*Updated July 2017*
I like to believe that I love all food the same. I struggle to think of a national cuisine I haven’t enjoyed.
However, none of them can quite match the excitement I feel whenever I go a tapas bar. The wide array of dishes, the abundance of garlic and the focus on sharing make tapas my culinary soulmate.
I’ve tried several of the tapas places in Bristol now; they all offer something a bit different from each other but are all of a good standard. Here’s my guide to Bristol’s top tapas. ¡Buen provecho!
The latest venture from the team behind Milk Thistle, Hyde & Co. and The Ox is a tapas and wine bar, set across three floors on Corn Street. Choose from some excellent pintxos or tapas (the Pan Catalan is particularly good, as is their selection of cheeses and cured meats), in addition to a well-considered sherry menu. Check out their Twitter page for live music and events listings. They also do a tasty lunch menu!
As you’d expect from the same family who brought you Michelin starred Casamia and the seriously good pizza joint Pi Shop, Paco is named after the father of the clan and stocks some of the best quality Spanish hams and nibbles this side of the Channel. Pop in for a sherry and some croquetas to get you started and take it from there…
A long-established tapas venue in the harbour, El Puerto is a well known to most Bristolians and a popular and reliable choice for large groups who want to load up on food before heading to the nearby bars. They also run both Flamenco and Jazz nights if you want to experience some additional culture!
Starting life as a supper club before moving to a proper restaurant setting in 2012, Bravas has been a popular and innovative institution from the start. I finally managed to pay a visit earlier this week, and can confirm that all the hype is very much deserved. You have a choice of sitting at a table or up at the bar – beware that the tables tend to be booked a while in advance so get in early! We sat at the bar which was my preference anyway and gave us a good view of the exciting things going on in the kitchen. Everything we ordered was of a high standard – Salmorejo (a basic sauce of tomato, breadcrumbs, garlic and olive oil) with quails eggs was simple but refreshing and flavoursome; grilled Iberico pork was unbelievably tender and perfectly cooked; salted chocolate truffles were rich with a gorgeous texture. The fried aubergine with molasses was one of the best things I’ve eaten this year.
A tiny Spanish bar on North St just past the South Bristol staples of the Tobacco Factory and Mark’s Bread, this establishment manages to pack a lot of character and fun in to quite a compact space. On offer are Spanish lessons, film nights and music every Sunday night – plus the annual Tortilla competition!
In addition to the places I’ve mentioned above, many other bars and restaurants have started offering their own take on tapas – the most recent being The Gallimaufry on Gloucester Road, but great offers can be found at the Lounges and Cosy Club, Bell’s Diner in Montpelier, Manna in Westbury Park, and Harvey’s Cellars in town.
You can also get some excellent Spanish food from Poco on Stokes Croft (also worth a trip for their Mediterranean style brunches or their seasonal cocktails), on a boat at Under the Stars (a big favourite among my friends, who have impeccable taste) or Spanish deli El Comado on Gloucester Rd.
Have fun on your own tapas quest, be sure to let me know of any other places where you’ve tried some great examples!
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