This year, it felt like Bristol went from being championed by its locals to being nationally recognised, whether it was for its green credentials, burgeoning food & drink scene, support for local businesses, or putting a water slide down one of its busiest streets.
We had more festivals, more new openings, and made it on to more ‘Best.. in the UK’ lists than ever before.The Guardian called Bristol a ‘Foodie Heaven‘, listed some of our best places to eat on a budget, and included Bristol Eats in its round-up of the Top 10 Food Markets in Europe. The Telegraph was one of several newspapers to report that Bristol had topped the Quality of Living Index, making it The Best City to Live in the UK. But what were the stand out bits of 2014 for Bristolians and local business owners?
As well as seeing an influx of new chains to Bristol, this year also saw some local businesses expanding – Thali Cafe opened their 5th restaurant in Southville next to the Tobacco Factory and have made good use of the huge space to host regular Bollywood Parties; we also saw some very welcome second branches of modern Moroccan restaurant Souk Kitchen, elegant Italian Rosemarino, contemporary bistro Zazu’s Kitchen, wine & spirit peddlers Corks of Cotham and local favourite The Burger Joint. Bristol chains Grounded and Loungers also continued to expand across the city and beyond. Hurrah!
2014 Highlights: Dan from The Burger Joint
Best bits are our North Street opening, the Suspension Bridge fireworks and the water slide on Park St – such a great advertisement for Bristol. What I love about having a business in Bristol is the loyalty of customers towards local and independent businesses, it really helps to have that support.
As well as the expansions of well-known names in town, I think it’s safe to say that 2014 has been possibly the most prolific year yet for exciting newcomers to Bristol!
However, the real winner this year was the completely revitalised St Nicholas Street in the centre, which saw more new businesses opening than probably anywhere else in town – stylish tapas joint Pata Negra, Stock Exchange Bakery, a new permanent home for burger masters Chomp, Playground Coffee Co (swings and boardgames in a cafe!!), and recently independent home brewing and beer retailers BREW Bristol – it’s surely got to be the coolest street in Bristol right now.
2014 Highlights: Dan from Simple Lampoon
Best Newcomer: Pata Negra – Tapas done right downstairs, cocktails done right upstairs.
Best Event: Bristol Slide – More of this please Bristol.
Bristol Favourite: The Beermuda triangle. A wondrous place.
I’m slowly working my way through my Bristol Food Bucket List (yes, I actually have one, and so should you if you want to get your priorities straight for 2015), but priorities are Katie & Kim, Birch and No Man’s Grace – all three have been getting lots of praise since opening earlier this year, and whilst the latter two are a bit pricier, I’m sure I’ll find an excuse to head over to Montpelier for Katie & Kim’s famous cheese scones before long!
2014 has also been a year where we upped our drinking game, whether our tipple is beer, cocktails or a cloudy cider. Several pubs got a facelift or reinvented entirely – The Three Sugar Loaves became The Christmas Steps, Robin Hood’s Retreat became The Grace and The Bay on North Street changed to The Steam Crane in spring – all three have hit the ground running and have improved on the business that was there before. Bravo!
2014 Highlights: Rob Hall from Wriggle
Best Newcomer: Sky Kong Kong
Best Event: 2-Wheel Cinema
Bristol Favourite: Hart’s Bakery
It’s been very difficult to decide – we could have added more! We’d also like to give a shout to Kongs for keeping us sporty with post-work ping pong, and to Hart’s Bakery for keeping us fuelled at lunch during the very first days of Wriggle!
My Top New Bars in 2014:
Aviator – Small but packed full of treats – they serve a fairly unique selection of beer, some excellent spirits, and I’ve heard great things about their rack of ribs!
The Steam Crane – They’ve served me one of the best roasts this year, plus their beer and board games selection is top notch. A welcome addition to North St’s flourishing bar scene.
Kongs of King St – It would be spurious to suggest that I am only selecting this place for its ping pong table, but the arcade games, beers and spacious interior also make this place a winner.
Three more cocktail bars well worth a visit are The Bristologist on Corn St, The Doghouse on St Stephens St nearby, and the new Manos on the Triangle – it’s nice to have a bit more variety on the cocktail scene these days, no matter what corner of town you’re in!
2014 Highlights: Alex from East Bristol Bakery
2014 was all about Food Connections, Small Bar really coming into its own, all the good stuff going on St Nicholas Street, and us winning Best Bakery at the Bristol Good Food Awards! Also, the competition for best pizza in Bristol, and places like Sky Kong Kong taking a risk and just doing one thing really well.
We also experienced Burgergeddon™ in the form of a 2nd Burger Joint on North St, plus burger restaurants Byron, Five Guys and Chomp also opening premises in the centre. Rounding off Bristol’s meatopia was Argentinian steakhouse Cau, who opened in August.
2014 Highlights: Meg from It’s Just Nice
Best Newcomer: Pata Negra – cracking tapas and even better cocktails and dancing in Noche Negra upstairs!
Best Event: Got to be Prohibition! Biased, of course, but who wouldn’t want a night of 1920s cocktails, burlesque and fun!
Bristol Favourite: St Nick’s Market – The heart and soul of Bristol’s amazing food scene! More in love with it this year than ever!
However, we haven’t just had a meat-centric year, as 2014 has also seen a new wave of vegan and vegetarian businesses across Bristol, including successful street food vendors The Mighty Food Fight, and The Spotless Leopard, as well as veggie cafes Roll for the Soul on Nelson St and Fi Real in Old Market. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, all of these places do incredible food and I recommend that you visit every one of them!
My Top Street Food of 2014:
The Mighty Food Fight – Doughnuts, cakes and wraps – all vegan, all fantastic.
Moorish – Really, seriously tasty wraps – the slowed cooked lamb in particular is mind-alteringly good.
Bertha’s Pizza – Sourdough pizza served from a Land Rover – some of the best pizza I’ve had in Bris.
Well done again to Bristol Eats for their excellent food markets across town this year – whether it’s been at Temple Quay, Roo Bar or King St. The variety and quality of the vendors has no equal in town, and their wins at the British Street Food Awards is much deserved!
2014 Highlights: Olivia from Golden Pulse
Best Newcomer: The Stock Exchange Bakery
Best Event: St Nick’s Victorian Night Market
Bristol Favourite: Bristol Biennial – for the number of mad things that happened in and around Bristol on a daily basis; Grass Men in St Andrews Park was the highlight!
Finally, I think a big focus of the food scene in Bristol this year has been sustainability – ahead of Bristol being the Green Capital in 2015, we’ve had iniatives across the city from Edible Bristol, a new Riverford supper club at Yurt Lush, and the much publicised arrival of The Bristol Skipchen at The Crofters Rights.
We also had Food Connections, Big Green Week and Eat Drink Bristol Fashion in the first half of the year, promoting local food from sustainable sources, as well as filling our bellies with some excellent grub. In addition to enjoying tapas at the tipis, we had the usual plethora of arts trails, night markets, street food stalls, supper clubs, tasting events and pop-ups – with something to suit every taste and budget.
2014 Highlights: Lily Doughball
Best Newcomer: Is BaoWow new? I can’t remember when it opened! (It actually opened in 2013, but welcomed sister restaurant Sticks ‘n’ Broth to Baldwin St this year, which is equally great!)
Best Event: Grillstock Festival
Bristol Favourite: I am still obsessed with Bagel Boy!
We also had a new range of places to promote and view the scope of what is on offer – from deals on Wriggle, to tips at the Tourist Inspiration Station, to the pages of the new Bristol 24/7 and Bristol Cable magazines.
My Top Food Events of 2014:
Food Connections – Connecting people with where their food comes from, I enjoyed everything from the BBC events in harbourside, to the food markets, to making insect sushi at @Bristol. Bring on 2015!
Eat Drink Bristol Fashion – It’s a shame that the dining events priced out so many people,and I hope next year will be more varied in price, but the food & entertainment at the tipis was first rate.
Bristol Beer Week – Bigger and better than ever – some incredible collaborations, special brews, an amazing roster of events, and some snazzy T-shirts. One of my best (ie. drunkest) weeks this year.
2014 Highlights: Rudy from Guide2 Bristol
I’d like to highlight the City Restaurant, which is located next to City of Bristol College’s College Green Centre. As well as being open for lunch and coffee most days they also run theme nights where the students get to really show off their culinary skills. The food they produce is amazing, both in quality and value for money, and the students are really worthy of support. Try it out!
Overall, I’ve found 2014 exhausting, intense, but more exciting than ever as a person whose hobbies revolve mainly around food and drink. I’ve ticked off lots of news places, tried lots of new dishes and cocktails, met lots of excellent people, and feel that Bristol has carved a real identity for itself in the UK as a city to aspire to in terms of local business and community. Here’s to more of the same next year!
My Top Food Newcomers of 2014:
- Flour & Ash – Fantastic sourdough pizza with some intense toppings – Chorizo & pickled chillies! Ox cheek ragu & bechamel! The ice cream is also worth a visit on its own.
- Sticks ‘n’ Broth – Reliably good ramen bar on Baldwin St – everything looks great, tastes better. A nice selection of Asian beers & starters are also available, along with some crazy burger combos.
- Bakers & Co – The brunch menu here is so good I could cry. Great coffee and cakes too. The buttered leeks with duck egg & potato cake that I had earlier this year was ridiculously good.
- Mathilda’s – A chilled chilli bar by the Bear Pit, I think we can credit Mathilda’s with kickstarting a new wave of great businesses in this area. Great value, great food, and they have chilli vodka.
- Sky Kong Kong – A new menu every day, focusing on fresh ingredients and rustic Korean recipes, I was seriously impressed with the food & atmosphere. Beware of overindulging in Soju!
What have been your favourite bits of 2014 in Bristol? Or what are you looking forward to next year? Let me know in the comments below!
More favourites and amazingness across town: