A woman and her two dogs wander into the warm embrace of Emmeline at Spike Island on a recent rainy Thursday lunchtime.
The trio joins the collective of artists, parents and babies and laptop workers inside the bustling café that first opened its doors just a few days before, in what was most recently Bowl of Plenty.
It’s just gone midday and a steady queue of people wait patiently at the counter, which is laden with an array of appetising treats – from vast fresh croissants and cakes to bowls of wholesome salad and savoury pastries.
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It is looking like a positive start to the year for the Emmeline team, led by Shona Graham, who has launched this second venture in Spike Island just months after finally reopening her original café on Cheltenham Road, which was forced to close for almost a year when a car crashed into the building.
With pot plants positioned on tables and shelves throughout the cafe in Spike Island, on Cumberland Road, the bright, welcoming atmosphere provides a perfect antidote to the January gloom outside.
Alongside the usual café staples, Emmeline offers an intriguing range of juices and ‘warmers’, the latter of which includes a mushroom latte, turmeric latte, beetroot latte or cacao hot choc – each made with a milk of your choice.
Vegans, or those partaking in ‘Veganuary’, have plenty of choice here from the range of toasted sourdough sandwiches, pastries, salads, soup and mains.
After much pondering, I opt for the ‘cacao hot choc’ (£3.50) from the warmers selection (new year, new drink and all that). One of the small team of women working behind the counter comes over to the table to enquire about how I’d like it served. “It’s a bit bitter on its own but I can add some maple syrup if you want it a bit sweeter,” she offers.
A steaming pink mug is promptly delivered, containing a deliciously warming hot drink, just the right side of bitter, with tiny nibs of cacao sprinkled on top. It’s the perfect comfort drink for those with a less sweet tooth.
Food soon follows and the sizeable starter of vegetable samosa (£2.50) is served with a tasty side salad. It is glistening with grease and promise, but the filling falls is a bit bland and could benefit from a healthy seasoning of spice.
This is the only low point in a lunch that is otherwise wholesome and delicious. The vegan mushroom barley roll, served with a generous and colourful salad portion (£6 in total), is crisp and full of flavour.
The main of feta, squash and chickpea pie, served with fresh greens (£7), is a riot of flavours and textures that combine in a satisfyingly hearty dish, the flaky pastry triangles on top adding a nice bit of crunch and substance to the molten medley below.
Regretfully, a feast such as this doesn’t leave much room for cake – this time at least. All the better to have an excuse to return to this vibrant little south Bristol spot, where it is all too easy to while away a morning over a hot coffee and fresh, flaky pastry.
Emmeline Cafe at Spike Island, 133 Cumberland Road, Bristol, BS1 6UX
0117 929 2266
Main photo by Ellie Pipe