It’s time for my annual digest of the foodie comings and goings in Bristol, peppered with some favourites from a few fine folk (tell me yours over on Twitter and I’ll share them at the bottom of the post).
You can read the highlights from past years if you’re feeling nostalgic or if you want to see how 2018 compares with 2016 or 2014.
Pour yourself a glass of red or put the kettle on, this is a bit of a bumper read…
Let’s start on a high – Casamia was awarded No.1 in Harden’s Best UK Restaurants, gained a fifth AA Rosette and rose several places in the Good Food Guide this year! The Pony & Trap also scooped 2nd place in the Top 50 Gastro Pubs list.
Both businesses also retained their Michelin Stars, as did Paco Tapas and Wilks, with Bulrush joining them to make it five Michelin-starred restaurants in Bristol, the most in the UK outside London! Bell’s Diner, Tare and Root were all awarded Bib Gourmands (the Michelin award for great value & high quality dining).
Bristol also made it into the Top Places to Visit lists for the New York Times and The Irish Times, National Geographic’s Cool List 2018 and The Telegraph’s 2017 food highlights, as well as receiving many compliments from top critic Jay Rayner. So can we say we’re the UK’s top foodie city yet?
Natalie Brereton, Stuffed
Best Dish: Savoury: The fried chicken and kimchi at Jamaica Street Stores. I could eat it every day. Sweet: Peanut popsicle from Woky Ko Kauto.
Favourite Event: The Brereton v Eggleton burger off at The Kensington Arms, obviously! We had such a laugh that night with everybody who came along, it was just laid back fun and I really enjoyed putting together the menu with the team. Josh is a sport for letting me take him on in the burger vote and then beating him, sorry Eggers. I also really enjoyed the Cauldron & Squeezed collaboration back in April. Two of my favourite places to eat coming together meant the menu and burgers were insane, the atmosphere was lively and fun and I really love that Bristol is a city where these collaborations happen regularly.
Favourite Newbie: Woky Ko Kauto – the food is consistently excellent, I always know I am in for a treat when visiting. Shout out to Wing’s Diner too – they deserve more praise for their excellent fried chicken. It’s the best in Bristol, hands down.
Dan Vaux-Nobes, Essex Eating
Best Meal: Probably at Paco Tapas – it’s just so bloody good, the attention to detail in every aspect of that joint is superb. Sitting up at the bar in front of chefs threading around each other whilst cooking lovely stuff over flames whilst you get right into the sherry, oh yeah!
Best Dish: Leek with cheddar rarebit, seeded dukkah and brick pastry at Root. It was something else, texturally, so clever. Banging.
Best Newbie: Pasta Ripiena. I’ve been there a few times, their weekday set lunch is an absolute bargain and the food is always cracking.
Mark Olver, Belly Laughs
Best Meal: I think it was Casamia. I hadn’t been to their current place and was blown away, not just by the food, which is obviously going to be amazing, but by the service. We were made to feel like superstars, with a tour of the kitchen, and the chefs talking us through every course. It was brilliant.
Favourite Event: The night I went to Cargo Cantina after watching England beat Columbia and then discovered there was a silent disco down at Wapping Wharf so I had a little dance on my own as the sun went down.
Favourite Newbie: I love Wing’s Diner. Actual love. Bar 44 in Clifton too – I love tapas and it was excellent.
Local chain Boston Tea Party made headlines across the world in the summer after banning single use coffee cups. Since the change came into effect from 1st June, the company has stopped nearly 100,000 disposable coffee cups from going into landfill (see the latest count on their website) and raised over £8,000 for charity by donating the cost of every cup that its customers would have used.
There were also more fundraising events at restaurants across Bristol than I can count, but some of the best events and initiatives that spring to mind were the StreetSmart scheme, FareShare’s #BigBreakfast week, and the trek to Nepal by a group of Bristol chefs to raise money for Action Against Hunger.
Kalpna Woolf, 91 Ways
Best Meal: Box-E with friends, we were lucky enough to sit at the Chef’s table – utterly delicious and a treat to watch a master (Chef Elliot) at work. He works gently, thoughtfully, almost symphonic – it’s like watching a beautiful ballet!
Favourite Event: 2018 has been a really fantastic year for 91 Ways and for food! With a packed program of events over the year I’ve been lucky enough to share foods from all over the world, and most importantly to share them with the people who truly treasure them as part of their cultural heritage and their food memories. At one of the final events for 2018 we were asked to provide breakfast at the Fair Saturday event in Hamilton House; instigated by the Lord Mayor, Marvin Reeves. We worked with our community chefs to create a buffet style breakfast for over 60 people and the result was beautiful selection of dishes cooked by the team in their own style, including Eritrean eggs from Negat, tortilla from two Spanish cooks, Malawian donuts, and lots of “jazzy” beans which was a recipe I inherited from my father… the secret ingredients being tins of baked beans and lots of spices!
Rob Hall, Wriggle
Best Meal: Pasta Ripiena. Hard to choose a dish – but the whole experience is a delight.
Favourite Event: Abergavenny Food Festival was fantastic.
Favourite Newbie: The new Bristol Old Vic. Such a beautiful space, the food is excellent (I’m addicted to their Pastel do Natas), and conveniently slap bang next to the Wriggle office. King Street is reinvigorated from its reopening.
Just a few of the new businesses that joined Bristol’s buzzing food scene this year – and a handy checklist for you to use if you’ve not visited them yet….
- La Guinguette – a cosy French bistro on Gloucester Road.
- Downtown Taqueria – funky taco bar on Colston Street.
- Pasta Ripiena – sister restaurant to Pasta Loco, focusing on filled pasta.
- Oowee Vegan – ‘deliciously dirty vegan food’, couldn’t put it better myself.
- Woky Ko Kauto – funky Asian diner with some next level ramen and baos.
- Suncraft – plant-based delights in a colourful Gloucester Rd restaurant.
- The Good Measure – bar on Chandos Rd from Good Chemistry Brewing.
- Koocha Mezze – gorgeous vegan small plates & cocktails on Gloucester Road.
- The Florist – an Instagrammer’s paradise, with beautiful bars across 3 floors.
- Deck Cafe – lush cosy cafe on Gloucester Road. I’m a big fan of their brunch.
- Snuffy Jack’s Ale House – a friendly micro pub in Fishponds.
- Kiosk – tasty vegan snacks and hot lunches from this small kiosk on Welsh Back.
- Corner 77 – bar, event space and pop-up venue on Stokes Croft.
- Eat Your Greens – top notch vegan breakfast, lunch and dinner in Totterdown.
- Pasture – first rate steak restaurant and bar in Redcliffe.
- Gambas – seafood and tapas in Wapping Wharf.
- Quay St Diner – Fun all day dining, from burgers and brunch to tacos.
- Honest Burger – a national chain with a local touch at its Bristol restaurant.
- Burger Bear – new burger royalty on Gloucester Road.
- Happy Bird – free range chicken restaurant, with tasty fried chicken, burgers and salads.
- Kinkajou – snazzy cocktail bar replacing Haus Bar at the top of Whiteladies Rd.
- Fed 303 – another lovely cafe on Gloucester Rd, make sure you try their toasties.
- Mugshot – slick steak restaurant on St Nicholas Street, already receiving great reviews.
- 1766 Bar & Kitchen – stunning restaurant & bar housed in the new part of the Bristol Old Vic.
- Grano Kitchen – traditional Italian bites from a pop-up in a salon on Old Market.
- Two Belly – cheese and beer joint on Whiteladies Rd, hosting plenty of events.
- Dhamaka – brand new Indian restaurant on Corn St.
- Brendan’s Brewtique – a small shop hosting one of the city’s biggest beer collections.
2019 looks like it will have its fair share of great openings too. So far we know about the expansion of Wapping Wharf, as well as new developments in Redcliffe and Finzels Reach (I can’t wait to see the new Left Handed Giant brewery).
Arushi Patel, Vela
Best Dish: Bulrush‘s BBQ broccoli, Woky Ko‘s seabass tartare, and Wilson’s whole tasting menu – especially the pheasant, cabbage and bread sauce. It’s one of those dishes (and meals) that makes you sad at the thought that it has to end…
Favourite Event: Eat Your Words with Diana Henry at Bar Buvette, and then the recent one held at Jamaica St Stores in dedication to Anthony Bourdain. Also 91 Ways with Malaysian Kitchen – I love learning about people from different backgrounds and trying new cuisines from these events, and I was happy to meet these lovely ladies that shared stories from their home and cooking up an incredibly delicious feast – especially that laksa! The British Dal Festival also gets a mention for representing an ingredient that probably makes up a lot of the blood in my veins!
Favourite Newbie: Pizzarova‘s new spot on Park St offers great tasting and ranges of pizzas, with a view that is perfect for people-watching. Also Hugo’s Greengrocer on North Street – he’s in my new hood and represents many local growers and producers, even serving up fresh coffee to go! And finally Grano Kitchen at Glitch, who knew you could get well made Italian food in the corner of a hairdresser? Only in the fantastic city that is Bristol!
Adrian Kirikmaa, School of Food
Favourite Meal: Root
Favourite Newbie: Pasta Ripiena
Favourite Event: The Chocolate Feast for Bristol Food Connections, the Fareshare kids breakfast raising awareness about hunger and surplus food, and completing our first cohort of students for School of Food.
Sadly, we also said goodbye to some brilliant businesses this year, including French bistro Le Poivrot, popular pizza place Pi Shop, gin bar Dutch, family-run gelateria The Parlour, BBQ maestros Grillstock, Gloucester road wine bar The Library, Bedminster bar The Old Butcher’s, and one of the best brunch joints in town – Katie & Kim’s Kitchen.
Several national chains also closed their doors on Bristol branches, including Cau, MeatLiquor, Spuntino, Jamie’s Italian and Byron Burger.
I was particularly sad to see Foozie stop trading this year – their events have provided some of my best moments over the past few years.
Sam Espensen, Bristol Spirit
Best Meal: Alp Mac‘s classic Mac – I’ve tested it thoroughly at markets this year!
Favourite Event: I don’t get out much – so is it wrong to choose my own?! Halloween Sausage Social at Bristol Spirit was the best thing I’ve been to all year…
Favourite Newbie: 1766 Bar & Kitchen. I really love it – friendly professional staff, top notch food and service in a venue that really stands out from anywhere else in the city.
Best Meal: Adelina Yard‘s carabineros (red prawn), partridge boudin blanc (minced breast mousse, confit leg with soft herbs, roasted and pickled carrot, carrot & ginger puree, and a bisque sauce made from the prawn shells.
Favourite Event: Too Many Critics at Bambalan. Postponed because of the snow, it happened in the height of the sweltering summer when I was working with Gordon Ramsay! So a day off from filming was out of the frying pan and into the fire!!! It was the first time I cooked a dish of my own design in a pro kitchen. Great camaraderie and a fab cause too.
Favourite Newbie: Tare on Wapping Wharf. Contemporary dining in a shipping container good enough to give Box-E a run for it’s money! Innovative seasonal plates and a great atmosphere. Also Koocha Mezze Bar; great cocktails and even better small plates. Not just great for a vegan meal – great full stop. But Tare would be my top tip!
Heather, Bristol Hoppers
Best Meal: West Street Kitchen‘s supper clubs have been my favourite meals. I’ve been to quite a few and they are always fabulous, each course paired brilliantly with alcohol.
Favourite Event: Bristol Craft Beer Festival – I loved it’s new harbourside location with great range of local food stalls and of course fantastic beer.
Best Newbie: Two Belly – who doesn’t love cheese & beer? My only complaint is that it’s too far from my house. I also have a thing for Honest Burger. Although they are a chain, they’ve created a fab beer with Good Chemistry for their Bristol restaurant (Honest Drop) and our own Bristol burger is fabulous, using local ingredients like cider to make it unique. Very clever.
Another jam-packed year for food & drink events! Among the biggest were a sterling return to form by the huge Bristol Food Connections, the inaugural British Dal Festival and a new Harbourside location for Bristol Craft Beer Festival (they’ve all released their 2019 dates).
Other events which made a real stir this year were the Chinese New Year celebrations at Woky Fest, the East Bristol Brewery Trail, the new Harbour Nights every Friday evening outside Arnolfini during summer, and Too Many Critics at Bambalan, where local food critics rose to the challenge of cooking for the public to raise money for Action Against Hunger.
Belly Laughs in January was a series of comedy events organised at restaurants, pubs & cafes across Bristol to raise money for the Julian Trust night shelter (the event returns in January, and the line-up looks immense!), and it was lush to see the continued success of 91 Ways (who have also announced more events for 2019).
It was also a great year for pop-ups and collaboration events, with some amazing menus fusing the talents of Pasta Loco and Casamia, Squeezed and The Cauldron and of course the might head-to-head that was Brereton vs Eggleton. I also loved the Bristol Legends pizza specials at Flour & Ash, which included pizzas designed by local chefs. More of this stuff in 2019 please!
Best Meal: (Wayne) The salt cod cannelloni from Pasta Loco. Thinking about it now makes me drool…
(Kevin) Brunch at Ceres Coffee was pretty damn good. Special mention to Mission Pizza, always my go to pizza when they are in town.
Favourite Event: (Wayne) I don’t think I could get away without mentioning my engagement as my favourite event of the year – done in Wilks on Chandos Rd. I was blown away with the unique and amazing food, the sleek and modern decor and fantastic service (which helped my proposal go almost hitchless).
(Kevin) Small Bar‘s 5th Birthday Party. We had balloons, fudge, chocolate cake from Old Market Assembly and an incredible Creme Brulee Stout brewed in collaboration with Small Bar and New Bristol Brewery.
Favourite Newbie: (Wayne) This one is a tough decision, but I have to pick Pasta Ripiena as my favourite place of 2018. Honourable mentions to Koocha Mezze Bar who have put a great spin on Persian style food with a vegan twist and Honest Burger too, I can’t get enough of their plant-based burger.
(Kevin) Unfortunately I haven’t managed to visit many of the new places to have opened this year, however the two places that I would like to mention are Honest Burger and also Bun Fiction, who are now based in Kongs on King Street. Both have provided me with a much-needed break from fried chicken over the year
Chris, PX & Tarts
Best Meal: Any one of several tasting menus at Wilson’s. Lots of memorable dishes but one of native lobster, home-grown tomatoes & cod’s roe springs to mind.
Best Event: Andy Clarke’s wine tasting dinner at Adelina Yard.
Best Newbie: Massively impressed by Jean’s Bistro, although I have only managed to go once (so far). For a more conventional choice, Pasta Ripiena is predictably delicious and convivial (again, not been as often as I’d like) and I’ve had some very good seafood at Gambas.
That’s it for this year’s highlights package! I find it so hard to choose my own so luckily many of my favourites got covered off above (namely Wing’s Diner, Pasta Ripiena, Pasture, Squeezed and The Cauldron; special mentions to Nutmeg, Pata Negra, The Bank Tavern, Bristol Spirit and Swoon), but the star meals of the year would have to go to Root (I’ve been several times and it’s always been amazing, I’m yet to have a meat dish) and Tare (absolutely exquisite from start to finish, and I never use that word). You can see more of the best meals I had this year over on Instagram.
For 2019 I have a mega list of places to visit – top of which are Suncraft, Jean’s Bistro, Bulrush, Paco Tapas, Koocha and Two Belly. I’m also so excited for the return of Belly Laughs in January, the British Dal Festival in February and Bristol Craft Beer Festival & Food Connections in June. Who knows what other surprises the year will bring?
Check out more highlights below, I’ll keep adding to them as more people share theirs with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, so head on over to one of those to tell me yours…
Also, in case you need something to read later, here are the most popular guides this year:
- Bristol’s Best Date Locations
- Bristol Pub Crawl: The Harbour
- Bristol Pub Crawl: Gloucester Road
- Bristol’s Cosiest Pubs
- The 12 Best Brunches in Bristol
Caroline Peel, restaurant PR and total babe
Best Meal: Basically every time I go to Root. It’s a restaurant that for me epitomises the thriving Bristol food scene in every way and has rightly gained so much recognition this year for the team’s skills and hospitality as well as their sustainability credentials. Without knowing, I’ll have eaten 5+ different veg at every seating which is no bad thing. This year the tempura spring onions with sweet chilli, charred leeks with cheddar rarebit, tomatoes with tomato consommé and fennel, curried monkfish, smoked haddock arancini with lemon, cauliflower pakoras and of course the donuts with carrot jam and cream cheese have all been star dishes over NUMEROUS visits.
Favourite Event: I’ve been really lucky to work on some cracking food events in Bristol this year – the annual Woky Fest with Woky Ko: CARGO continues to get bigger and bigger, fundraisers for Action Against Hunger with Casamia x The Pony & Trap for the chef’s Nepal trek and Too Many Critics. Also events with Bristol Fruit Market and the first British Dal Festival. I loved the Coffee House Project, Valley Fest, and the Crumbs Awards were fab in the newly renovated Bristol Old Vic. But my favourite event is actually a weekly occurrence. The Sunday Market at Tobacco Factory has gone from strength to strength this year. I visit Farro Bakery (if you’ve not had their pastries then make it your New Year’s Resolution!), and get coffee from Rolling Italy on a weekly basis and I genuinely can’t wait to get down there every Sunday morning and see who’s joining them. Little Hollows pasta, hummus and flatbreads from Moist, Pieminister, the fishmonger, fruit & veg stalls and florists are all joined by artists, crafters, makers, and awesome street food including Gopal’s Curry Shack, She Sells Sushi and many more that change weekly, showcasing the best of Bristol in every way. There’s crafting for the kids, the bar is open in the Tobacco Factory for the grown ups and you’ll often find live music there too. It’s just everything I love about living south of the river!
Favourite Newbie: Again, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some awesome independents on their new openings this year – Woky Ko: Kauto on the Triangle has produced some knockout dishes this year (get the ramen in your life if you’re yet to try it), Corner 77 offered a new home to Bristol street food and Suncraft on Gloucester Road has added to the area’s (and indeed Bristol’s) Vegan and plant-based eating credentials with delicious food and drink. Popti & Beast in St Werburghs opened back in February this year and I love their knowledge and expertise when it comes to butchery (they are always happy to give you cooking tips which is VERY useful!) but also LOVE their breakfast pasties. They are also supplying some restaurants in Bristol meaning we can enjoy their high welfare, quality meat at home as well as in our favourite burgers!
Rob, The Real Dram
Best Meal: I have spent much of 2018 searching for and eating the best examples of bad food done really well this year. This has meant that I have had to eat lots of burgers, fried chicken, pizzas and kebabs – all for scientific purposes obviously. So, you would be expecting me to choose Wing’s Diner, Squeezed or maybe even Bertha’s, who have all continued to knocked it out of the park again this year. Instead, I am going to choose a meal that really blew me away with great flavours and real depth of yumminess… Naasto Baasto at Bristol Spirit. If like some kind of mad person you missed them, then catch them over at The Volley in January and February 2019!
Favourite Event: This is an easy one. I have been jealously looking at people’s East Bristol Brewery Trail photos from away at various badly timed family events ever since this event first happened in 2016. So when I found myself actually in Bristol during the Autumn one, I jumped at the chance to get involved. Each of the five breweries on the trail make great beer, had great atmosphere on the day and chose some fantastic street food vendors to be on hand to provide food. We had a really fun day wandering round the trail and the weather wasn’t event that great, so hopefully the trail will happen again in the sunshine in 2019.
Favourite Newbie: I’mm not 100% sure that I can get away with calling this place new, but I just want to give them a huge shout out for being amazing, so let’s pretend that they are new, because my favourite new place is Bristol Spirit. If you haven’t been before, it’s are a lovely little bar in Whitehall. The team run fantastically fun events, make magnificent cocktails from their handmade spirits and bash out incredible food, pop-up after pop-up.
Flora and Robin, The Pickled Brisket
Best Meal: This year we’ve tried and loved Pasta Ripiena and Harbour & Browns in Wapping Wharf. We’re also a bit addicted to grabbing a takeaway green curry from Woky Ko.
Best Newbie: Eat Your Greens and Fox & West are tasty new foodie additions to the Wells Road.
Best Event: Robin’s fermentation collaboration with Bristol Cider Shop for Food Connections.
We think Eat Walk Talk deserves a mention too. A real supporter of all things local.
Kathryn Davis, Destination Bristol
Best Meal: Finally got to Paco Tapas and celebrated my birthday in style with the Chef’s Menu. Not only was the food amazing but the service was impeccable, I felt properly spoilt. I’ve also managed to convince myself that 2 scoops of Swoon gelato constitutes a decent lunch, and I may shed a tear for the panettone gelato when the festive menu changes.
Best Event: Not sure if this constitutes an event, but lunch at The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes. Amazing food, inspiring people and a bloody great idea.
Best Baked Goods: A three-way tie between Harts Bakery, Joe’s Bakery and Pinkmans. The backbone of an all-day Bristol food adventure.
Kirsty, KBow Bristol
Best Meal: Bulrush. Perfection from start to finish and lovely, in a friendly atmosphere.
Favourite Event: Eat Your Words at Jamaica St Stores – Anthony Bourdain. Scrummy food and a great celebration of his words. And all for charity!
Favourite Newbie: Has to be Wing’s Diner (I think I give Mark Olver a run for his money for biggest fan).
Charlie, Bedsit Bonne Vivante
Best Meal: A suprise at The Jetty, impeccable service, food and a wonderful time. I especially enjoyed my whole fish served with a modesty lemon over his face.
Favourite Restaurant: Bomboloni and The Grace on Gloucester Road, both have served me gorgeous, filling and delicious food that I’ve not stopped raving about. I hated small plates and never really cared for Italian food until these guys tempted me in.
Favourite Event: The British Dal Festival – I learned so much, found new recipes and loved all the Bristol restaurants joining in creating the dal trail.
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