I can safely say that aside from the odd bit of academia, I’ve duly dedicated my three years at University to fervently hunting down the best of Bristol’s eateries and watering holes. This constant hunt proved to be the ultimate release of stress, whether I’d just met an impending deadline, felt uninspired by the Arts and Social Sciences Library, or frankly when desperate to get out of the flat to avoid cooking for myself.
Following these very years of falling in love with the city that I won’t be calling home for much longer, I’ve attempted to separate the good from the bad, curating a decent handful of places where I’ve visited many times, and that I’ve feverishly recommended to fellow Bristolians. These recommendations range in price, style and mood, and I’ve tried to make sure the lesser known places are featured too. I’d like to think this list will be of use to anyone hoping to discover the coolest lunch spot, the mysterious cocktail bar, the best veggie hotspot, and so on.
After these three fabulous years living and breathing Bristol, I can say I’ve succeeded in gaining a particular set of cultural skills which, while some may consider futile, proved essential in deciding on where to take my parents, or when only freshly cooked food will mitigate my two-day hangover.
Favourite go-to/great-value restaurant:
Really, I couldn’t pick anywhere else. It’s stuck with me from my very first term at uni when I’d take my hesitant flatmates in the hope they’d like it too. Thankfully, one of them did, and in that low-lit Kasbah, our friendship blossomed when we’d meet over mezze throughout the two years which ensued. It’s pretty self-explanatory, it is indeed the king of falafel. Surprisingly I’ve tasted far better elsewhere, yet the atmosphere, cost, and range of dishes on the ever-changing menu kept me coming back again, and again, and again (my track record of eating through endless amounts of their ingeniously named ‘royalty’ cards to be rewarded with a free meal is a pertinent example of this).
Sabich laffa (£6.50) – aubergine, hard-boiled egg, and your choice of salad and sauce (mango and tahini, obviously)
falloumi pitta (£5.50) – falafel and halloumi with your choice of salad and sauce
Best show-stopper/where to take stunning Instagram pics/pig out on your parent’s money:
Root is, by far, my favourite find of the year. Hearing about chef Josh Eggleton’s new project where veg-focused small plates would be served in a cargo container was enough to titillate my interest and arrange for my dad to visit. The menu rotates with seasonal produce and is by and large centred on vegetarian and vegan artistry, with a few fish and meat plates also making an appearance. The service is perfect, the atmosphere unspoiled and everything I can remember eating has been undeniably delicious. I’m upset that I’ve only been twice, however, I’m constantly anticipating occasionswhere I’d run to the phone and eagerly book another visit. Oh, and if it’s anything to go by, it will make your Instagram flourish with beautiful shots of charred hispi cabbage and kallettes dressed in burnt honey.
I reviewed this place for Inter:mission (http://www.intermissionbristol.co.uk/foodanddrink/2018/2/21/imnutmeg)and it was one of my favourite pieces to write. This is because it shattered all my pre-conceptions of Indian food. Nutmeg in Clifton Village are constantly changing their menu to represent different regions of the country’s vast culinary landscape; the menu is long but detailed and unique in comparison to your local Indian restaurant. I fell in love with everything I ate: the homemade beetroot and lime pickle, the sweet potato and green pea curry in creamy coconut sauce, therose flavoured, spiced dough balls in a sugary syrup with a side of vanilla ice-cream. This is the perfect answer to any celebration, and it’ll make you fall in love with Indian food either for the first time or all over again.
Favourite place to go for a drink:
I entered 2018 with only one resolution: to drink more beer. Up until this decision my drinking career comprised of darting any invitation of a beer, however kind, and making sure upon entering a pub that they serve at least a cheap glass of merlot. This year I thought ‘enough is enough’, it’s time to decline that unbearably enticing pear cider and enter the unfamiliar world of beer. Bristolians love the stuff, and Small Bar on King Street accommodates for those like me, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and disconcertingly new to the scene. My beery-eyed housemate Maddie introduced me to their sour beer, which surprisingly tastes a lot like a Raspberry Rekorderlig. It is the perfect gateway into the more recognisable stuff and the results are overwhelmingly positive: I can now enjoy several Coronas, one Heineken and a few sips of a Fosters.
Her Majesty’s Secret Service
I first visited Her Majesty’s for my birthday, when I somehow convinced a small group of friends into an overpriced cocktail to celebrate the pretty meaningless event of turning 22. You may have unknowingly walked past their surreptitious black door on your way to Clifton Down station, but behind this door reveals an adored and quirky speak-easy: you walk through a red telephone box and out into a watering hole masked as a wartime bunker, where an ode to Churchill frames the walls and green velvet stools sit idly by a grand piano. Cocktails average at £9, but each concoction is entirely different in taste and appearance; some come in reused tins, terrariums and even umbrellas. You’re also susceptible to an endless complimentary supply of monkey nuts, which helps alleviate pangs of hunger which come all too easy when consuming alcohol.
W.G Grace (Whiteladies Road Spoons)
Everyone’s heard of this one, but I feel it’s worth mentioning since it’s been such a vital component to my gin-fuelled student years. All I’m saying is this: double rhubarb and ginger gin and tonic. £4.50. There’s also the pervasive pink gin, sweet violet gin, and raspberry gin. How and when did spoons become Bristol’s best gin bar?
Favourite food/drink event:
Averys Wine Merchants
Without sounding dramatic (and incredibly pretentious), discovering Averys Wine Merchants was the best thing that ever happened to me. After finding half-price tickets to their seasonal wine tasting event via Wriggle (£15, would you believe), I irrationally booked two (for my boyfriend and I), to celebrate no real reason other than congratulating myself on finding such a bargain. At these events, you taste up to 8 wines, mostly red, but with a few sparkling and white to start the magical evening off. You nibble on gorgeous slabs of artisan cheese and scoff down three different types of bread, including a gorgeously chewy sourdough. It’s located in their 18th-century cellar and it’s lit with golden fairy lights. It’s a dreamy, hazy and boozy haven and it’s ideally hidden at the bottom of Park Street. Since my first visit I’ve taken my mum and her boyfriend, who never drink wine, (can you tell this was just an excuse to drink more wine), and they agreed it was an absolutely fabulous occasion.
I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the place that has saved me endless times when all I want is to overfill the carb-shaped hole in my stomach. Oowee is rightfully known to be Bristol’s best burger diner, and since their initial blow-up in popularity, they’ve set up a new Bedminster joint, moved to London and announced plans for a vegan-only city centre restaurant. All their burgers contain mouth-watering, oozing gooey cheese (except the ‘good burger’: the meat-free option where brioche meets a caramelised onion and lentil patty with sweet red onion pickles). The jalapeno cheese fries, however, are the priority and staple of every order; it’s never a satisfying experience without one too many mouthfuls of their signature cheese sauce.
Eat a Pitta
These guys don’t need any more recognition, they’re growing at a speed many home-grown indies can only dream of. Eat a Pitta sell big, crunchy and herby falafels stuffed into fluffy pittas and recyclable boxes alongside fresh handfuls (literally, handfuls) of carrots, couscous, cabbage, hummus and a fabulous range of gherkins and chilli. Prices are creeping up but with the amount you get, it’s hard to complain.