There aren’t many places left like Pickled Jill’s Kitchen. A proper old-school greasy spoon cafe that also doubles up as a sandwich shop, this family-run Redcliffe business opened in 2018 but it nearly didn’t survive the pandemic.
In fact, as owner Jill Graham tells me as she takes my breakfast order, if it wasn’t for the support of the local community, the business simply wouldn’t be here now.
“We were going to pack it in during the pandemic but the locals wanted us to stay and they have all started to use us more ever since,” says Jill, who has help in the kitchen from various family members including her daughter.
“We now get the students from the school and the sixth form college, the teachers and people from the church.
“Actually, we have 20 people from the church booked for Christmas lunch today and a load of teachers have booked lunch for tomorrow - that’s the first time they’ve done that.”
When I arrive at Pickled Jill’s Kitchen, the place is packed. The tables are all occupied by teenagers from the sixth-form college at the end of the road and there is a queue of even more students and workmen in hi-vis stretching as far as the door.
Most of the customers are on first-name terms with Jill, who admits that she often feels ‘like a mum’ to many of the youngsters ordering their hot sandwiches and toasties to takeaway.
Against the backdrop of a sizzling griddle laden with rashers of bacon, fried eggs and hash browns, the students are discussing their plans to attend the Boardmasters festival next summer and also plotting various ways to pull sickies at school.
“Say you’ve got Covid, bro,” sniggers one lad. “No, I know, tell them you have Strep A,” chips in another before they all collapse into a fit of shoulder-shaking giggles. School absence excuses have certainly moved up a notch since I was a kid.
On a mirror near the counter, a message says ‘if you don’t like what’s on ur plate, give it to ur mate’, although I don’t witness any plate swapping on this occasion.
Everybody seems more than happy with the food in front of them. Most of the students seem to be ordering huge and hot breakfast rolls.
These are priced from £3.50 for a single item and the most expensive is the £5 roll with four items from a list that includes bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, hash browns, beans, tomatoes and cheese.
One lad orders a chicken, sausage, hash brown and hot sauce roll with a bottle of Dr Pepper. For 9.30am, that’s a serious breakfast before a long day of studying.
Other items on the menu include toasties, jacket potatoes, beans on toast, salad boxes and a range of ‘Jill’s specials’ (£7.50) including lasagne, cottage pie, chicken pie and chilli con carne served with chips, salad and vegetables.
But it was the short all day breakfast menu I was there for. The cooked breakfasts come in three sizes, priced from £5 for the small to £7.50 for the large (two bacon, two sausages, two free-range eggs, mushrooms, black pudding, hash browns or chips, beans and tomatoes).
I went for the small breakfast and it was excellent. The good quality bacon was crisp, the sausage plump and piping hot, the golden yolk of the fried egg was perfectly runny, the beans glossy and the thick toast generously buttered. The £5 included a mug of strong builder’s tea.
Great value favourites served in a friendly cafe that has essentially been saved by the local community who simply use it rather than lose it. Pickled Jill’s Kitchen is a hidden gem and long may it thrive.
Pickled Jill’s Kitchen, Prewett Street, Redcliffe, Bristol, BS1 6RE. Open daily from 7am-2pm.