During the week we caught up with Oliver, owner of ultimate unwind-spot Mockingbird Café situated on Alma Vale road in Clifton. Oliver filled us in on the company’s colourful history - rooted in the deep south of America - and told us what you can expect from Mockingbird at present.
When we first asked about the name ‘Mockingbird’ Oliver explained that the cafe is based on the food and atmosphere of the deep South of America. Oliver met his Missippian wife whilst researching food ideas in Nashville and Mockingbird is a literary reference to ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, which is set in Alabama. “The Mockingbird is also the State bird of 5 of the deep South states, so it is a nod to the inspiration of the cafe, without being too cliché or themed.”
Its great to see so much care and subtlety has gone into the brand concept and its definitely reflected in the warm atmosphere of the café, filling portion sizes and well-priced menu.
Research is something Oliver emphasizes as extremely important if you are looking to start your own business but he has lots of other great tips for hitting that successful formula that just makes a venue buzz.
“Make sure that you build something that fits in with your location, you can draw people to your unique concept, but it is your local regulars that will make the business sustainable. Gain experience, if you have catering know-how focus on building up your business skills and vice versa. Ask for help, find a business you admire or think is doing a good job, and get talking to them, most independent business people are more than happy to offer advice and share their experiences. Plus it is great to have a network of people who are in a similar trade that can relate to your day to day issues.”
Oliver spent over a year developing the concept, finding premises and refitting them. Turning to the menu, he chose to place a strong focus on homely brunch dishes and we wanted to know what was flying out of the kitchen at the moment. “we have a great selection of breakfast style plates such as smashed Avocado and goats cheese on Hobbs House Sourdough. Our sandwiches of the week are always a big hit too, and we try to get a Southern twist in wherever possible, such as Dr.Pepper pulled pork with dill pickles.”
Mockingbird café has also been building bonds with local suppliers at the same time as making sure they use only the best produce and ingredients in their drinks and dishes. The bread they use is from Hobbs House (Chipping Soudbury) and their Meat is from Ruby&White; An award winning butchers on Whiteladies Road. They source their dairy products from Bruton Dairy in Somerset, their coffee is from Extract in Bristol and tea from Canton.
We wanted to know Oliver’s top Mockingbird recommendation and asked if you could order anything off of your menu as a customer, what would you choose? He answered; “At the weekends we do the typical US South Buttermilk biscuit with sausage patty, egg 'n cheese shuffle, and streaky bacon, topped with sausage gravy. It's full of flavour and sets you up for the day.” It Sounds and looks amazing.
Mockingbird doesn’t just cater for people within its four walls, lately they have been reaching farther afield and hosting pop-up evenings and children’s parties. As you can imagine these have proved very popular and Oliver would encourage anyone to get in touch as they are keen to branch out and do more event work.
To round off our chat I was very keen to know what the real drive of the business was and what makes being an independent brand so special; “Being independent allows us to put our own character into the cafe, be it a pun on the menu boards, or sandwich combo we have dreamt up. We can be a lot more flexible to our customers’ needs and build personal relationships with them. We feel like we are an important part of the community and provide a place to connect neighbours and workers who would normally pass each other on the street.”
Simply put Mockingbird has not only become a cornerstone in the local community but their unique brand of brunch dishes and their warming service is attracting new customers from all-over including those visiting from America and looking for a little piece of home away from home. Word travels quickly when it comes to good food and a good cup of coffee.