Artichoke, an independent favourite tucked along the canal – bright, airy, exposed brick, friendly service, cool cocktails.
I have a tradition of going for a well-earned reward brunch here after early morning Saturday run club, or an unearned but necessary hangover cure on a Sunday. Lively without being crowded, Artichoke is chilled and easy – they have always found us a table, even if you have to wait on the Lego stool (yes really!) at the bar for a few minutes. Relaxed enough to linger but speedy service means you can be on your way quickish if you have to be. Feels just enough out of the city to be a bit calmer and avoid the hordes, especially on a weekend. Brunch menu served until 3.30pm. Now that’s my kind of brunch timing – none of this before noon nonsense; they understand their customers’ needs well. If you’re lucky you might get one of the tiny tables outside, best in the late afternoon when they catch the sun.
Hipster Warning: Artichoke are boldly standing strong and daring to be different; there is NO avocado on the brunch menu (scream emoji required. You might need to read this again to let it sink in…I’ll give you a minute).
But be honest, even for me as a die-hard daily avo consumer, it doesn’t need it. There’s a rich selection: traditional (full breakfast including veggie option and breakfast baps), simple (porridge with toppings, yoghurt, toast and jam) and a couple of more unusual options (black pudding with colcannon, butterbeans and chorizo), oh, and cake, yep, as a breakfast option. It’s hard to choose.
As you’d expect, there’s a good range of loose-leaf herbal teas (beware my regular mistake of forgetting the strainer when you top up!), soft drinks, coffees, or even a Bloody Mary or Prosecco if you feel like it.
The food is great quality (even the bread – the home made sourdough is the star of the show) and the menu is flexible – they will tweak the dish if asked. A standard dish on the menu is salmon and pancetta (which I love as I like bacon and eggs and salmon and eggs and always find it hard to choose). When my friend asks if she can have this without the pancetta, they oblige and give her extra salmon, un-asked, a much appreciated nice touch. Smiles all round.
I take my time and pretend that on this morning I will, as I always promise myself, dive into the butter beans, chorizo and tomato, but, no, I can’t tear myself away from my usual and I surrender to the joy of my beloved scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and crispy pancetta on sourdough toast. I leave the pea shoots, pretty, but I’m not in a green mood at brunch. A peppermint tea is a great complement.
The quality, generous portions mean you’ll likely pay a little more here than in some other brunch venues, but for me the whole experience adds up to definite value for money at £8.95 for my dish. It’s the same price for a full breakfast, £6.50 for a breakfast bap, £4.50 for the double cream and syrup porridge to give you a steer – but the whole menu is online if you want to check it out in advance.
Tip: Avoid looking at the cakes – far too tempting and ridiculously large and good.
A pleasant walk along the canal from the City Centre, or park on Boughton or City Road. It’s just a couple of doors on from Harkers.