February 2017 marks the sixth anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

'The Lounges' – Porto Lounge, Fishponds

Saturday morning saw The Boy and I stirring from slumber uncharacteristically early, somewhat intent on treating ourselves to a relaxed breakfast prior to the back-to-back bustle anticipated for the weekend ahead. A pre-caffeinated amble along Fishponds High Street led us to its resident 'Lounger' Café/Bar; Porto Lounge* which, on the morning of our visit, given that it was arguably well before the onslaught of its predominantly student-related clientèle, proved laid-back and inviting – thus, a perfect spot for coaxing The Boy and I out of our mutual sleepiness....

Date and Time: Saturday 8th October 2011, 9:35
Name of Establishment: Porto Lounge
Location: 765 Fishponds Road, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Coz I’m easy...easy like (erm) Saturday morning! 

What I like about 'The Lounges' franchise is that despite its rather notable expansion, (with the 18th outlet soon to be opened in Bournemouth), the chaps behind this thriving chain have managed to preserve a real sense of originality in that the distinctive 'Lounger' specification has been successfully embedded within each branch, (well certainly of those that I have graced with my presence!) Hence, their position and ambiance can be likened, in my opinion, to that of an independent establishment rather than the double-figured fleet that it actually is! Achieved, one might suggest, by a mish-mash of distressed and/or antique-looking furniture, shabby-chic wooden panelling and the hazily lit photographs of what we will fondly refer to as 'quirky older folk', (which incidentally I later learned were mostly snaps of co-owner Dave's own grandparents!), the Porto Lounge is no exception when it comes to perfectly executing an engaging and comfortable space. And, invited to lose yourself in the available literature, take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, tap your feet to a little Frank Sinatra or even challenge your pals to a board game (oh the competitive joyousness of Scrabble), there is certainly no drive towards the frantic bums-on-seats turnover that can often be the case elsewhere! Perhaps it is this 'stay-a-while' atmosphere that secures its thoughtful neighbourhood position and, albeit a contributing factor in why it’s frequently so blimmin' difficult to bag somewhere to sit, the reason that it remains a favoured watering-hole within the local community.

Back to the morning in question though and focused on the notion of the ‘most important meal of the day’, The Boy and I scanned through the delights of the ‘all-day brunch’ which had been chalked on the board to the right of the bar. Clearly not focused enough however as I was also rather taken with other aspects of the menu; the famous 'Lounger' burgers, tasty-sounding paninis, salads and an amazing Tuesday-only deal whereby three plates of tapas and a glass of the house vino amount to just £8.50. This is not to mention the Monthly specials which in this case included Royal Windsor Farm pork belly with honey, caramelised carrots and creamy mash (£9.50) and sweet chilli roast salmon with coconut rice and a pak choi and cashew salad (£9.95) – yum! Anyway I digress…and upon ordering, The Boy and I were more-than-impressed with the friendly, laid-back attitude of the staff who, we decided could have almost been hand-picked in order to fit with the ethos of the space to such an extent! Seriously though, the enthusiasm and knowledge evidenced in response to the (many) questions that The Boy and I asked of our particular server is really rather commendable.

Onto the food itself and the arrival of The Boy’s Egg and Bacon stack (£4.75) to which he also added a sausage pattie (70p). This comprised a generous helping of eggy bread which although had been prepared using white bread instead of the wholemeal that he initially requested, ticked all the boxes in terms of taste. In fact the dish overall, served with thick back bacon and slathered with maple syrup, had that love-it-or-hate-it salt verses sweet contrast which, in my opinion, both tantalises and comforts the palate. Furthermore, this could have so easily been messily presented given its gooey indulgence and yet, gently dusted with icing sugar and finished with a flourish of parsley, it was plated beautifully and thus, enjoyed visually before even a mouthful had been taken. It’s fair to say that The Boy’s ‘food porn’ did little to remedy the envy on my part upon comparison of his dish with the choconana muffin (£2.50) that I had opted for. That said, the dense chocolaty hit of this home-made classic was rich and satisfying yet, discovering that the banana content was somewhat non-existent took it away from being marginally justifiable as a breakfast food to down-right wrong! Indeed, a little disappointing (not to mention a tad on the expensive side) but consequently, I was invited to share The Boy's eggy bread – result! Overall, the menu is diverse and imaginative; it certainly hasn't been left out of the aforementioned concept of originality either as we were informed that the burgers and sausages for instance, are prepared to the same recipe throughout 'The Lounges' branches and yet the meat itself is sourced from various local butchers. As a result, The Boy and I considered the tastiness of the cuisine that we sampled as testament to the quality of the ingredients carefully sourced and utilised.
Egg and Bacon Stack
Choconana Muffin

And to wash it down, somewhat traditional breakfast-time beverages: for me, a cappuccino (£2.20) which had been well-made to my skinny-milk related preference and served in a no-nonsense mug and for The Boy, a St. Clements ‘mocktail’ (£3.00) which contained freshly-squeezed orange juice resulting in, I quote, ‘juicy refreshment’! Moreover, although this really wasn’t an occasion for the ‘hair of the dog’, I just had to remind myself of the content of the cocktail menu in which I have partaken upon previous visits. Priced at around £6 each, there is an ample selection though I’m rather partial to the Raspberry Mojito which, with the addition of Chambord (raspberry liqueur), provides a fruity twist to the classic combination of Pampero Rum, mint, fresh lime juice and crushed ice – I’ve found that evenings at Porto Lounge can be a little manic and as such, cocktail creation can constitute quite a wait; but it’s a wait worth enduring I can assure you!
Soothing Relief for Caffeine Deficiency!
St. Clements Mocktail

 In conclusion, Porto Lounge may be the smallest of ‘The Lounges’ but the website states that it is the busiest per square foot – unsurprising really as what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in character. Evident from the resounding buzz from its consistently full company, this is a popular café-come-bar frequented not only by Fishponds’ ever-apparent student presence (due to the nearby UWE campuses) but also the venue of choice for working professionals and families. Since it opened its doors in 2002 it has managed a brilliant balance between facilitating a trendy hang-out and an inviting refuge in which to cosy up for an hour or two and thus, moving from strength to strength, long may it reign as the king of the cafés within the Fishponds fold.

And now for the male opinion…
The Boy gave Porto Lounge 8/10 and in three words, described his experience as 'brains behind breakfast'.


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