Two top chefs have opened The Atrium Café at Bristol’s iconic Arnos Vale Cemetery to cater for a steep increase in visitors.
Whisk! Directors Mike Merelie and Evan Roberts have just opened their second café at the magnificent cemetery – fast becoming one of Bristol’s must-see visitor attractions.
Whisk! launched a successful café operation at the Knowle West Health Park just before Christmas and have now taken over the reins from volunteers at Arnos Vale who had served light refreshments from trestle tables at the cemetery’s grade II listed Spielman Centre for the past two years.
Mike Merelie said the fast-expanding Whisk! team had been met with quizzical looks when they had first mooted the possibility of taking over the cemetery’s Atrium Café last year.
“As well as still being a working cemetery Arnos Vale is a living breathing heritage site which attracts hundreds of people a week from mums and dads with small children to family history buffs, amateur photographers and even a zumba class.
“There are frequent educational visits, it’s a bird watchers’ paradise and the two restored chapels stage music recitals and host community events.
“With hundreds of visitors, local residents and workers from the ITV studios and Paintworks site just across the road, we are hoping the Atrium café will prove just as successful as our Knowle West venture.”
Whisk will open the Atrium Café from 10 am to 4pm everyday in the spring and summer and Wednesday to Sunday in the autumn and winter. The café can sit up to 30 covers indoors and a similar number on the terrace patio.
Whisk have installed a striking counter for displaying their homemade cakes, brownies, scones and for showing off their gleaming espresso machine. The lunch menu includes classic sandwiches on Pullin’s bread, freshly grilled paninis, beautiful salads, charcuterie, frittata and homemade soup with soda bread.
The café is licensed and Whisk! are serving the best local brews from Bristol Beer Factory and Ashton Press along with continental lagers and a selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle.
Mike Merelie said: “We see locally sourced products and beers as an essential element of the total ‘Bristol experience’.
He went on: “Arnos Vale is a phenomenal place – a cultural gem which seems to be forgotten then re-discovered by successive generations of Bristolians. It’s an absolutely ideal venue for us, providing good food where you don’t expect it.
“We expect the café to flourish in what is becoming something of a tourist haven in the heart of South Bristol.”
Juliette Randall, Chief Executive at Arnos Vale Cemetery said: “When looking for an operator for the new Atrium Café and catering facilities we were really keen to find a local business which shared our aspirations for Arnos Vale Cemetery.
“We are delighted to have formed a partnership with Whisk! who clearly share our passion and appreciate the importance of Arnos Vale Cemetery to the local and wider Bristol community. Whisk! have transformed the café space and early feedback from our visitors about the quality of food and setting has been fantastic.”
Arnos Vale is the only known restored example of a Victorian, ‘Arcadian’ garden cemetery. A staggering 300,000 people were buried or cremated there, from ordinary Bristol families to social reformers such as Raja Rammohun Roy.
The entire site had been weeks away from being bulldozed during the long drawn out planning disputes in the 80s and 90s but the city council’s decision to compulsorily purchase the cemetery followed by a massive £5.2m grant from the lottery heritage fund has helped preserve it for future generations.
Mike Merelie said: “We are developing a business model which we believe works especially well in sites like this which require a degree of consideration and sensitivity in terms of approach.
“Hopefully Arnos Vale will be the first of a series of satellite stations working around our hub at the Knowle West Health Park. We are already looking at several other likely sites across the city and expect to open more before the end of the year.”
Whisk! launched their original café at the South Bristol base just before Christmas and are creating new jobs as their business expands.
Find Whisk!’s Atrium Cafe on the Bristol Bites Directory…