups, not too much milk and strong on the coffee so the flavours come through, but I’d saved the best to last. The espresso was excellent: short, rich, smooth and it went down a treat, as did the chocolate brownie I had to keep it company.

Finally, the Bristolian has a small lunch and supper menu, along with tapas. No, it’s not what I would have put with legendary breakfasts, cake and top-notch coffee either, but what do I know? Having seen what else the new owners have done, I’m not going to bet against them…

2 PICTON STREET • BRISTOL • BS6 5QA
+44 (0) 117 9192808
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Extract (espresso only)
Tuesday 08:00 – 22:30 Seating Tables, Sofa, Bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 22:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 22:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 22:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 22:30 Wifi No
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 20th December 2012

You can also see what fellow-blogger a Girl in Bristol, makes of The Bristolian.

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol for more great Coffee Spots.


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12 thoughts on “The Bristolian

  1. Hi Brian. I am happy to know your blog. Your enthusiasm for coffee, the culture and people behind it – writing in a style that’s eloquent and earthy – all transmit joyous feelings to the reader. This review has me eyeing up Bristol for a quick trip! Many more illuminating posts on all things coffee, if you will sir! Thanks Ismail

    • Hi Ismail,

      Thanks for your kind words of praise. I’m very glad you like the blog and I do hope it inspires you to visit Bristol. As well as lots of great coffee places, it’s a lovely city and well worth a trip.

      Do let me know how you get on!

      All the best,
      Brian.

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