It’s easy to get caught up with the latest openings and new exciting places (and there is plenty to be excited about at the moment), but I thought it was time to give some appreciation to the places that have kept me fed and watered with consistently brilliant fare since I moved to Bristol nine (bloody hell) years ago.
One of my all-time favourite places to eat, this modern Middle Eastern restaurant hits the spot every time. Their North St branch in Southville opened back in 2009, followed by a very welcome second branch just off Whiteladies Road in 2014.
The dishes are inspired by a range of Ottoman & Mediterranean flavours, from colourful mezze through to slow cooked meats and lightly spiced curries, and every single thing I’ve ever eaten here has been lick-the-plate delicious.
A hit since it opened in 2011, I’ve always loved Poco’s relaxed atmosphere and serious commitment to seasonal & ethical sourcing – you can sit up at the high tables towards the front and watch the comings and goings on Stokes Croft (surely one of the best people-watching spots), or take a table at the back with friends for a cosier meal.
The tapas is still excellent, the brunch is among my favourites (the bacon butty with harissa is gooood) and their seasonal cocktails are reason enough to pop in.
The journey of this Bristol chain (up until recently known as Thali Cafe, now simply Thali) has been fairly immense – starting as a food stall at a festival in 2000, before opening their first restaurant in Montpelier shortly afterwards, then quickly going on to open a further four branches across the city.
I miss the days of £5 thalis as much as anyone, but it’s been a pleasure to see the menu grow from humble veggie-based beginnings into an exciting mix of thalis, starters and sides – the newest Meera Sodha dishes are seriously good, and I’ve not seen the quality wane as they expand out of the city and into Oxford and beyond.
This used to be one of my favourite places to eat, and whenever I pop back it’s still a treat. Fishers is a compact, friendly and rustic-feeling restaurant in Clifton Village, which as the name indicates is all about cooking up tasty fish and seafood.
On a recent visit I was pleased to see that the standard was still as high as ever, and although other excellent seafood restaurants have sprung up across the city in the 15 years that Fishers has been open, it’s still up there with the best – and great value too.
Bristol has a multitude of old school Italian restaurants which feel like they’ve remained unchanged since The Godfather was released, but Sergio’s is my favourite. Tucked into an assuming corner under the bridge on Frogmore Street just under the famous Banksy painting, this is still one of my top places to bring groups – the portions are generous, the food is tasty and the service is super friendly.
Plus, it’s optional BYO on wine (they have their own selection, but it’s good to have the choice – you have to buy beer/spirits there though), which makes it even cheaper! Never change, Sergio’s.
This locals’ favourite has been in its understated home in the Haymarket underpass next to the Bearpit since 2003, but even before that was on nearby King Square since the 1970s – and there’s a reason it’s lasted the distance.
Firstly, the menu is vast and caters not just for your standard beef in black bean sauce crowd, but also for Chinese families from across the region, as well as local chefs and bar staff who take advantage of the 3am (!) closing time. Bring a friend who can navigate the epic menu, and come hungry.
It may feel like we’re overrun with burger places now, but cast your mind back to 2009, when The Burger Joint was an exciting newbie on Whiteladies Road, with very little competition.
Now there are three branches (the others are in Southville & Fishponds) and the menu has had a bit of an extension, but the prices are still very reasonable and the DIY approach to building your (vary tasty) burger still makes this place a stand out for me – not to mention a great option for veggies & vegans.
A late night staple for me originally due to their city centre food van, I’ve also come to love their small restaurant up on Cotham Hill with its simple menu, cosy downstairs area and mini shisha garden.
Arguments abound as to where the best falafel is in the city, and I’m still undecided, but as an all-rounder this place delivers on taste, value and general Bristol loveliness.
Situated in one of the oldest Victorian lidos in the UK, Clifton Lido was refurbished and reopened in 2008, and its poolside restaurant has been a huge hit ever since.
Headed up by chef Freddy Bird, the restaurant serves up a tasty tapas menu during the day and Mediterranean-inspired dishes in the evening. I love popping in for a midweek swim (£20 for up to 3 hours people – and there’s a sauna & hot tub for colder days!) so that I have a proper appetite for the restaurant afterwards!
Opened by Papa (Paco) Sanchez in 1999 and taken over by sons Peter and Jonray in 2004, Casamia has won multiple awards and accolades, including a Michelin star and 5 AA Rosettes.
Now part of a fantastic trilogy of Sanchez restaurants in The General building in Bathurst Basin (Pi Shop serves first rate pizza, while Paco Tapas recently received a Michelin star of its own), Casamia is still knocking people’s socks off with its inventive and inspired dishes. What a talented family, eh?
Other notable mentions…
- Don Giovanni’s – Run by the same family (and head chef!) for 30 years, this Italian restaurant opposite Temple Meads is still as popular as ever.
- Bristol Sweet Mart – yes it’s a shop & deli rather than restaurant, but if we’re talking Bristol food institutions, you can’t leave out this much-loved Easton bazaar.
- Thai Classic – 23 years young and allegedly Bristol’s longest-running Thai restaurant, a Whiteladies Road favourite.
- Renato’s – a very much loved bar & restaurant on King St, providing students, visiting actors and locals tasty pizza and beer for over 40 years.
- Brunel Raj – Open since 1997, this traditional curry house is still one of the top choices for an Indian meal in Clifton.
- Giuseppes – Another longstanding traditional Italian joint, this place has been under its current management since the mid ’90s and is still drawing in the crowds – their lunch deal is a particular hit.
- Sheesh Mahal – A familiar sight on Gloucester Road since 1979, this is a popular spot for those looking to line their stomach before carrying on in to town.
- Miss Millies – not just your average fried chicken shop; this Bristol instituion has been going for 40yrs and was started up by the man who brought KFC to the UK.
- Cyprus Kebab House – unassuming from the outside, but reliably tasty & homely Greek food (or chips, if you’re in that sort of mood) on St Michael’s Hill.
- La Grotta – On the same spot in Broadmead for the past 35 years, you can rely on hefty bowls of pasta and huuuge slices of cheesecake without a big price tag.
- Woodes Cafe – A humble & friendly cafe at the bottom of Park Street which seems to have outlasted most other business along this busy and ever-changing stretch.
Other foodie inspiration:
- Bristol’s Cosiest Pubs
- Bristol’s Best Date Locations
- Bristol’s 12 Best Brunches
- Where to Treat Yourself in Bristol
- Bristol’s Best Burgers