This morning we breakfasted in Bristol; we didn’t intend to – we’d had a quick snack before leaving home for a day out to visit the city and also to go round BBC Broadcasting House. The group we went with split into two, and our half was due for the tour at 1:00 so we had a morning to visit the art gallery and museum and then join our party. We didn’t realise that neither the art gallery nor museum opened until ten, so we popped into a small café for a drink… and then feeling peckish had a spot of breakfast.
The café we went into is quite small, with a couple of pavement tables outside, and describes itself as ‘a casual hang out-style cafe for a range of comfort food dishes from the UK and America.’ It has a bar, serves food as well as drinks, coffee and shakes, is pleasant and attractive, has lots of nice features, and we had good coffee and a satisfying breakfast (pancakes, bananas and maple syrup for him and avocado, rocket, tomatoes and sour dough toast for me) Sitting near us were three young women who were obviously students from the nearby University. I couldn’t help but think how different my friends and I were as students. We were the typical scruffy student types, we had no student accommodation but were in what was laughing called ‘a flat’ in actual fact an attic at the top of a very old building, shared bathroom on the floor below, no kitchen, only a Baby Belling, a one ring cooker with tiny oven. There was no heating, and in winter there was ice on the inside of the windows. These young women were fashionable and smart and were sitting in this nice café for their breakfast before heading off for lectures.
It made me think back to where my friends and I had breakfast. I have to say, we thought it was marvellous, cheap, decent food, interesting owners. – but it was from a different era. Burt’s was in a cellar in Manchester, in a building near Piccadilly Station, opposite the Fire Station. I don’t think the buildings are even there now. All though the café was clean, no doubt the building had all sorts of vermin, I dread to think about it now. it was run by Burt and Mrs Burt; he was Polish or Ukrainian, or somewhere in what was then Communist block Europe and he may have well been in England since the war – in fact I think it’s almost definitely he case.
The cafe was tiny, as I remember, with maybe no more than eight tables, a single counter and that particular sort of yellowy light cast by a 40-watt bulb. I can’t remember now what the menu was but certainly at breakfast time it revolved round standard breakfast items, on toast or in a sandwich. Whether there was a different menu during the rest of the day I don’t know. I remember usually having a sausage sandwich (filled hungry students up best) or an egg sandwich, and tea or instant coffee. It was a limited menu, cheap but satisfying. Mrs Burt was always very friendly, Butt himself was usually jolly, but sometimes taciturn, sometimes decidedly grumpy. On the other hand, we were probably quite annoying!
The three young women we saw today would have been horrified by Burt’s… we would have been astonished by the café we were in today!