Quick bite Fresh new look, but missed opportunity on menu
An independent shop that has survived wartime bombs, several recessions and just about everything else thrown at it, the Bristol Guild has remained completely unique and uncompromising in its style and service for more than a century.
A recent major refurbishment of the store would indicate that it is very much here for the duration and the most recent development has been a brand new food hall next to the existing café, which has doubled in size.
The old conservatory café remains, with its white-painted brick walls and huge pot plants, but it is now part of a larger space, with exposed wood beams, high ceilings and new counters.
It's a bright and airy space, if lacking a little in atmosphere, but it's still a busy and popular lunchtime option for local office workers and shoppers.
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For a store that prides itself on selling the very finest artisanal furniture and artwork, it comes as something of a surprise that a lot of the food on the menu is actually made elsewhere, rather than in the kitchen itself.
The savoury pies and tarts in the chill cabinet looked enticing, especially the spinach and three cheese tart, but they all appeared to be bought in. They were even served in their rather unattractive tin foil cases, which sort of gives the game away.
Assuming that the salads were actually made on-site, I opted for the salad box with bread (£4.50). Served in a white china dish, it comprised a portion of quartered tomatoes with sliced red pepper; a scoop of penne pasta mixed with pesto, black olives and rocket; a Puy lentil salad with more red pepper and shavings of carrot, and a piece of rye bread on the side.
OK, it wasn't the most exciting plate of food I've encountered, but it tasted very much like it had just been made, which is something at least.
When quizzed, the girl behind the counter told me the cakes are supplied by Devon-based company Peck and Strong, and Cottage Delight of Staffordshire. Both are long established and reputable companies, but with so many excellent alternatives in the Bristol area, it's a shame a landmark café such as this doesn't look a little closer to home for its core products or, even better, make more of the food on the premises.
In a store that prides itself on individuality and innovation, it seems a missed opportunity.