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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Cafe Oophaga - Bristol's Rustic Modern Coffee House


After a little stint shopping for Halloween costumes and masks at the Christmas Steps Costume and Joke shop, my partner and I made our way back to the car park in Trenchard Street via the back of the Colston Hall. Feeling a little peckish and the need for something warm to scare away the chills of a cold Saturday morning, we happened to come across the Cafe Oophaga just on the corner of Lodge and Trenchard Street. It was quiet and empty, normally two warning signs to go somewhere else. Yet there was something charming about the place, not to mention the smell of cooked bacon emanating from inside and so without hesitation we went in.

The first thing you notice when you step in is the decor. The floors may be modern laminated pine but the seating area just to the left as you enter and the breakfast bar on the right are proper wood. The warm feeling we felt as stepping in wasn't just due to the heat from the kitchen but the warm colours on the walls and the welcoming smile from the owner.

Looking up slightly to the right on a cream coloured section of the wall is a handwritten tale of the origins of the coffee bean. The modern rustic decor of the shop makes it inviting enough to whet the appetite as the eyes pour over the chalkboard menu siting high above the serving counter.


Oophaga Drinks

The place offers a typical yet inviting selection cold drinks and warm beverages and after scrolling down the chalkboard drinks list for me it had to be a large black Americano. I was sufficiently caffeine deprived to need a hit of Java nectar but not enough to brave the espresso that was on offer, so the Americano it was. At £1.90 for a large cup I would say that is excellent value. OK so the cup is nowhere near the size you would find in Starbucks, but it is about the same as Cafe Nero or Costa.

Served in a plain white thick rimmed and curvy mug around which the palm of your hand snugly fits, the coffee had a very nice mild flavour, perfectly prepared the way good coffee should be, through an espresso machine.  If you're watching the caffeine levels or prefer something more indulgent try the hot chocolate. It may seem a bit steep to pay £2.00 for a drink you can make at home but Oophaga's dreamy beverage features quality drinking chocolate with milk made hot by the power of steam. Tasty and indulgent, not a bad way to warm the cockles on a cold morning.

Breakfast at Oophaga

The food menu boards had just as much variety as the drinks, featuring an assortment of paninis, cold and warm sandwiches, soups, and jacket potatoes but it was still breakfast time. Luckily there was a menu just for breakfast featuring a varied selection consisting of hot porridge, egg and toast, and a smoked bacon ciabatta. Of course we both opted for the latter, a snip at £2.95 each. At first glance when presented with the finished dish the initial reaction may be "is that it?" but trust me when I say there was nothing disappointing about this posh take on a classic bacon buttie.

The ciabatta was of a decent size (almost doorstop) but had a light and fluffy feel with a hint of warmth where it had been very lightly toasted. Inside was about three to four rashers of perfectly grilled smoked back bacon, minus that horrible white stuff that can sometimes pour out of the meat during cooking. The bacon was so juicy it was absorbed into the bread amplifying the taste, and as for the bacon itself, nothing could be more perfect than the salty smoked taste setting the palate alight.

Simple Yet Nice

At the end of the day it was just coffee and a bacon sarnie but the quality of both made for an enjoyable visit to what I feel is Bristol's semi-best kept secret. The service from the owner was pleasant and he explained to me that the shop had been open since January. Despite its perceived concealed location, he felt the cafe was perfectly placed as he enjoyed respectable trade from happy audiences leaving the Colston Hall, local workers, people coming to and from the car park and more recently students.

Cafe Oophaga delivers on service and quality of the food and drink on offer. It also has a character of its own  with its combination of modern blended with rustic decor, and there is a definite sense of health and new age about the place. The writing on the window advertises food that is fresh, healthy, and catering for vegetarians, and inside there are some posters advertising meditation and yoga workshops.

The atmosphere is pleasant, with soothing chill out ambient music, and for those who take their laptops everywhere or have to be permanently plugged into their smartphones, free wifi is also available. All in all a pleasant stop over, great atmosphere and service highlighted with quality tasty food and equally pleasant hot beverages. Definitely worth a visit.