Well 2019. It’s been a mixed bag on all fronts, hasn’t it? Some amazing new food & drink places arrived in the city, the city & its restaurants won even more accolades, we welcomed another new eating district to the city (hi, Finzel’s Reach!), but we also had to bid farewell to some really great businesses.
Alongside the celebration of all the brilliant businesses & events below, it’s a good time to remember that things have never been tougher for independents, so make sure you shop, dine & drink local as much as you can in the new year – we really are spoilt for choice in Bristol, let’s keep it that way!
Anyway, enough of the preachin’, on to some of this year’s best bits – you can also tell me yours over on Twitter or Instagram!
You can also read the past highlights blogs for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018!
Mark Olver, Belly Laughs
Best dish: The beetroot and berries at Root.
Favourite event: can I be egotistical and say Belly Laughs at Fareshare?
Favourite newcomer: Seven Lucky Gods.
Briony May, Baker off the telly
Best dish: Chicken katsu arancini at Seven Lucky Gods.
Favourite event: Drag Queen Bingo Brunch at Bambalan.
Favourite newcomer: Seven Lucky Gods again?!
Dan Izzard, Crumbs
Best dish: The duck (or pretty much any dish) at Little French.
Favourite event: Goatober dinner in the barrel library at the Wild Beer brewery. What a setting.
Favourite newcomer: The kebabs at Hoba. My kinda food.
Bristol has a strong start to 2019, being one of the Top 7 UK Destinations for 2019, as well as being featured in Best European Cities to Visit in 2019 and The Guardian’s Travel Hotlist 2019 – the city’s thriving food scene is one of the biggest draws, woohoo!
The city’s food & drink businesses really upped their game this year in terms of sustainability and feel-good events/schemes this year, from Boston Tea Party’s ban on disposable cups getting them named most ethical coffee shop in the UK, to Wriggle’s bamboo lunchboxes (now sold out) and the Sustainable Restaurant Association created a new Hall Of Fame to recognise Poco’s long-sustained achievements.
Bristol also has two restaurants in the top 50 of The Good Food Guide 2020 and won Best Culinary Destination 2019, and Box-E was the latest restaurant in the city to be added to the Michelin Guide, along with seven others in the city.
Natalie Brereton, Stuffed
Best dish: Pisto egg at Bar 44.
Favourite event: Food Fire Earth at Yurt Lush when they did the Greek night!
Favourite newcomer: Little French.
Martin Booth, Bristol 24/7
Best dish: Tantanmen ramen at Woky Ko Kaiju. So good we put it on the front cover of Bristol24/7’s annual food and drink guide this year.
Favourite event: The Coffee House Project. I was lucky enough to judge the baristas v bartenders competition – an undoubted 2019 highlight for me.
Favourite newcomer: I will let other people wax lyrical about the likes of Bokman, Little French, Marmo and Bianchi’s. Instead I’m going to choose The Cloakroom. It’s an amazing restoration project which shows what just a little imagination can achieve.
Noel, Foodie in Bristol
Best dish: Tortilla española from Paco Tapas.
Favourite event: Mango Mela by Vela Pop-Up.
Favourite newcomer: The Spaghetti Incident.
Dan Vaux-Nobes, Essex Eating
Best meal/dish: Little French – Big blow out meal, Milk fed lamb kidneys, whole wood roasted brill with tartare hollandaise…all the good stuff. Can I cheat and also say I had an absolutely banging meal at Paco Tapas – hello baby monkfish tail.
Favourite newcomer: Freddy Bird’s new restaurant Little French, up in Westbury Park. It’s one of those places where you want to order absolutely everything on the rustic French menu. Love it.
Favourite event: The closing night of my favourite place in Bristol was a bit of an event. I bloody loved Bar Buvette, I was the last customer out of there, I ended up commiserating so copiously, I fell asleep face-down on a table.
Where to start? This year felt like we welcomed even more amazing bars and restaurants to the city than before, and so many of them feel like they’ve been here forever already!
Here’s just a brief roll call of the places that arrived in Bristol since January:
- Masa + Mezcal – Mexican dining on Stokes Croft.
- Seven Lucky Gods – Japanese-inspired dishes in Wapping Wharf.
- Bianchi’s – lush Italian bistro in Montpelier.
- La Sorella – an Italian deli/cafe in the Old City.
- Backyard Chicken – snazzy chicken diner on the Triangle.
- Marmo – a worthy Italian-inspired successor to Bar Buvette.
- Farro Bakery – amazing pastries in St Pauls.
- Cowbee – dessert bar on Park St.
- Black Rock – a cool whisky bar just off Baldwin St.
- The Nectar House – a bee-friendly cafe & pop-up venue on Gloucester Rd.
- Mary Jane’s CBD Cafe – exactly what it sounds like!
- little french – top of my list for next year, and you can see why.
- My Burrito – tasty Mexican snacks on the Harbourside.
- Pionka’s Chocolate – artisan chocolatey treats on Cheltenham Rd.
- The Bristol & Bath Rum Distillery – huge bar and distillery on Park St.
- Snobby’s – wine bar & restaurant in Redland.
- Oowee Vebab – tasty Berlin-style kebabs in Montpelier.
- Woky Ko: Jing Xu – roasted Chinese meats and hearty dishes on the Triangle.
- Bokman – simple but very tasty Korean fare. Get the roast chicken!
- Palomar – fish restaurant on Gloucester Rd.
- Pho Lounge – Vietnamese
- Rock Salt – Indo-Chinese dining on Cotham Hill.
- Chez Marcel – Creperie in ther Old City.
- Filthy XIII – Edgy cocktail bar by the arches.
- Dough – A pizza restaurant with lots of options on Baldwin St.
- Woky Ko Kaiju – Ramen and small plates in an izakaya-style restaurant.
- Coach House Cafe – Great little cafe for lunchtime snacks in St Pauls.
- The Vegetable Diva – Eco-friendly veggie cafe & deli on the Harbourside.
- The Spaghetti Incident – Cosy and authentic Italian dishes on Stokes Croft.
There were also some new additions to North St in Southville, including FLIP vegan deli, KASK wine bar and Farrahway craft cafe.
Old Market also saw an influx of businesses including Rabbit Food, Toot and Come In and Grano Kitchen, and the business district of Finzels Reach was reinvigorated with a bunch of exciting new food & drink places, including the Left Handed Giant Brewpub, Spicer + Cole, Bocabar and Le Vignoble.
St Nick’s welcomed a bunch of newbies too: Low ‘n’ Slow, Woky Ko and Taco Barra.
Ishita Wilkins, WithMustard
Best dish: probably the lobster and apple gazpacho at Wilson’s with the Tantanmen at Woky Ko Kaiju a close second.
Favourite event: Malaysian Afternoon Tea which was part of Bristol Food Connections. Amazing Jali roti with Malay chicken curry.
Favourite newcomer: How do I choose between Marmo, Little French and Bianchi’s? Oh my and Woky Ko Kaiju, which opened this year too. It’s impossible.
Best dish: Ok, so this question has killed me for hours, but it has to go to Pasta Ripiena for their beef shin ragu. It was out of this world! Special mentions need to go to Sunday lunch at 1766, the katsu sando from Seven Lucky Gods and the carne asada from Masa + Mezcal.
Favourite event: I’ll be honest, I haven’t been to many foodie events this year. I really enjoyed the Salt Street and Hummusapiens pop-ups though. Both were churning out really great dishes!
Favourite newcomer: Sorry, but I can’t pick between Seven Lucky Gods and Masa + Mezcal. They’re so different but both are bloody amazing! So I have two favourite newcomers 🙂
Best dish: Fed 303 eggy bread.
Favourite event: Our Sunday Supra.
Favourite newcomer: KASK.
And this year we said goodbye to…
2019 started with some really big losses for the Bristol food scene; Wallfish, Wellbourne, Bell’s Diner, No Man’s Grace, Ceres and Bar Buvette were all well established and much loved. I’m just glad I got to visit all of them a few times. I was also really sad to hear about Romy’s Kitchen in Thornbury closing in autumn.
We also bid farewell to Burger Bear, The Kitchen, Happy Bird, Bellita, Rosa, Aquila, Pintxo, Shop 3 Bistro, Yume Kitchen, Mesa, Urban Standard and Pigsty on Gloucester Rd. Local chain Thali also had to close its Totterdown, Clifton and Southville restaurants, although fortunately Easton and Montepelier still remain. After suffering a serious fire, The Ox Clifton is also closed indefinitely, but we still have the original one on Corn St – my favourite!
Sam, Bristol Spirit
Best dish: Murray May’s chicken shish at a wedding at Blaise Castle where they were doing the food and we were doing the bar – wonderful couple, excellent guests and the best setting. I was in heaven eating this beautiful food in such a lovely atmosphere.
Favourite newcomer: Hummusapiens – I was properly blown away by how excellent Jasper’s food is. Delicate flavours of lightly pickled and dressed veg matched with punchy hummus with flavours like wild garlic and pea. Beautiful plates of food and Jasper is a really good bloke too, pleasure to be around. I’ve also NEVER felt so healthy after eating a plate of food!
Best meal: Adelina Yard. Seriously good cooking – modern, unpretentious and delicious!
Favourite event: Belly Laughs. It was great night and horrendous squeeze into our place. But the effort, organisation and execution of the whole event is fabulous. Much credit to Mark!
Favourite newcomer: Izakaya on Park Street. This place is ridiculously tasty and has friendly and quick service. Big up to their squid pancakes and deep fried gyoza.
Favourite event: Our tasting menu with Two Belly. Cheese and beer and one of my favourite complete menu that Elliott’s devised. Lara’s knowledge of beers is super.
Favourite newcomer: KASK. Sunday evening wine at the end of our road is pretty special.
Best dish: Wild brill (landed in Brixham), Fowey mussels, ‘coco de Paimpol’, pink grapefruit, Timut pepper, lobster us vinaigrette and honey at Wilks. Amazing understanding of how flavours and textures go together.
Favourite event: I know I’m biased, but the ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style event for Fareshare I hosted at Box-E in July was EPIC! Such a good line up of chefs and for such a good cause. We created havoc, great food and raised money for a fantastic cause.
Favourite newcomer: I know I won’t be alone in this but littlefrench has to be my fave opening of 2019. It’s about time the category of ‘Neighbourhood Restaurant’ got the respect it deserves. Supporting local, for locals. The menu and wine list are great, and Freddy and the team are such nice people. Also, as I painted the bar, I feel I have soft spot for this place!
If there’s one thing Bristol excels at as well as food and booze, it’s festivals!
Now firmly established, Bristol Food Connections and Bristol Craft Beer Festival, continue to get better and better, and the East Bristol Brewery Trails are still a highlight of my year every bank holiday weekend!
It was also a great year for the British Dal Festival and The Coffee House Project, with some great pop-ups by House of Veg at Pennywell Market too.
Of couse there were also countless brilliant tastings, workshops, dinners and more, I’ll keep updating you on those in my monthly guides, but you can find read my guide to Bristol’s Food & Drink Experiences to find out more in the mean time.
My absolute favourite has to be Belly Laughs though which came back bigger than ever this year, and tickets are still available for the upcoming shows in January, which look even tastier!
Caroline Peel, restaurant PR and total babe
Best dish: It’s got to be the chicken & chips sharing plate from Little French. A whole roast chicken quartered on the plate with mouth-watering amounts of herbs and olives flavouring the meat, a pile of the skinniest crunchy salty fries and a good dollop of aioli.
Favourite event: The Coffee House Project was brilliant once again. Bristol has a number of amazing roasters and of course a great coffee shop culture and I love how this celebration of that has grown, inspiring people’s interest in making great coffee at home too.
Favourite newcomer: La Sorella has become a real favourite whether it’s for their house made tortes and cakes, killer focaccia sandwiches, mid afternoon coffee or an early evening aperitif I love hanging out there and chewing the fat with the mainly female team. If the banana cake is on the counter say yes to all the toppings you won’t regret it.
Kirsty, KBow Bristol
Best dish: I looked through my instagram and the smoked rib croquettes at Pasture kept popping up! So I am going with that. Plus croquette catch ups are one of my favourite pastimes.
Favourite event: Future of Food Banquet as part of Bristol Food Connections. Got to see one of my fav food heroes (Sheila Dillon) run an incredible panel about food and sustainability. The food was delicious and got the cogs whirling about the changes we need to make to the way we eat.
Favourite newcomer: Bianchi’s. They can do NO WRONG. Had such a special meal there with some of my favourite people. The octopus in particular was an absolute DREAM.
Chris, PX & Tarts
Best restaurant (rather than a specific dish): Predictably Wilson’s again. Had many good meals at Root (again; again).
Favourite event: Food Fire Earth.
Favourite newcomer: Little French. Marmo close behind.
Kathryn Davis, Visit Bristol
Best meal: Mesa & Mezcal.
Favourite event: East Bristol Beer trail (by bike).
Favourite newcomer: The Kandyan on Gloucester Rd.
That’s it for my round-up, I hope you’ve enjoyed recapping it with me! You can tell me your own favourites over on Twitter or Instagram (I’ve collected a lot of people’s responses in a story highlight on my profile), or follow A Life Less Organised on Facebook to get more food & drink updates throughout the month. Thanks for reading!
My most-read guides this year were…
- Bristol’s Best Harbourside Restaurants (over 4,000 views, woah!)
- The Harbourside Pub Crawl
- Bristol’s Best Date Locations
- 12 of Bristol’s Best Brunches
- Where to go for a curry in Bristol
And here are some other favourites you sent in, they make quite a handy checklist for 2020…
- The katsu sando from Seven Lucky Gods – Meg Pope
- Korean Fried Chicken from Seven Lucky Gods – jo_ansky
- Pappardelle with pheasant from Bianchi’s – Steph Wetherell
- The tiramisu cake from Ahh Toots – zfjsutton
- Tantanmen ramen from Woky Ko Kaiju, or the fried chicken and okonomiyaki from Tsukemono – being_little
- Korean Fried Cauliflower from Woky Ko, Caulflower rarebit from Root and the calcots with romesco (or the aubergine with molasses) from Bravas – newslovesfood
- Gurt Wings – 3piapc
- Cauliflower from Seven Lucky Gods – andrewenjoyspizza
- Fried sprouts at The Ox, arancini at Root, cauliflower at North St Standard – lauraleighchapman
- The vegan tapas at The Malago – vickimoon201
- Smoked quail at Wilson’s – cazarazza
- Pasta Slut nduja mascarpone penne – lilydoughball
- Cherry souffle at Wilson’s – withmustard
- The Cauldron for Sunday evening jazz! – Nati expat
- Food Connections – yousayagency
- Bristol Craft Beer Festival – plantbasedbristol
- East Bristol Brewery Trail – lilydoughball
- Chandos Road Street Party – Otira
- The Crumbs Awards and the Fare Share ready, steady, cook event at Box-E – Dan Izzard
- The Spaghetti Incident – Kaya Payne
- Rock Salt and Masa + Mezcal! Both delicious – Charlotte Chivers
- Bokman & Bianchi’s – Major LJ
- Suncraft – Hannahbell
- Little French & Marmo – Mimi Avery
- Little French is pretty special. Also like Masa + Mescal – Bethan Mack
- Little Hollows pasta pop-up! – Ruth Wiles
- Black Rock whisky bar – adet1285
- Bianchi’s – bufty_grifter
- Seven Lucky Gods – jo_ansky
- Left Handed Giant brewpub and Bianchi’s- j_campbell-photography
- Kask! – stephenieeb
- Seven Lucky Gods – Ross Pope
- I struggle to choose between Seven Lucky Gods and Woky Ko Kaiju – good job they’re next to each other! – lauraleighchapman