The new year is nigh! We’ve been through another busy few months, where Bristol has firmly cemented itself as a food destination to rival even London.
There have been many gushing reviews from esteemed critics, awards and new places. There have also been the inevitable closures – but more on that later.
I’ve tried to round up some of the key Bristol food & drink moments of 2017, as well as asking some locals for their munching highlights of the year. Strap in, here are the best bits of what we ate in the year 2017…
So, in addition to the FT saying that Bristol has potentially the best food scene in the country, Bristol was also rated one of the Coolest Cities in the World by National Geographic. It was also rated Coolest City in Britain by Rough Guides and Best Place to Live by The Times – woo!
Hardens also recently voted Casamia as the 2nd best restaurant in the country!
Bristol also got some honorary mentions in the 2018 Michelin Guide, as well as several winners in The Observer Food Monthly Awards!
Alex from Squeezed
Best Newcomer: Tare. I was blown away by the quality of the cooking. They are very understated and cooking food at the next level. Incredible attention to detail, consideration and expertise in their dishes.
Dish of the Year: Tare’s ‘wild duck, roast salsify and orange aioli’. My socks actually came off during that. Perfectly pink, juicy duck, crisp salsify and an aioli so smooth with an incredible citrus kick. Immense!
Best Event: Although I didn’t go, Bristol in the Sky – because why not! What a genuinely fun and interesting idea. I ended up cooking burgers for James Bridges after his service on a couple of occasions.
Bristol Top Three: Well I’ve given Tare enough love so they are…
- Box E – I had a wonderful evening there with fantastic food and service.
- Hart’s Bakery – they never fail to wow me. The quality of their work runs through every product and the buzz is great.
- Bakers and Co – still my favourite brunch spot. The morning toast is my Achilles heel!
PX and Tarts
Best Newcomer: Root
Best Event: Bertha’s pizza giro or Eat Your Words
Bristol Top Three (well, four)
- Wallfish Bistro
Best Newcomer: Squeezed! Sorry if many others say the same, but I was seriously impressed with their burgers. Every part of it was done so well, and I wonder why I’m not back every week…
Best Event: The Vela pop-up! Biased of course, but being in the kitchen for the first time was an incredible experience and the feedback made it worthwhile. Otherwise, Romy and Cyrus Todiwala’s event was great fun with versatile food showcasing their influences.
Dish of the Year: At Bell’s Diner in the spring they did a charcoal grilled chicken with Wye Valley asparagus, roasted tomatoes and basil mayonnaise – it made me think that this was simple food done really well, and I appreciated that.
Bristol Top Three:
- Katie & Kim’s for brunch.
- Dain Korea for giving me a fix of Korean food while I’m learning more about it.
- The Ethicurean for a great experience.
There were so many new openings this year, including 20+ in Cargo 2 alone!
It may feel like they’ve been around far longer, but some of the places that opened this year included:
- Chris and Jo’s Kitchen on St Michael’s Hill, with a great value menu, including plenty of vegan options.
- Bristol Spirit on Whitehall Rd in Jan serving top notch cocktails, as well as hosting numerous pop-ups and film nights.
- Caribbean Croft on Stokes Croft, with a tasty & homely Caribbean menu & a choice of 38 rums – they recently nabbed the 2017 Curry Crusaders crown!
- Earthcake on North St, offering a selection of vegan cakes, sandwiches and other treats.
- Dela in Easton, a gorgeous casual restaurant focused around Scandinavian sharing dishes.
- The Old Butcher’s started out as a Wiper & True bar and is now the go-to for craft beer and tapas on North St.
- Dutch brightened up Old Market with its selection of over 350 gins.
- Taste of Napoli brought a touch of Italian hospitality (and lush pizza) to Broadmead.
- Milk Teeth is the coffee shop of choice in St Pauls now – great coffee and cake.
- Bomboloni is already doing a fine trade on Gloucester Road with its generous plates of tasty Italian fare (check out their cake display too).
- HUBBOX opened after much anticipation, serving burgers, hot dogs and beers on Whiteladies Road.
- White’s Botanicals offers fresh & healthy plant-focused dishes on St Nicholas St.
- Jamaica Street Stores has been one of the highlights of the year – an ethical kitchen on Stokes Croft serving up a simple but stupendous menu and a damn fine roast.
- West St Kitchen added to the revamp of Old Market with its tasty salads & sarnies.
- Wings Diner restored my faith in fried chicken at their pop-ups across town.
- There were also new tap rooms for Bristol Beer Factory and Wiper & True – as well as the launch of the classes & taproom at the Bristol Brewery School.
Of course there were the usual rumblings of whether Bristol could sustain all of these new businesses (you can see my response here), especially seeing as many of them seemed to be centred around burgers, from the messy gorgeousness of Squeezed, to the fully loaded burgers at Burger Theory and Asado.
But after the BBQ meatwave of 2015, and the year of pizza that was 2016, it was about time burgers had their turn.
Elliott and Tess, Box-E
Best Newcomer: Albatross Cafe: Espresso martinis – Yes! Beautiful pottery. Yes! At the end of our road. Yes, yes, yes!
Dish of the Year: Bertha’s Pizza’s ‘Umami Bomb’.
Bristol Top Three:
- The Cauldron – We waited a lifetime to get there but it was so, so worth the wait. Stunning roast. The veg stole the show. Hello Cauldron carrot!
- Pasta Loco – It’s not a list of faves if we don’t include this gorgeous place. Stand out dishes include fresh-as-it-gets orzo in a crab bisque… and we’re still working our way through that vat of Negroni.
- Little Victories – Fuelling our buttered and toasted banana bread addiction since day one! Wapping Wharf friends and neighbours. These guys definitely know how to make coffee.
Best Newcomer: I’ve got to say the best newcomer for me has to be my buddy Alex at Squeezed. I loved the food him and Leon created at Rebel Roll and I missed it so when they closed. I admire Alex for taking the plunge and going forward with Squeezed and I’m so pleased that Bristol are able to enjoy his epic burgers again. I couldn’t go on without the St. Werburger so to be reunited with that and many other delicious combinations has made me very happy. This is closely followed by Asado; I couldn’t not give Lucien a mention, his burgers are banging.
Dish of the Year: For savoury it would have to be the cod, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, ventrenche and snails dish I enjoyed at Wilson’s. It was outstanding; flavours which played off each other with the right amount of differing textures, it was simplicity done really really well. For sweet it has to hands down by the rose water pannacotta Box-E made for my dear friend Meg’s birthday, utterly divine.
Best Event: The Big Bristol burger Crawl, obviously! A wonderfully funny day with the most outgoing, kind, friendly and hungry group, I loved it.
Bristol Top Three:
- Wilson’s – I just love everything about the experience. The minimalist restaurant, fantastic service and the local/foraged produce. It’s a no frills, fantastic place to eat.
- Pasta Loco – consistently amazing. The team make me and whoever I am bringing along feel special, there are lots of little touches which you don’t forget, and the food is innovative, delicious and generous.
- Box-E – Tess and Elliot are the most wonderful hosts and this restaurant is unforgettable. I’ve had the normal menu and the kitchen table tasting menu and every time I have visited it has been a joy. The dishes are well thought out and executed and I’ve been surprised with how brilliant some of the plates have been, genius.
Events and festival highlights
Some of my best bits of 2017 have been the creative and accomplished events I’ve been to, from four rounds of pudding at Bristol Pudding Society to drinking cocktails 100ft in the air at Bristol in the Sky.
As usual, a zany roster of events were organised by Foozie, including Hip Hop in Chip Shop, gin-fuelled boat cruises, Prosecco bus tours and week-long cocktail extravaganza Bristol on the Rocks.
There were also the boozy bonanzas of Bristol Beer Week, Bristol Cocktail Week, Whisky Bristol Underground and the popular East Bristol Brewery Trail.
Other highlights for me this year were the supper clubs from 91 Ways, the Vela pop-up at Hart’s Bakery (12 dishes of Indian high tea treats – I can’t remember being so full) and the Crumbs Awards.
This year was also a bumper years for tours – we had the might Bristol Burger Crawl, as well an increased number of tours from The Bristol Food Tour (who now operate 4 routes across the city, and I get to lead one!), Eat Walk Talk, Bristol Hoppers and Bristol Brewery Tours.
It was also a good year for markets; in addition to the popular Temple Quay, Corn St, Tobacco Factory and Harbourside markets, we also saw the rise of BS5 Market in St George and Finzel’s Reach Market in the city centre.
Rob from The Real Dram
Best Newcomer: It’s a hard-fought draw in this category. Two new burger joints, both doing awesome things in very different spaces. All hail the burger kings, Asado and Squeezed!
Dish of the Year: In March of this year, we had the pleasure of attending a Plumed Serpent Cantina pop-up event at Wilson’s Restaurant and the food was epic. Over nine months later and I am still dreaming of the Trio of Tacos! Now that they are permanently established at Small Bar, you can pop over and sample their wares at your leisure and sink a few lovely beers whilst on the premises too!
Best Event: Absolutely hands down winner this year was the first Bristol Burger Crawl, run by the legend that is Natalie Brereton. The perfect mix of great people, great food and loads of laughs. Endurance food eating at its very best!
Bristol Top Three:
- Box–E – Amazing food, great hosts and super collaborative in the way that they work with other Bristol folks. I was lucky enough to go to a fantastic Bristol Beer Week collaboration event that Box-E held with Lost and Grounded Brewers, where their fantastic food was paired with some equally delightful beer.
- Bravas – Tapas heaven. Each little bowl of joy came to the table, delighted us and we wanted more. This is a place to return to again and again!
- Swoon – I have never been a massive ice cream fan, but this place has absolutely converted me. We have taken pretty much every visitor that we have had stay with us this year and they all loved it. The chocolate hazelnut gelato is a thing of pure beauty.
Kelly & Bob from Good Chemistry Brewing
Best Newcomer: Bottles & Books. One of the best beer ranges (not to mention cider and comics) in the city.
Dish of the Year: 25A Old Market’s cheese toastie. We don’t eat out a lot, but having this round the corner from the brewery is dangerous, especially in the cold weather when you need something hearty to warm you up. They are things of beauty indeed.
Best Event: Bristol Beer Week. Maturing into an event that’s reaching beyond just the beer community, and beyond Bristol, we loved being involved again this year and look forward to seeing where it goes in year six.
Bristol Top Three:
- Gopal’s Curry Shack
- Chilli Daddy
- Jean’s Bistro
Honorary mention: The Drapers Arms. We weren’t sure whether somewhere with the limited culinary reach of a bit of cheese and pork pie on a Sunday evening could count, but we love The Drapers!
Sadly we said goodbye to a few favourites this year – the saddest for me being Bagel Boy, who sorted me out on many a hungover morning.
We also lost Europa, Maximillions, and Atomic Diner in the city centre, the local chain Zazu’s Kitchen, and pizzerias Zero Zero in Easton & Romanesca on Gloucester Road.
It’s not all sadness though, Zero Zero has begat G Bros Pizza in the same location, and Team Zazu’s now back with Rosa Tapas on Whiteladies Road, and the North St branch of Zazu’s giving way to The Malago, as well as what was Bagel Boy on North St becoming the second branch of dirty burger masters Oowee.
Best Newcomer: Tare – one of those places that just gets everything right. Beautifully understated setting, ultra-professional service, and every dish that comes out of the kitchen is somehow even better than the last.
Dish of the Year: Big Belly Flop at Dorshi in Bridport – Dorshi’s shiitake mushroom nearly took the top spot, but their roasted organic pork belly served with noodles and belly broth just couldn’t be beat.
Best Event: Plumed Serpent Cantina pop up at Wilsons – Ed & Laura at their absolute best, serving up clever antojitos, ceviche, tacos and tamales. Deserving of a regular spot on Chandos Road.
Bristol Top Three:
- Tsukemono – superb Japanese street food made by people that really get it.
- Oowee Diner on Picton Street – the place we take all our London friends to prove to them that burgers in Bristol are better.
- Small Street Espresso – the best coffee we’ve ever had and the best neighbours we could ask for.
Best Newcomer: a tough one – can we subcategorise?
- Le Poivrot would be my best new bar but it’s also doing some great food now.
- Root for best new restaurant. Excellent food and friendly FOH team.
- Bomboloni for best new family restaurant. A family run business serving gutsy, hearty, Italian food and welcoming of families.
Dish of the Year: This is too difficult! Chestnut mushroom and Wiltshire truffle Choux bun from Wilson’s to start; Green gazpacho from Bishopston Supper Club; Rabbit and pancetta tortellini from A Tavola; Wild garlic Kimcheese Pizza from Bertha’s and the English style custard tart from Birch to finish.
Best Event: The Abergavenny Food Festival. Wonderful to have been part of it with Eat Your Words Bristol and to experience it.
Bristol Top Three:
- Birch – consistently good food locally and ethically sourced and always a warm welcome.
- Hart’s Bakery – their lunch specials and bakes are the best and what a multi-talented group of people who work there.
- Wilson’s – knock out food.
I’ll also give a special mention to Bertha’s Pizza (my favourite pizzas in town) and Bar Buvette for excellent wine?
What to look forward to in 2018
There’s still a lot TBC for the coming year, so keep an eye to my January round-up for more info, but big things are the Redcliffe Wharf, Paintworks and Carriageworks developments, which will both include many more food businesses – but will they be local independents or chains?
Also just announced is the new Left Handed Giant taproom coming to Finzels Reach in the new year – hurrah!
Finally, I’m super excited for the return of Food Connections next year, this is usually one of the foodie highlights of the year, and I can’t wait to see the programme once it’s revealed.
That’s it for this year, thanks for reading this behemoth blog post, and to any regular readers – you’re legends.
Let me know your 2017 faves on Twitter or Facebook, and if you’re looking for something else to read, here are the most read posts of 2017:
- The Gloucester Road Pub Crawl
- Bristol’s Best Date Locations
- Top 12 Brunches in Bristol
- The Harbourside Pub Crawl
- Bristol’s Cosiest Pubs
Oh and if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can see highlights from past years here.
And here are some more people’s favourites…
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