If you haven’t visited Playground Coffee Company in St Nicholas Street, Bristol then I just thought you should know – you have been missing out on swings, board games and delicious coffee. As if things couldn’t get much better, chef, baker and all-round talented man James Bridges has introduced a menu full of grilled cheese sandwiches to Playground Coffee and invited a small number of food-loving/word-writing/picture-taking enthusiasts to sample these grilled cheese sandwiches with a swig or two of beer.
In a bid to bring a little bit of ‘merica to the streets of Bristol, James has introduced a menu of grilled cheese sandwiches set to inspire and awaken your taste buds at the same time. On the Friday launching into the second May bank holiday, everyone was in good spirits as they filed into the small and cosy Playground Coffee shop. We all know how much the Americans love food. Mac’n’cheese, BBQ ribs and southern fried chicken are all iconic menu items in the States and the grilled cheese sandwich is no different. The grilled cheese sandwich is NOT to be confused with a cheese toastie (a grilled cheese sandwich is griddled on both sides of the bread once with no filling and inside out, then filled and grilled again, whereas a toastie is that thing you made everyday as a student).
In the words of M&S, it’s no grilled cheese sandwich… it’s a true American grilled cheese sandwich and you can tell this by the sandwiches’ colourful names; The Californication, The Chutnooga, The Scalliwag (deriving from ‘scallions’ which is the American’s name for spring onions, weird) and The Cisco Kid. Each sandwich has a story, and each story earn themselves a place on your plate. It’s not just international ties which James is concerned about, James is passionate about the environment which means all the ingredients are sourced locally (the golden rule of any indie business or pop up in Bristol, go local or go home!). It’s amazing what we can achieve with just flour, salt and water says James, as he talks about his love of bread and his passions for baking, and without further ado he runs up stairs (2 flights of steep stairs!) to get to the kitchen.
To get our taste buds warmed up we’re invited to try a toasted sourdough bread with raisins and cinnamon paired with vanilla butter, a basic pairing in itself which I would go to extreme lengths to have on a daily basis (and not even give it a second thought about how it’ll affect my waistline). The Classic comes out first, a simple but reliable option which showcases the beautiful flavours of the North Devon (Bideford) cheese which Rosie Morgan (aka. The Bristol Cheesemonger) supplies. All sandwiches except for the specials use these cheese. As a simple but flavoursome cheese it works as the perfect staple ingredient for the sandwiches.
We really need to jump to The Californication, paired with Floris Apple Wheat beer because I think was the moment that I died and went to heaven. The cider rye sourdough sandwich was influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers because of the sheer chilli kick within the Apple and Severn Cider jelly from Ginger Beard. This sandwich is sweet, edgy, memorable and addictive (just like the many flawless records by RHCP) and complimented the fruity Floris Apple Wheat beer. Floris Apple Wheat Beer is a Belgian beer which somehow manages to achieve a flavour of sweet with an aftertaste of sour, it’s pleasantly hazy in colour and the fruity cinnamon-y taste worked brilliantly with the sandwich. Before you rush to Playground Coffee to try and replicate this beaut of a pairing – they will be holding monthly ‘beery’ evenings where you can drink many a Floris Apple Wheat beers, but during the day from Tuesday – Saturday (11:30 – 3:30) just the sandwiches are available. Which I imagine is a good thing as we all have work to do in the afternoon, except on Fridays.
Now the final part of the evening was something I only witnessed via social media due to the Tracey Thorn talk at St George’s Hall starting at 8pm – oh, the choices we resident-Bristolians have to make! Essentially, I missed Chutnooga (a pairing with BrewDog Hardcore DIPA!) and I missed Filth – something which James went onto post a picture of on my timeline and described to me in enough detail that could make a grown woman cry with the fact that she missed out on this. Just try reading this without salivating:
Crostini made with 100% wholewheat mini boules, cremeux made with fortunato no. 4 (the worlds rarest chocolate), artisan Greek olive oil from Lilly’s home and pinch of Maldon sea salt.
The espresso, salted caramel and triple chocolate brownie (aka. Filth!) is available at Playground Coffee, but the crostini was a once in a lifetime kinda thing, which Tracey Thorn made me miss out on. An espresso brownie sounds like a really good pick-me-up for those wretched mid-week blues.
Overall this was a great night with great people, not only was the lovely Lucy from BrewDog Bristol there but Hannah from Strawberry Thief (the new kid on the block in terms of bars and one of my favourite best kept secrets which I’m slowly and strategically revealing to my friends).
If you like swings, coffee, boardgames and cheese you have to check out Playground Coffee. James will also be doing salads and soups as part of his residency at Playground so be there between 11:30-3:30 Tuesday-Saturday and you will be able to witness the fitness that is the grilled cheese sandwich.