Girl in Bristol is invited to one of her favourite places on Gloucester Road for some lunchtime feasting …

Gloucester Road will always be one of my favourite parts of Bristol because of the distinct community feel it has. As you stroll along the street you’ll pass friends catching up on the pavement, you’ll have guys who sell the big issue greeting you with an infectious smile, you’ll see writers and artists working on their latest projects outside of cute little coffee shops. It just feels like home.

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Although I moved away from Gloucester Road back in October, I still like to visit there often. So when Cafe Ronak invited me to try their newly revamped menu how could I have refused? Especially when there was the opportunity to devour one of their matcha chai lattes. Seriously, they’re beyond incredible. Just order one okay?

11351477_10153384315424860_67599606_nCafe Ronak has been on the Gloucester Road scene for five years after manager Kav opened the Persian-inspired venue, holding art exhibitions and playing host to live music events over the years. Although their food and drinks menu is their main selling point. That, and Ronak’s incredibly friendly and knowledgable team.

Now I’ve been to a lot of eateries in my time but Ronak are a rarity when it comes to their impeccable service. Not only do they warmly greet their customers as they come and go, they know them by name. They know what their customer’s regular orders are and they are more than happy to sit and have a natter with them when it’s quiet, particularly when it comes to discussing their personal blend of Wogan Coffee or the inspiration behind their menu. Ronak are a prime example of customer service done right.

With regards to décor, Ronak has quite an eclectic style. Outside, there is a small courtyard surrounded by potted plants. Inside, there is a narrow room with red and green walls which extends back towards Ronak’s small garden with an assortment of gifts from customers hanging from the ceiling including colourful bunting, a glitter-ball and origami birds. A row of polished logs line the perimeter of the front area with black leather sofas and a small amount of window-seating available for customers to perch on in addition to the tables and chairs.

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After our hostess for that afternoon, Alina, showed us to our table we decided to try a selection of foods on the menu under her recommendation to accompany our mint chocolate milkshake and dark hot chocolate. Alina decided to introduce us to the chef’s specials starting with the spicy Mexican bean soup (£4.95) followed by an open sandwich (£4.95). The soup was more like a stew, thick with chunks of roasted butternut squash and kidney beans in it which we spooned onto our buttered bread. The open sandwich on the other hand was much lighter, the grilled courgette was still warm and the strong flavours of the smoked salmon were well balanced by the mildly-acidic crème fraiche which was layered generously over the top with parsley to garnish.

11351545_10153384315519860_376073312_nUp next came burgers, fries and ‘slaw. One of the sesame seed buns contained a traditional beef patty and the other was a vegan alternative, made with sweet potato, black beans, rice, walnuts, onions and spices by one of Ronak’s chefs. Alina also brought sweet potato wedges (£3.50) and a herby dip to go with the burgers. Both burgers went down well. The vegan burger (£6.95) was slightly crumbly and I couldn’t really taste the spices but it was filling and I loved the roasted sweet potato in it. The beef burger (£6.95) was juicy and pleasingly hefty in size, the cheese seeped into the meat and the lettuce gave each bite a slight crunch.

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Alina was eager to bring out more main dishes but we were quite defeated by this point so we had a cake and coffee to finish. A matcha chai latte (£2.50) for me and a flat white (£2.10) for my companion were brought out with a slice of ginger and mascarpone cheesecake and a vegan caramel slice. Alina mentioned the vegan caramel slice was the creation of their chief cake maker Jem, who had used nuts soaked in coconut milk for the base and raw chocolate and dates for the topping. It was truly wonderful. Gluten-free, sugar-free and dairy-free the caramel slice was almost guilt-free; tasting just as good as a non-vegan one (if not more so). In fact my companion who chose the cheesecake actually preferred the vegan dessert.

I won’t go into to much detail on the coffee front as coffee reviewing extraordinaire Will Pearce has done a pretty good write up on it recently (see here). However, I will say that the flat white coffee was beautifully presented with a full-bodied flavour whilst the dark-roast espresso was rich with delightful chocolatey undertones. Alina mentioned it was her favourite blend too.

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In all, we had a wonderful time at Ronak. Alina was an amazing host and her passion for Ronak, it’s team and it’s menu was inspirational. It was also great to hear about how Ronak encourage their staff to make their own mark on the cafe, bringing foods from their different cultures to the menu whether it be falafels from Kav’s Iranian mother, canapés from their French waitress or open sandwiches from Alina’s Polish background.

Cafe Ronak don’t try to be fancy with elaborately presented food and niche ingredients but pretty much everything is homemade and they are fiercely strong supporters of local suppliers. I cannot recommend this venue highly enough. They are everything you could ever want from a neighbourhood cafe.

169A Gloucester Rd, Bristol BS7 8BE

(Whilst the food was complimentary, all the opinions listed here are my own. The photography also belongs to me so please do not use without permission.)

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