*Updated May 2016*
Want to celebrate a birthday, have a family meal or spoil that special someone?
As you’d expect, Bristol is brimming with excellent food options to suit every budget and taste; in fact you can eat well at many of the places below for a little over £10 – be sure to check their early bird deals or see if you can find them on the Wriggle app.
I’ve split the selections below by type, from serious sophistication down to the quirkier venues in town, so whether you’re on a date or a work do, you can work out the sort of mood & location that suits you best.
Break out your best shoes, smooth down your hair and straighten your bow tie – here are my tips for where to go when you’re in need of a serious treat in Bristol…
Steak restaurants don’t come much more opulent than this place, and luckily both the food and drinks menus are equally as attractive. Choose from a selection of tasty small plates and perfectly-cooked steaks (including some impressive sharing dishes such as a 30oz T-Bone), then try and decide between their mega wine list, great selection of local beers or cocktail menu.
Sit up in the upstairs dining room, or in their cosy downstairs basement restaurant for a more intimate experience. The cocktails here are first rate (their spirits selection is unrivalled), and the food is some of the most exciting and ambitious in central Bristol. They also do some great value tasting menus, as well as a steak & lobster evening for just £25.
If you want to make your meal more of an all-day treat, why not pop along to The Lido for a spa day or al fresco swim to work up an appetite? Their tapas menu is reliably good, and they usually have some good value offers on their website which you can combine with using the spa facilities.
The top of most chefs and food writers’ ‘where to eat’ lists, Bell’s is an understated local institution, serving incredible seasonal small plates out of their cosy Montpelier dining rooms. Many favourites such as the salt cod fritters stay on the menu all year round, but otherwise the menu is ever-changing and reliably brilliant.
Quite possible the best view in town – and that’s quite the statement given how many scenic views we are lucky to have in Bristol. The food here is a celebration of high quality ingredients, choose between a seasonal 7 course tasting menu or some inventive dishes from the dinner menu.
One of the most talked about recent additions to Bristol’s eating scene, this small neighbourhood restaurant has upped the food game of not just Southville but the South West. The focus of their concise menu is bringing locally-sourced ingredients alive, and all dishes look mesmerising. Believe the hype, this place really is something special.
Another small neighbourhood restaurant, foodie favourite and calm oasis in Clifton Village; you can rely on Wallfish serving you some of the best seafood you’re likely to try, as well as some famously great dishes such as their rabbit & lobster pie. The only downside here is trying to decide what to have, from the starters through to the lip-smacking desserts.
Few places make the immediate impact that this punchy family-run joint did as soon as it opened – with Ben making fresh pasta twice daily and his cousin Dom providing enthusiastic and chatty service out the front, you’re unlikely to find better Italian food for miles around, with a lush wine list to boot.
Quirky & Lively
The thing I like best about this place is that you can choose to sit in the bar or bustling outside terrace, or tuck yourself away in their restaurant area for a quieter meal. Choose from a seriously good selection of small plates (there’s a bargainous 3-for-£12 deal before 7pm during the week), and if you time it right you might even be treated to some quality live music in the bar.
Still one of my favourites in Bristol for a relaxed snack, Poco also has first rate eco credentials, having won several awards for its sustainable approach. The menu is strictly seasonal, as is the succinct cocktail menu (I’m still thinking about the bonfire Old Fashioned they served me over a year ago). Sit up at the high tables or in the window for chinwagging and people-watching, or at a table towards the back for a more chilled experience.
This place is getting quite the word-of-mouth following for its food, thanks to the exciting creations of their clever chef Scott Raynal Hislop (he’s particularly great when it comes to inventive vegan dishes). There’s also the bonus of being able to sit outside and watch the harbourside go about its business. Expect similarly wonderful things from sister restaurant Canteen on Stokes Croft.
A relaxed and welcoming restaurant next to the Bearpit, this place may wear its veggie credentials on its sleeve, but by no means does its appeal stretch only to those who avoid animal products. The small plates and tartines are bursting with flavour, and the cocktails (usually made using the restaurant’s own infused spirits such as rhubarb vodka) are some of the best this side of the city.
Bristol’s original Michelin-starred restaurant, the two chef brothers who run this place create some of the country’s most imaginative and playful dishes using a range of techniques. The decor is also designed to match the seasonal changes to the menu and give an all-round sensory experience.
The Pony & Trap
Don’t be fooled by the unassuming appearance of this country pub; chef and owner Josh Eggleton has helped to put Bristol on the map for food, not only through his repeat appearances on The Great British Menu, but also by going on to be one of the organisers of the annual Eat Drink Bristol Fashion event. The Pony & Trap is still where most of his efforts are concentrated though, and it shows through in the quality of everything from their well-crafted dinner menu, to the superb roast dinners.
Bristol’s most recent restaurant to be bestowed with a Michelin star, this fine dining establishment is nestled in the middle of Redland on Chandos Road and clearly advertises its fine dining credentials with its sophisticated decor and beautifully presented dishes. Bonus points for its truly spectacular vegetarian tasting menu.
The clue’s in the name here; their short and seasonal menu is about as ethically-sourced as it’s possible to be, and changes daily. However the beautiful views of their walled garden and the hills beyond are just as famous as their menu. The experimental cocktails are also well worth the trip out to BS40.
Just a Few Drinks
If you want to round off your night of indulgence, you can take a look at my guide to Bristol’s Classiest Cocktail Bars, or maybe you’re more in the mood for a local beer at one of Bristol’s Best Craft Bars?
In any case, I hope you have fun trying out some of the finer establishments in Bristol – let me know if you try any of those from my list, or if there are any others you think I need to visit!
In need of a few more recommendations?
- Bristol’s Best Steak Deals
- The Tastiest Tapas in Town
- The Vegetarian Guide to Bath & Bristol
- Bristol’s Best Roast Dinners
- The Best of the Brunch in Bristol