Gloucester Road

At first I thought it was a greasy spoon breakfast place, but then I peeked inside and I saw a homey looking, tastefully decorated café. So I went in. A man in goatee and apron jumped up from a table where he sat with a handful of other young chaps, and bade me a good afternoon. He took my order cheerfully and walked back to the hallway which led to the kitchen and shouted my order back to them, “One medium breakfast!”

Then he asked me where I was from as he glanced back and forth to his friends. Seems they were taking out bets as to my origins. When I dodged the question, as I am prone to do, he asked me if I am American. I said that I was in fact born in America and he exchanged more glances with his mates.

He was the cheeriest café operator I’ve come across in a while. Bright, chirpy, and very eloquent. I didn’t want to be odd and take notes of all his comments, but I rather wish I had. He was full of mannerisms and cute little English-sounding sayings and poetic license. Plus, he was singing along to the radio.

So, since the café was so nicely decorated and was mostly occupied by men who were clearly acquaintances of his, I decided he was gay. Had I accidentally stumbled into a gay café? Ah well, the food was delicious.

But no, I don’t think so. After all, everyone was eating big hearty English breakfasts with lots of pork and beans and fat… even if I did catch them discussing the “big boys breakfast” which included 3 bacons, 3 sausages, 3 eggs… and mushrooms stuffed with goats cheese and leeks? Even so, as I took it in more closely, I realised that a fair bit of the tasteful artwork actually included seductive angles of women. So maybe this was just a greasy spoon café adapted for Gloucester Road standards.

Gloucester Road, I learned this week, was until recently considered the only High Street left in England without any chains. To be fair, though, it does have a few chain shops. Most of it, however, is classic: retro clothing shops, music and vinyls shops, charity shops, health food stores, ethnic food outlets, and lots and lots of cafés. I always knew I loved Bristol, and this is certainly one of the biggest reasons why: this town does cafés right. And nowhere better than on Gloucester Road. There are more cafés now than ever before, and they are all homey with stuffed chairs and rustic tables, decorated with original artwork and handicrafts. They all make tea and they all have espresso machines. And they all serve only fair trade products.

This year, Gloucester Road has been making the news as it has become a symbol of the struggle between locally-owned, and big-corporation. There were riots characterised by looting, mobs and tear gas, all sparked by the opening of a Tesco Express. Currently my friends are all boycotting the Costa Coffee that recently opened. And, indeed, it was amusing to note that the four cafés next to the Costa Coffee were teeming and busy, while the Costa itself had one lone customer. You start to feel like the corporations are approaching Gloucester Road as their grand opus: if they can master Gloucester Road, they will know that the world is truly theirs. But the locals are having none of it.

Rather, I’ve been coached by my friends to find places like the greasy-spoon-turned-trendy-café which might be a gay hangout or might just be the new generation of young male Bristol. Sadly, I didn’t notice the name of the café so I can’t tell you where to go. But, it’s right by the Arches and they had a sign out on the street offering their delicious yet affordable Breakfast.

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