Much more than just a café, Spoke & Stringer encapsulates an entire lifestyle brand inspired by the healthy, outdoor surf and ride culture.
Incorporating a deli, shop, cafe, bar and restaurant, it is a business model that has proved popular over the four years it has resided in the Harbour Inlet – so much so that the team has now opened a second premises on Whiteladies Road, with a focus on the cafe, deli and catering side of the venture.
Occupying the unit that was most recently home to Happy Bird, by Clifton Down Shopping Centre, the bright, airy space has been given the full Spoke & Stringer makeover.
A shiny bike hangs from the ceiling near the window, a branded bag casually slung over a pedal, and in the far corner, a woman is perusing the racks of clothing, above which there is a surfboard mounted on the wall.
It’s only been open for a few days but on a recent Thursday lunchtime, the new venture is already doing a steady trade. A clientele of mostly students and office workers are sat contentedly at tables or perched at the large wooden bench in the centre of the room, working their way through lattes and wholesome plates of food.
Beaming staff offer a warm welcome behind the vast, tile-fronted counter and, unprompted, talk through the lunch options available: a selection of deli salad and wrap options are displayed in a glass-fronted counter, while menus offer a range of brunch dishes or mains, including smoked mackerel kedgeree or vegan pad thai (£11.50 each).
With food ordered, it’s a relaxing setting in which to sit and flick through one of the thick-covered magazines stacked by tabletops, or just watch the bustle of the street outside from the vast window overlooking Whiteladies Road.
The juice of the day, carrot, ginger and orange, (£4.95) lacks much of a kick but is pleasantly refreshing.
The wrap (£4 for deli ingredients, plus £2.50 for halloumi) is a bit underwhelming. Served with a side of green salad leaves, the ingredients are undoubtedly fresh and wholesome and the toasted wrap crisp and delicate to bite into, but the flavours fall slightly flat and the chunks of halloumi to lift the taste are too few and far between.
Not wholly satisfied, it seems only sensible to round off the meal with one of the cakes enticingly displayed on the counter. The recommended gluten free salted caramel and chocolate brownie (£3) has a delicate crunch, giving way to a soft, sweet centre.
A lone diner tucking into pad thai at one of the window seats idly reads the front of the menu, which explains a bit more about the ethos of Spoke and Stringer – named for the spoke of a bike and stringer of a surfboard – and the love of ride culture that inspired the café and deli.
A smiling member of staff comes to check his meal is OK, receiving a nod of satisfaction and a thumbs up.
The formula may not hit the mark every time but it’s still proving a popular one in its new corner of Bristol.
Spoke & Stringer, Unit 8c, Clifton Down Shopping Centre, BS8 2NN