There might be a Metro, Evening Post, perhaps a Guardian left on the table of your typical Bristol cafe if you’re lucky. Never before until stepping foot inside The Birdcage on Clare Street have I found a Playboy. The edition on my table was from April 1987, featuring playmate of the month Anna Clark.
It’s little and surprising features like this from the fertile mind of 24-year-old owner Gorgina Haslam, that make The Birdcage one of the most significant and best new openings in Bristol city centre this year.
The Birdcage’s offering is described on flyers as “Yesterday’s clothing, today’s coffee, tomorrow’s music”, a triumverate of cool that starts at 10am with a flat white and a pastry, ends at 10pm with the last notes of an acoustic troubadour, and in between can take in browsing of the rails in one corner featuring clothes a good deal older than the magazines dotted around.
When I visited on Thursday afternoon, well-dressed trendy young things were already populating the space that was once a bank and has the gift of a large ceiling and huge windows, flooding the L-shaped room with natural light.
Why hang one lampshade from a light fitting when nine will do? Why put art on the wall when you can put up bicycles? And always match a mural painted on one wall with bespoke wallpaper pasted onto another.
Enjoying my coffee from Bath’s Easy Jose and Bakewell tart from Crumpet Cakes of Southville, I sank into one of the battered leather Chesterfield chairs. Sandwiches come from Soughdough cafe in St Nic’s Market, while the choice of the stronger stuff here includes ale from Cornwall’s Flat Cap Beers.
Populated by the likes of Walkabout, All Bar One and Wetherspoon’s, this area of Bristol is not the obvious place for an offering such as The Birdcage. But it will act as an ideal pitstop for Start The Bus, Mr Wolf’s and the Big Chill, also nearby, or be just as ideal for a trip to soak up its own charming delights, and I’m not just talking about Anna Clark.