Today is the day I leave my home city for the last five years, Bristol, and head to the big smoke.
I’m incredibly excited about all the fantastic markets and restaurants London has to offer, but I also think that Bristol deserves more of a reputation for food. Here’s my round-up of the best places to eat and shop.
WHERE TO EAT
89 St. Mark’s Road, Easton, BS5 6HY t: 01179 510100
This intimate vegetarian restaurant, tucked away in the vibrant Easton area, really pays attention to the tiny details. They even bake their own bread, with the smell hitting you as you walk in the door. A sophisticated and well-presented approach to food, rather than the bland fare you might expect from an organic, vegetarian restaurant. Menu changes seasonally. Two evening courses are £19.95, or three for £22.95.
Robin’s Hood Retreat
197 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, BS7 8BG t: 01179 244334
In the midst of the busy pubs of Gloucester Road, Robin’s Hood Retreat offers a cosy, romantic atmosphere. In the capable hands of head chef Nathan Muir, this old man’s haunt has been transformed into an unpretentious gastro-pub. The menu changes regularly, but features such delights as braised pork belly, with bacon cabbage and a chocolate red-wine sauce. Two courses cost around £14.50.
Oakfield Place, Clifton, BS8 2BJ t: 01179 339533
This converted Victorian lido in the heart of the beautiful Clifton village is a truly unique restaurant experience. Swim in the heated pool, or try the sauna or steam room before sitting down to eat. The novelty of sitting beside the water aside, the adventurous menu, heavily inspired by Middle Eastern flavours, is the finest in Bristol. Local food writer Fiona Beckett says “I just love what they do there. The whole dining experience is just totally different, and refreshing.” Sourced partly by the Lido kitchen garden, the menu changes daily and varies by season, but recently included Wood-roast sole with a prawn and mace butter. Mains are around £14.50 each, or, if you’re on a budget, a range of tapas is available at the poolside bar.
1-3 York Road, Montpelier, BS6 5QB t: 01179 240357
Recommended by the Michelin guide, and winning accolades from the likes of Matthew Fort, the food offered here is highly original, and yet affordable at around £28.50 for the a-la-carte menu. An eight-course tasting menu costs £45 per person. Bell’s Diner is best known for its individual take on food, with a daily changing menu including such inspired dishes as a coconut delice with vindaloo ice cream and a poppadom tuile. The wine list is impressively extensive, with punter Bethan Lewis saying: “If you’re as serious about wine as I am, Bell’s Diner is by far the best place to eat in Bristol.”
V-Shed, Canon’s Way, BS1 5UH
Situated on the busy Bristol waterfront, Bordeaux Quay gives fine dining an unexpected twist, trying its best to be as environmentally friendly as possible. From sourcing local, organic ingredients to harvesting rain water to flush the toilets, their dedication to sustainability in no way impinges on the quality of the food. The menu noticeably uses the finest possible ingredients, down to Périgord black truffle in the risotto. Mains cost around £18.50. An in-house bakery and delicatessen offer goodies to take home with you, and if you have some free time, Bordeaux Quay also offer cookery workshops on anything from French provincial cookery (£85), to the perfect steak (£35), to cupcakes (£70).
WHERE TO SHOP
84 Alma Road, Clifton, BS8 2DJ t: 01179 736569
This is a delicatessen of a quality rare off the continent, a veritable treasure trove of fine produce. Take away a picnic of chicken and chorizo stew or salmon en croute, and a side, for only £10. It’s also perfect for tracking down hard-to-find quality ingredients, especially Spanish items – enjoy a slice of Manchego with basil biscuits and membrillo.
The Olive Shed Shop
123 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, BS7 8AX t: 01179 240572
Originating with the Olive Shed on Bristol harbour, itself a fine place to eat on a sunny day, the new branch of The Olive Shed Shop on Gloucester Road offers a range of artisan breads, antipasti, and, as the name suggests, an unrivalled selection of olives.
Tovey’s Seafood Ltd.
198 Stapleton Road, Easton, BS5 0NY t: 01179 510987
If you don’t have to travel too far home, it’s definitely worth visiting this amazing fishmonger before you leave. Although it doesn’t look like much from the outside, Tovey’s Seafood supply a lot of the catering trade in the area and this family-run business match top-quality produce with fantastic service and down-to-earth prices.
Trethowan’s Dairy Shop
St Nicholas Market, 33-34 The Glass Arcade, BS1 1JW t: 01179 020332
The hard work of co-owner Jess Trethowan has helped make this dairy highly visible in the Bristol food scene, and with good reason. On top of their own award-winning Gorwydd Caerphilly, produced in west Wales, they stock a host of fine cheeses including the Irish Adrahan and the renowned unpasteurised Stilton, Stichelton. Cheese lovers can even order their own cheese wedding cake.
113 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 8AT t: 01179 827199
It would be easy to dismiss this as a rather down-market health food shop in a rather drab part of Gloucester Road, but that would be a huge mistake. Inside, jars of spices, tea and other dried goods cover the walls, making this rather like a spice-lover’s version of a sweetshop. Just scoop out the amount you want and pay pittance to take home all your favourite spices. “I can’t remember the last time I needed some obscure spice no-one had ever heard of and Scoopaway didn’t have it,” says punter Abbi Baker, “and you only need to pay for what you need, so it’s the cheapest way to do it.”