10 of the best Bristol restaurants
The last time I did a round up of the best places to eat in Bristol was back in 2014. Since then the food scene has exploded to such an extent that I hardly recognise my original list.
It’s no longer possible to cram everything into one post so these are simply the places where I tend to eat most and which I feel represent a particularly Bristol vibe. (Yes, there are notable omissions but this is a personal take!)
In alphabetical order with the neighbourhood they're based in in brackets
Bar Buvette (city centre)
If you’re familiar with the natural wine bars of Paris and London you’ll feel totally at home at Bar Buvette which is owned by former River Station chef Peter Taylor and his partner Max Ososki. It serves the simple kind of French bistro food that’s hard to find these days (think duck confit and lentils) plus a great selection of charcuterie and Auvergne cheeses (Peter also presides over the fabulous Auberge de Chassignolles up in the hills from Brioude during the summer). Great natural wine obvs which rocks my boat but is not all scary!
Open evenings Tues-Sat, lunch Thurs-Sat. No reservations
I’m slightly hesitant about including Bell’s as the brilliant Sam Sohn-Rethel has just left but I’ve a great attachment to it and it’s such a Bristol institution it would be impossible to leave it out. The menu is based on fashionable Moorish (and more-ish) small plates and a great short, largely organic and biodynamic wine-list. I always find it hugely difficult to make up my mind what to order but it usually includes the salt cod fritters and the charcoal-grilled chicken oyster pinchos with chipotle and harissa yoghurt. Book in the atmospheric front dining room if you can.
Open Mon-Sat dinner, Fri-Sun lunch
Bellita is its more casual offshoot - more of a wine bar with (very nice) food. Smart, little drinks list - all wines from women winemakers. Lunchtime deal of 3 small plates for £10 is an incredible bargain. Can be (understandably) noisy but a great place to hang out with friends.
Open Mon-Sat evenings, all day Thurs-Sat
If you forced me to choose just one restaurant that represented the soul of Bristol it would be this unpretentious small restaurant in Southville. It's run by Sam Leach and Becky Massey who used to work at St John’s and the Quality Chop House respectively. Sam cooks a short, veg-centric menu which changes from week to week depending on what their allotment produces. Eating produce this fresh is a revelation. A typical summer dish would be tiny sweet raw peas with fresh mint and a cloud of shaved Pennard Vale cheese. Desserts and home-baked sourdough bread are blissful.
Open: Wed-Sat evenings so be sure to book (Closed the first 3 weeks of August 2017)
Box E (Wapping Wharf - city centre)
Only in Bristol could you have Michelin standard food in a 14 seater container*, part of the booming Wapping Wharf development. It’s run by Elliott Lidstone (ex The Empress at Hackney) and his wife Tess and offers, clever, imaginative, contemporary food from the one man kitchen. Fish and veg are a particularly strong suit. I had some marvellous red mullet there recently together with this stylish little snack of spiced whitebait. Recently voted no 85 in the National Restaurant Awards top 100
* of which 4 are 'kitchen table' counter seats where you can take the chef's 7 course menu (£45)
Open Dinner Tues-Sat, lunch Wednesday-Saturday. Outside terrace during the summer.
Another rising star of the Bristol firmament Bulrush has just been placed at no 27 in the National Restaurant Awards top 100. It was good when it opened but has really shifted up a gear in the last year. Clever, slightly Scandified food (chef George Livesey is a fan of Faviken) in a modest Cotham neighbourhood restaurant. For £48 the tasting menu (also available for vegetarians) is ridiculously good value - they also do a £18 set course lunch on Thursdays and Fridays.
Open Tues-Sat eve, Thurs-Sat lunch. Closed from August 13th-September 7th 2017 for summer holidays
Hart’s Bakery (Temple Meads)
My regular pitstop en route to London Hart’s Bakery is conveniently situated just under the arches at Temple Meads. Great croissants, cakes and fatally irresistible sausage rolls (try the mushroom and barley one - the best veggie sausage roll I've ever tasted). You can also eat in which qualifies it for inclusion in this list.
Closed Sundays and Mondays, Open 7-3pm the rest of the week
With its amazing setting overlooking an outdoor swimming pool Lido’s the perfect place for a summer meal (or for undoing all the good you’ve done in the pool and the spa) There are two sections, an upstairs restaurant where you get a bird’s eye view of the swimmers ploughing up and down and a poolside cafe and bar which has a tapas-style menu. Chef Freddy Bird has done time at Moro an influence reflected in the number of dishes that are cooked in their wood-fired oven. There’s a fixed price lunch and early evening menu at £16 for 2 courses or £20 for 3. Oh, and their ice-creams are heavenly.
Open all week.
Pasta Loco (Cotham)
If you get the urge for a pasta fix head for Pasta Loco on Cotham Hill (which is also home to Bellita and the very congenial Bravas tapas bar) They do a great set lunch for just £12.50. Exceptionally warm friendly service. I use it for lunch *meetings* - at least that's my excuse. The creamy sauces, whatever they currently are, are especially good. Booking essential in the evening.
Open: Mon-Sat evening, Tue-Sat lunch
5 minutes walk from my flat, Wallfish is basically my local. Chef Seldon Curry used to cook with Mark Hix in Dorset and that coastal influence still marks the menu. Order the mussels, if they’re on, and a whole plaice or sole with brown shrimps. BYO on Wednesday evenings. £12.50 lunch or early supper from Wednesday to Friday. Great weekend brunch and open Sunday nights which is a boon. Oh, and try and get a table upstairs (or rather don’t because then I might not get mine)
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
I’ve only been to Wilson’s once which should really disqualify it from being on this list but I've been gagging to go again and everyone I know who lives closer to it than I do (and both Jay Rayner and Tom Parker Bowles FWIW) continually raves about it. Jan Ostle who worked at Clove Club in London cooks a short, simple menu - I have abiding memories of a stellar roast chicken. Booked to go next month (July 2017) so will update.
Closed: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday lunch. (If you can’t get in try No Man’s Grace next door which is also excellent)
Here’s the original 2014 list which I’ve updated with closures but by and large it's woefully out of date.
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