The first time I came across the Phoenix Café, I was on my way to the Bierkeller and, sadly, didn’t have time to stop. Below Pithay arts studios had appeared this colourful little café, buzzing with a diverse mix of people sipping delicious-looking smoothies, and engrossed in board games and lively conversation. It was a wet and chilly evening, and the atmosphere in the café was so inviting that I’d dearly have loved to join in, so I vowed to return and find out more.
I duly went back last Tuesday lunchtime and was not disappointed. By day there was the same welcoming, home-from-home atmosphere, and the same great range of people from all walks of life coming together to linger over delicious vegan food and drink.
The Phoenix Café is run by Annie Davis, who kindly took the time to tell me about the ethos of the venue. Annie started the café 18 months ago with capital of just £400, upcycling furniture from the Sofa Project and the Bristol Wood Recycling Project. Her aim was to offer healthy, affordable food that combats food waste – in the words of the Real Junk Food Project, to ‘feed bellies, not bins’. For instance, I enjoyed a delicious banana, peach and strawberry smoothie made from waste fruit that had been cut up and frozen to keep it until needed. Volunteers also collect bread from Joe’s Bakery and offer it at the Phoenix Café on a pay-as-you-feel basis.
The café also offers self-employed chefs a friendly, flexible and great-value space from which to launch their catering business, with a different person cooking more or less every day of the week. As it was Tuesday, I sampled a divine vegan curry made by Paul Chedzey of The Dancing Curry. Paul’s pilau rice was subtly flavoured with star anise and fennel, the wonderfully creamy mung bean dal was complemented with mint and topped with coriander leaf, and the chilli mushroom fry – well, I don’t know what was in it apart from mushrooms and chilli, but it was truly out of this world.
On Mondays there are Annie’s baps, on Thursdays there are African dishes from Ital Kitchen, on Fridays there are salads, on Saturdays there’s vegan junk food made from scratch by students, and every day there are amazing vegan cakes and biscuits, plus hot drinks from Milky Moon, as well as a growing number of evening events ranging from Wednesday night board games through open mic comedy to vegan speed dating events.
Annie and Paul both have plans to start doing local food festivals, so keep a look-out for them there, but in the meantime you must head to the Phoenix Café for the delicious vegan food, the friendly welcome and the wonderfully laid-back atmosphere.
Location All Saints’ Street, BS1 2LZ
w: www.phoenixcafe.co.uk e: [email protected] t: 07531 197066
Open: Mon-Sat 8.30am-4pm