A Guide to Bristol's Best Restaurants and Bars

Bristol food and drink guide

by Katie Smith 17 February 2016

Bristolians are passionate about their food and drink – especially when it comes to produce that is above all fresh, seasonal and locally sourced. Katie Smith offers a glimpse into the city's burgeoning food culture, from Michelin-starred dining to independent cafés and spectacular food festivals.

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Katie is an avid home baker, passionate about using seasonal produce and hedgerow ingredients. As part of the editorial team at Great British Chefs, she pursues her dual loves of food and writing.

Katie is an avid home baker, passionate about using seasonal produce and hedgerow ingredients. As part of the editorial team at Great British Chefs, she pursues her dual loves of food and writing.

When it comes to food, Bristol has it covered– in fact, you’re spoilt for choice. The city is a thriving hub of independent delis, grocery stores, cafés, restaurants, pubs, specialist bars and food festivals. Basically, if you are a self-confessed foodie, Bristol is the place to be.

The city was given the auspicious title of European Green Capital in 2015, an honour which recognises the dedication the city and its citizens take in achieving – and continue to achieve – a more healthy and sustainable future. This ethos is reflected in Bristol’s booming food scene, with countless eateries and drinking establishments dedicating themselves to the finest quality fresh, local and seasonal produce the South West has to offer. This philosophy is also evident in Bristol’s well-established and prosperous vegetarian and vegan food culture, with many cafés and restaurants solely devoting themselves to offering their customers local, organic and fair trade plant-based fare.

Bristol’s unique culture and identity has helped to shape the city into the major foodie destination it is today. Indeed, it is the passion and creativity of the city’s inhabitants that make Bristol a truly distinctive and joyous place to eat, drink and most importantly live.

Casual eats

Poco – Sustainability is at the core of this 100% seasonal tapas restaurant co-founded by Tom Hunt. A staggering 98% of the ingredients on the menu are British. Indeed, all the fresh produce is locally sourced, with the fish traceable back to the boat on which it was first caught.

Flour & Ash – This simple pizzeria is named after its two founding elements – the 72-hour aged sourdough dough made from locally milled flour and the wood-fired oven which gives the pizzas their characteristic charred and bubbling finish.

Bakers & Co. Inspired by the blossoming food culture of San Francisco, this Gloucester Road café from the founders of tapas restaurant Bravas specialises in a fresh and vibrant selection of breakfasts and brunch. The famed sourdough bread is baked fresh every day on the premises and the overflowing counter of cakes and sweet treats is hard to ignore.

Maitreya Social A forerunner to Bristol’s now vibrant vegetarian restaurant scene, this popular establishment offers a locally sourced, seasonal menu of inventive vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes. Expect to find influences from the cuisines of North Africa, the Middle East and Mediterranean from brunch right through to dinner.

BaowowThis affordable Asian street food restaurant caters for the lunchtime and early evening crowds of central Bristol, specialising in warming, nutritious bowls of Vietnamese pho and delicately steamed Thai bao buns. If you are in need of a caffeine kick, try the Vietnamese coffee.

Milk and Thistle
Bristol's various pubs and bars range from the traditional boozer to fashionable and trendy venues
The Lido
The Lido features a variety of foraged ingredients throughout its menu

Dining destinations

Casamia– Holding a Michelin star since 2009, every aspect of the seasonally evolving menu is full of passion – and the décor changes to match, too!

The Ox– This meat-centric restaurant is famed for its steak. The meat is sourced from local Winterbourne-based butchers Buxton Butchers and artisan bakery Hart's supply the sourdough bread for the ‘Toast’ section of the menu.

Lido – Quirkily set within the Victorian viewing gallery of the Clifton Lido, you can watch the bathers swim by whilst enjoying dishes featuring freshly-foraged ingredients by head chef Freddy Bird.

Wallfish Bistro – Drawing on the West Country’s rich pickings of fresh fish and seafood, the menu at this restaurant changes daily to reflect the day’s catch.

The Pony & Trap – Located just outside the city in rural Chew Magna, this Michelin-starred country pub serves ‘field to fork’ food inspired by British classics. The restaurant is run under the careful guidance of head chef Josh Eggleton who has also recently added Salt & Malt to his Bristol-based eateries.

Stocking up

St Nicholas Market– This grand, glass-covered treasure trove of market traders, independent food stores and stalls has something for everyone – from the giant Kurdish bread wraps at Middle Eastern stall Matina to the to die for selection of cakes and baked treats at Ahh Toots. There is also a weekly Wednesday farmers’ market and a Friday food market brimming with local producers – you’re guaranteed to find something different every time.

The Olive Shed– Located on Bristol’s bustling Gloucester Road, this deli café offers a seemingly endless variety of fresh antipasti and plump Mediterranean olives, as well as healthy salads, artisan bread, local cheeses and a delectable selection of cakes.

Marks Bread– Wholesome and nourishing are probably the best words to describe the fresh, handmade bread at this Southville craft bakery. All the yeast is naturally occurring and the organic flour is sourced from nearby Shipton Mill in Gloucestershire.

Scoopaway– Dedicated to organic and fair trade products, this health food store is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of herbs, spices, pulses, nuts, dried fruits and baking supplies. The vast majority of the products on offer are sold by weight so you can easily stock up your store cupboards without breaking the bank.

Bristol Cider Shop– Tucked away on the cobbled, historic Christmas Steps, this cider specialist stocks over 100 types of the amber liquid (and perry too!). The shop even boasts regular cider tastings, where you can sample ten different cider varieties all soaked up with a helping of bread and cheese.

St Nicholas Market
St Nicholas Market is the perfect place to go shopping for some artisan produce
Bristol Cider Shop
Fancy a tipple? Head to Bristol Cider Shop for some local scrumpy

Watering holes

The Pump House – This converted Victorian pumping station has a collection of more than 400 gins, an ever-expanding wine list and a regular stock of ales from surrounding Butcombe, Bath and Cheddar. The food is equally good too, with well-loved British classics being served with a modern twist.

The Library – A small, intimate wine bar with a continuously developing menu of hand-selected wines from around the world. Get an education in wine with a sommelier-led wine tasting or simply enjoy a glass of your favourite tipple with cheese and charcuterie.

Hausbar– Located at the top of Whiteladies Road, this basement bar is a secret speakeasy cocktail place where you can only enter after ringing the bell and waiting for the doorman to kindly allow you in. The bartenders are experts in their craft and can mix you up your own bespoke cocktail if you become overwhelmed by mounting indecision.

The Apple– This floating bar has a simple concept – cider and lots of it. As you enter the lower levels of the converted Dutch barge you’ll have your pick of the finest ciders, perries, apple brandy and cider-based cocktails. If you like your cider strong, try 8.4% ABV Old Bristolian, served only in half pints due to its potency.

Full Court PressA veritable paradise for coffee drinkers. Choose between espressos and filter coffees specially selected for their purpose with accompanying descriptions of the bean’s unique flavour profiles. You can also learn the mastery behind making the perfect cup of coffee with brewing courses.

Don't miss...

Eat Drink Bristol Fashion – Co-founded by passionate ‘field to fork’ advocates chef Josh Eggleton and organic farmer Luke Hasell, this pop-up food festival includes an array of tipis hosting everything from a fine dining restaurant to a tapas bar with live music.

Bristol Food Connections– This city-wide food festival is dedicated to bringing Bristol’s inhabitants together, encouraging them to host their own events as part of the nine-day programme which includes feasts of all sizes, cooking demonstrations and a range of community events.

Love Food Festival– With a core aim to build stronger links between consumers, local producers and suppliers, this food festival features a variety of events hosted in various locations in and around Bristol, and includes a lively monthly Night Market with street food and music.

Bristol is home to some of the UK's best street art, found throughout the city