I love Gloucester Road. It really is Bristol's hub of the cool and the quirky, manifesting in a cosmopolitan strip of cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. I find that each visit leads me to discover somewhere new. On this occasion, a café caught my eye...enter Bubalu, a venue encompassing a somewhat unique selling point which, constituting a focus on healthy-living, combines 'fitness food and fun' for visitors of all ages...
Date and Time: Wednesday 29th June 2011, 13:30
Name of Establishment: Bubalu*
Location: 79-81 Gloucester Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Curiosity combined with lunchtime-related stomach rumbling
I wasn't sure what to expect from a café called Bubalu, it certainly wasn't obvious from the other side of the street. I think that perhaps this is the venue's only downfall as, although sporting a smart exterior which, opened-up on a sunshiney day, is admittedly appealing, it doesn't allow one to realise the full extent of what this establishment is about. That is, until you are inside it's comfortable, airy space and all becomes clear. It's a shame because this really is no ordinary café – behind the counter's green wall lies an ample fitness studio where classes, including Zumba, kickboxing and belly dancing (costing only £4.50 each), are held each day. These are run by a sturdy team of professionals ; personal trainers including the cafe's pro-active owners Mike and Catherine and even a dance choreographer who has worked as part of the X Factor production team coordinating routines for Cheryl Cole and Alexandra Burke! The venue also boasts two treatment rooms as well as a family area (complete with Nintendo Wii) and a couple of children's play areas that are free of charge on a day-to-day basis.
Back to the café itself and those lunchtime-related rumblings! The Boy and I ordered cappuccinos made with skimmed milk and freshly-toasted paninis (which, as part of a deal, cost us five pounds each). A lot of thought has gone in to sourcing and serving high quality coffee which is evident from the first sip – we're talking a Brazilian roast with a wickedly rich aroma and delicate foamed finish (minus the chocolate sprinkles obviously!) The team were trained by The Clifton Coffee Company's*award-winning barista, Ed Burston who, we were told, had inspired them to establish Bubalu as a 'true coffee house' – mission accomplished in my opinion albeit perhaps covering another base which may not have been entirely necessary for their success.
|Coffees - from £1.50|
Next up came the paninis; I opted for roasted vegetable and mozzarella and The Boy asked to have a bespoke sandwich created with chorizo, peppers, tomato and cheese which was accommodated with a friendly can-do attitude. Prepared using multi-seeded paninis and ingredients which had been locally sourced from neighbouring businesses, these were tasty and wholesome. It was also noted that the ratio of cheese to the other salad/veggie-type fillings was spot-on, avoiding that commonly made mistake of over-melted cheesy greasiness!
|The Boy's Panini Creation|
Other available healthy snacks include hot noodles (either sweet and sour vegetable or a tomato/chorizo combo), yogurt, fresh fruit and a range of cookies and cakes which are home-made with less butter and sugar thus supporting the notion that indulgence is acceptable in moderation. To wash it down, the aforementioned coffee, a selection of herbal teas as well as a range of cold drinks including fresh fruit smoothies and juices to which you can even add a protein supplement should you require a touch of muscle-repair after whichever class you've participated in! One thing to be aware of though; there is a minimum card payment of ten pounds – during our visit, The Boy and I witnessed a couple of customers having to dash to a nearby cash-point for funds!
I really liked the ethos of this venue – it's clearly portrayed from the menu's content to the canvas prints of intentionally inspirational action shots and yet, not over-imposed on it's clientèle. The Boy and I felt quite comfortable sat watching the world go by over lunch and yet, there was also talk of returning for something a little more active in the future. Furthermore, Mike and his team are undoubtedly passionate about creating a family-friendly space whilst driving home the concept of healthy-living (even allowing the younger generation hands-on experience with fresh ingredients) and, situated next door to 'Scrumptiously Sweet', an obvious emporium of sugar, they certainly have their work cut out. However, with enthusiasm in vast supply here, I have no reason to doubt that Bubalu will continue to do extremely well with the diverse Gloucester Road crowd, especially as, with the reasonable nature of it's fare, your finances remain healthy too.
And now for the second opinion...
The Boy gave Bubalu a rating of 9/10 and in three words, described it as, 'bubalu-tiful nutritious nosh'
*http://www.bubalu.co.uk/ or find them on Facebook!