It always annoys me whenever I hear people lament the slow death of British culture; how we have an ever-decreasing lack of national identity, traditions and pride. I grew up in Central London and always enjoyed the multiculturalism my hometown afforded; I have also lived abroad a couple of times and think this has all allowed me to appreciate other cultures whilst noticing the pros and cons of my own.
When I was living overseas and feeling homesick, the main things I missed aside from my family were (unsurprisingly) the quirks of English cuisine; Marmite, Branston Pickle, Cheddar cheese, chip shop chips (for these are a specific breed of chips native only to these windswept isles), full English breakfasts, and of course, the mighty Roast Dinner.
Regardless of which meat you prefer, whether you think the addition of cauliflower cheese is blasphemy, or if you think carrots should be roasted, steamed or boiled; I challenge you to suggest a more comforting meal which contains so many vegetables and yet still manages to be the most unhealthy thing you will eat all week.
This year, I’ve decided to go on a quest for the best roast dinner in Bristol. I’ve already been inundated with recommendations from across the city and have been really impressed with everything I’ve tried. So, without further ado, here are my tips so far…
The Farm – St Werburghs
Located next to a small city farm in the bohemian neighbourhood of St Werburghs, this pub is a treat on any day – the garden is large and perfect for a sunny day whilst the inside is snug and welcoming.
Pro: The roast dinners here are generous and unpretentious. Any leftover roasties are plonked on the bar with a bowl of gravy for dipping later in the afternoon.
Con: The pub tends to attract a family crowd, so if you’re nursing a particularly vicious hangover, this might be one to avoid.
The Gallimaufry – Gloucester Road
Still relatively new (it opened in early 2012), the Galli is already well-established as a music venue, chilled cafe and restaurant.
Pro: The desserts are fantastic. I had plum crumble with vanilla ice cream when I last visited and I don’t think I’ve ‘Mmmm’ed so much in my life.
Con: They do that annoying thing of serving the veg in a separate dish, and the gravy was a bit stingy. When will people acknowledge that a roast lives and dies on its gravy?
The Runcible Spoon – Stokes Croft
A proud co-operative restaurant with an ever-changing menu, based around local and responsibly-sourced food.
Pro: They really know their food here, so everything I’ve tried has been super tasty and well-combined without being too pretentious. Their Bloody Marys are tip top as well.
Con: It’s a bit on the teeny side, so make sure you book in advance. Portions aren’t as generous as soon other places, but that leaves more room for their dessert, or more Bloody Marys!
Boiling Wells Roast Club – St Werburghs
My friends and I risked a perilous journey across the M32 on a very icy day – one of the group was 4 months pregnant – such is the reputation of this roast dinner. The club closed in 2013 but the same people now do the roasts at The Crofters Rights on Stokes Croft – hurrah!
Pro: Small, cosy and well hidden, you’ll feel like you’re in a mate’s conservatory for lunch. Food and drinks are cheap and the staff are lovely. The food is mighty tasty too – it didn’t get all the hype for nowt.
Con: It’s not the easiest place to find, and the room can get a bit drafty on colder days.
The Rose of Denmark – Hotwells
An unassuming pub with an award-winning roast dinner – this would have to be my favourite so far. Reserve a table, now.
Pro: Large portions, magnificent gravy and my lamb was a bit pink in the middle – YES.
Con: It’s not in the best location, although there’s always the option of pubcrawling your way back along the harbour or through Clifton afterwards!
If you have any other tips let me know!
Like this? Here is the sequel – Bristol’s Best Roasts, Part Two.
Some of my other Bristol guides…