REVIEW: A coffee break at Bristol's Caffe Arabica by Mark Taylor
Caffe Arabica opened last month in a former shop that was most recently a physiotherapists but what must be a loss for anybody in Westbury Park with a dodgy back is clearly a gain for locals in search of a decent cup of coffee and a light lunch.
That said, tables are so close together in this compact little coffee house that you may want some manual therapy afterwards, but it certainly added to the friendly informality of the place.
The owners have actually made good use of the space here and a second "garden room" at the back is used for overspill from the main room where you order at the counter.
The white walls, blonde wood tables, white chairs and colourful bookcase makes it feel more spacious, as does a huge mirror on one wall.
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Behind the counter there is a galley kitchen where a young chef in whites and a dark blue butcher's apron works single-handedly, cooking each order from scratch.
Open all day, you could come for breakfast of eggs Florentine (spinach and hollandaise sauce on a toasted bagel, £5) or the Mediterranean-influenced house breakfast (£5.25 for Cheddar cheese, feta, cucumber, roasted tomato, black olives, poached egg, chorizo and soda bread).
Lunch options include paninis, baguettes, bagels, sandwiches and jacket potatoes with various fillings, none with a price tag of more than £4.25.
There is also a well-considered children's menu that includes egg and soldiers for £1.75 and half a jacket potato with cheesy beans for £2.25. Kids can also have a smaller portion of any of the adult dishes for half price – a nice touch, and it's good to see a café encouraging youngsters to try different things.
I was drawn to the specials board with its choice of roasted parsnip and apple soup with Cheddar and soda bread (£3.50), omelette with ham and Cheddar (£5.50) or the salad I ordered.
OK, a feta, olive, tomato and basil salad isn't the greatest test of the kitchen but it's one of those simple dishes that can easily go wrong. Not here.
Attractively presented, it had plenty of large feta chunks, slices of fresh tomato and sun-dried tomato, a fair few basil leaves and slices of black olives. Perhaps a piece of bread could have been thrown in, bearing in mind its price of £4.95, but it was a light, fresh lunch dish.
Its lightness allowed me to order a slice of lemon cake (£2). A deep, three-tiered cake of the lightest sponge cemented with lemon curd and zesty buttercream, it was a fine piece of baking and all the more enjoyable to learn that it had been made on the premises.
In a residential corner of the city with a limited number of places for locals to meet for coffee and a quick lunch, Caffe Arabica is a welcome new addition.