14 best restaurants in Bristol to visit this year


As a born and bred Bristolian, I have been witness to some of the city’s best institutions coming and inevitably going (RIP Rocotillos), making it difficult to know where to begin with Bristol’s burgeoning food scene. Much of the city’s charm comes from its love for all things independent (notoriously, there was an outcry when a Tesco local opened in a neighbourhood that favours shopping local), which certainly translates to its dining options.

What you will struggle to find in the city is white tablecloth service. Instead, it’s the neighbourhood spots that really put Bristol on the map when it comes to good food – and naturally, it’s these destinations that are well worth sniffing out. Wilson’s in Redland, for example, is a local spot that showcases exactly what makes the city so great, with a focus on experimental cooking, warm service and sustainably sourced produce. Recently opened 1 York Place (by husband and wife duo Freddy and Nessa Bird of littlefrench) is a Clifton showstopper. And then there’s Bank in Totterdown, a buzzy injection into a quieter area specialising in dishes cooked over fire.

That’s just to name a few. Undoubtedly, more special spots will spring up – and I’ll share them with you. But keep reading for our current favourite destinations, from a pool-side haven that transports you to your favourite holiday destination to a family-owned Italian serving up cheap homemade pasta and Aperol Spritz on the harbour.

BANK

This buzzy restaurant has added life to Totterdown

(BANK)

The side of a busy road in Totterdown may seem a strange location for such a buzzy restaurant, but BANK really has added life to this area of Bristol. The old red brick building (once home to Lloyd’s Bank, hence the name) offers a grand entrance, but once inside you’re greeted with wooden tables, warm lighting, large windows and tall ceilings, giving it a welcoming and almost homely feel.

Specialising in contemporary sharing plates cooked over fire, the menu changes seasonally, so it might be different when you go (which you definitely should!). We opt for a selection of small plates and a large plate, all of which come out at different times. Kicking things off with sourdough focaccia with pumpkin borani and feta (£4.50) – while delicious, the pumpkin lacked flavour and I’d have liked a bigger hit of feta – and Nocellara olives cooked in burnt jalapeno butter (£4.60), which were buttery and smoky in equal measure, and were good enough to convert even an olive hater into a lover.

The tenderstem broccoli with burnt aubergine, chipotle and walnut salsa (£9.70) came out first – it was al dente with a delicious smokiness to it, and it’s something we’ve attempted (and failed) to recreate at home. This was followed by tropea onion (£10.20), which was unlike anything we’d had before – drenched in a smoked garlic soubise on a bed of sourdough, it was a creamy flavour bomb. Large sharing plates include the venison (£22.60), which was brought to life by burnt celeriac, chicory and smoked bacon butter, with a hit of coffee adding an unusual but decadent taste – it certainly packed a punch and was full of flavour. Each of the plates were alive in flavour and the cooking over fire approach is evident by the smokiness each one had. A final mention must go to the dessert – a large burnt white chocolate mousse topped with stewed rhubarb that cut through the super sweet flavour perfectly. It really is no surprise that BANK was named in The Good Food Guide’s list of Britain’s 100 best local restaurants. I’ll be back.

BANK, 107 Wells Road, Bristol, BS4 2BS | 0117 452 7536 | hello@bankbristol.com | www.bankbristol.com

Magari

Go to Magari from authentic home-cooked Italian, good vibes and great value

(Magari)

Whapping Wharf is home to some great food spots, from cheap, on-the-go eats (Biblos) to wine bars serving delicious small plates (Tare). But when it comes to authentic home-cooked Italian, a good vibe, great value and excellent service, you must go to Magari. The family-owned “pasta workshop” has a small ever-changing menu with dishes made from locally sourced ingredients where possible. To start, homemade tapenade is rich in flavour and is served on a crispy bruschetta (£5) and sets the tone for a delicious meal.

The freshly made pasta, with sauces ranging from sausage and fennel ragu (£11.50) to carbonara (£11.50), is cooked to perfection, full of flavour and a joy to eat. While the food is reliably good, it’s the affordable prices (Bristol’s seen an increase in pricey pasta spots, so the mains starting from £8 is a real perk) that will keep you coming back. During the summer months, get a table outside with an Aperol Spritz (£5) in hand, and you’re on your way to having the perfect day of great food and people-watching.

Magari, Unit 18 – Cargo 2, Museum Street, Bristol, BS1 6ZA | 01179292865 | info@magaripasta.co.uk | magaripasta.co.uk

Snobby’s

Snobby’s name comes from the owner, who wanted to make fun of his own snobbiness

(Snobby’s)

Chandos Road is home to not one but two Italian favourites. Little Hollows pasta (but more on that later) and Snobby’s (the name was coined after the owner wanted to make fun of his own snobbiness), a wine lover’s dream. With more vino options than you could possibly choose from, as well as an extensive cocktail menu, Snobby’s is a wonderful watering hole. Come summer, the large outdoor terrace will be a lovely place for enjoying a cocktail or two (the Aperol spritz was a delight) and whiling away the hours. Inside on a busy Tuesday night though – one large table is taken up by a wine-tasting event, which we definitely want to return for – there’s a definite buzzy, yet cosy atmosphere. Low lighting and tables close to one another give the place an intimate feel, almost as though you’re at a friend’s house for dinner.

Like most restaurants these days, the Italian-inspired menu is centred around sharing, with the recommendation being three to four plates for two people, which is certainly plenty. While its pizzas have long since been a draw, they’ve shifted towards a “healthier” approach this year. You won’t feel short-changed though as the menu is still delicious and carb-heavy. Hispi cabbage was brought to life by a salty miso tahini dressing and sesame seeds, the bavette steak was succulent and cooked to perfection, and the burrata was a creamy delight, though I was slightly disappointed that this wasn’t served with bread. While pudding doesn’t tend to take centre stage for me, it’s the tiramisu that may have been the standout dish – it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever had, so definitely order when you go.

Snobby’s Ltd, 6 Chandos Road, Bristol, BS6 6PE | 07956379320 | info@snobbys.co.uk | www.snobbys.co.uk

Bravas

Bravas started as a supper club before it became an intimate dining setting

(Bravas)

This small restaurant on Cotham Hill seats just 16 inside (there’s also tables on the outdoor terrace). The brainchild of Kieran and Imogen Waite, it started as a supper club hosted at their home before growing into what it is today: an intimate dining setting that serves up some of the best tapas in the city. The thoughtful interiors of exposed brickwork transport you to a Spanish city rather than Bristol, making it a great one to bookmark for when the winter blues are hitting hard.

Delicacies include grilled Iberico pork (£13.80), crispy deep-fried aubergine with pomegranate molasses (£4.80) – the perfect balance between sweet and salty – and simpler dishes, including patatas bravas (£4.80). There’s also plenty for veggies and an impressive-looking (and tasting) cheese selection. It’s not just food that will transport you to Spain though, the wine list is rioja-heavy and there’s a well-chosen selection of sherries.

Bravas, 7 Cotham Hill, Bristol, BS6 6LD | 0117 329 6887 | bar@bravas.co.uk | bravas.co.uk

The Lido

The Lido is an all-season hotspot

(The Lido)

Whether you’re looking for somewhere to celebrate or simply want a scenic spot for enjoying good grub, The Lido is up there as one of my firm favourites. While best known as a spa (which is well worth a visit should you be after some R&R), it’s also home to two dining options – its top-floor main restaurant and the downstairs pool bar. The former is a delight to dine in for a special occasion and boasts large glass windows and wooden floors, lending itself well to being an all-season hotspot.

But you simply cannot beat a seat by the pool. On a warm evening, small wooden tables line the pool and you’re instantly transported to the Mediterranean. Offering a good range of reasonably priced wines and a delicious daily-changing tapas menu (don’t miss the scallops if they’re on the menu). I’ve never had a bad time at The Lido.

The Lido, Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2BJ | 0117 332 3970 | restaurant@lidobristol.com | www.lidobristol.com

Mugshot

With Twenties chophouse vibes, Mugshot has a dark, moody charm

(Mugshot)

Much like a traditional chophouse you may have found in the Twenties, the wood-panelled walls, parquet flooring, velvet booths and chandeliers give Mugshot a dark, moody charm. It’s this decor that sets it apart from Bristol’s white-washed wall restaurants.

When entering you’re greeted with smokiness and the sound of steak sizzling on hot stones – it’s at this point it’s worth prefacing that this is not a hub for vegetarians; in fact, far from it. Choose between fillet (£36), sirloin (£30), ribeye (£34) or venison (£28) steak, or chateaubriand (£88.50), caveman boeuf (£90), porterhouse (£88.50) and butcher;s choice (£80) if you’re looking to share. Steak comes accompanied by perfectly cooked chunky chips and a rocket salad doused in shavings of parmesan, as well as your choice of butter and sauces to cook it in – the garlic butter added a delicious flavour but remember to pack some mints.

It’s a novelty to cook your own chunks of beef on a hot plate, but it won’t be everyone’s idea of fun. Dining at Mugshot gives you access to its sister venue, The Library, a number of doors down. The speakeasy looks like a vintage bookshop from the outside but ring the doorbell and the doors open to reveal a large, low-lit sophisticated bar. The eclectic cocktails are exceptional, as is the vibe.

Mugshot, 18 St Nicholas St, Bristol BS1 1UB | 01179 544 944 | bookings@mugshotrestaurants.com | www.mugshotrestaurants.com

Little Hollows Pasta

Little Hollows Pasta is a small, trattoria-style restaurant with a buzzy atmosphere

(Little Hollows Pasta)

The residents of Redland are seriously spoilt for choice with the restaurants right on their doorstep. In addition to the Michelin green-starred Wilson’s is Little Hollows, a restaurant with an impressive emphasis on sourcing local, independent, family-run produce from around the city and serving up scrumptious handmade pasta. I always feel a little biased when discussing pasta as, for me, it’s the God-tier food group. I was one of those kids who lived off cheesy pasta for the best part of a decade and it’s still my go-to comfort food when I’m in need of uplifting, but I’ll try to be balanced and fair.

It’s a smallish, trattoria-style restaurant with a buzzy atmosphere. Our waiter is quite possibly the loveliest host I’ve ever encountered and would have easily taken the edge off a terrible meal, but luckily this wasn’t the case. As is so often the norm, the menu is comprised of smalls and mains, making it hard to quite know if “smalls” are starter-sized and thus how many to order. Angelic waiter recommends two or three to share before a pasta dish each. A bitter leaf, walnut and apple salad with a mustard dressing is subtly sublime, while grilled cime di rapa, broccoli’s bitter Italian cousin, drenched in an anchovy tapenade had me simultaneously in awe and annoyance that I’d never tried the combination before. It’s something I’ll be sure to try (and fail) to replicate at home.

The desserts are also lovely, with Flo’s hazelnut tiramisu adding a nice flair to a classic. Not forgetting the main attraction: the beef featherblade pappardelle ragu is gloriously glossy with a depth of flavour that can only be achieved through hours of simmering and the skate wing tagliolini is creamy, sophisticated and down-right moreish. These guys now how to do pasta properly.

Little Hollows Pasta, 26 Chandos Rd, Redland, Bristol, BS6 6PF | 0117 973 1254 | www.littlehollowspasta.co.uk

Caper and Cure

There’s no trickery or theatre at Caper and Cure – just delicious food

(Caper and Cure)

One thing that really stood out to me about Caper and Cure, located in bustling Stokes Croft, was the fact that the steak and chips were actually served on the same plate. I cannot remember the last time my chips hadn’t arrived in some sort of separate vessel to the main attraction; it’s a small detail that, for me, made a big difference. At caper and cure they don’t do something just because everyone else does. The homely, unpretentious flourish of having chips touching a juicy steak and buttery bearnaise, for whatever reason, made me really happy – a feeling echoed throughout the entire meal. A feeling that somewhat diminished when I fell into what can only be described as a butter-induced coma approximately 17 minutes after arriving home – but that’s by the by, and it was well worth it.

One of the factors contributing to said coma was cryptically named warm crab butter. A shell filled to the brim with crab meat swimming in melted, herby butter. Served with hunks of dense sourdough to act as a crab-butter vessel. Reader, I devoured her. For mains I chose plaice from the market fish choices which came with beautifully crispy new potatoes (also served on the plate, praise be) fennel and tenderstem broccoli, and, you guessed it, a salsa verde beurre blanc. It was such a well-balanced dish I was pretty much silenced by it; delicate, perfectly seasoned and the TSB still had a proper bite, which is how it should be served. A starter special of seared scallops is juxtaposed with crunchy black pudding croquettes, well-trodden flavours that we know work so well together.

Caper and Cure is unaffected and guileless, there’s no trickery or theatre. Just delicious food you’d be excited to share with your friends. And whatever you do, save room for pud, as the pistachio creme brulee is ludicrously good – I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Caper and Cure, The Old Chemist, 108A Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3RU | 0117 923 2858 | hello@caperandcure.co.uk | www.caperandcure.co.uk

Marmo

Marmo is ideal date-night territory

(Marmo)

I do love a restaurant you can sniff out from the street, the kind that when you enter you’re hit with wonderful smells you can only achieve from a bustling open kitchen. Marmo is ideal date-night territory, highlighted by the fact it’s packed to the rafters the Tuesday immediately before Valentine’s, with lovebirds choosing to celebrate the night before in order to get a slice of the romantic twinkly lighting, cosy setting and intimate sharing plates. With nowhere to hide with its slim 12-dish menu – and that’s including the almonds and olives – Marmo doesn’t disappoint.

One thing linking the seasonal and locally sourced courses is a deft hand for balancing texture and flavour. Caviar-esque bottarga sits atop a creamy cloud of burrata; charred sourdough rubbed in pungent raw garlic carries delicately seasoned tartare and a silky egg yolk; beautifully sizzled pork lies between moreish lentils, blackened cabbage and apple mustard – no pork dish will be the same without it henceforth. Everything on each plate serves its purpose, with no wasted real estate or unnecessary garnishes.

Another thing that can’t go unmentioned was the perfect pacing of the meal. Small plates can become overwhelming when they’re all dumped on the table at once, jostling and screaming for attention. Here each plate comes one at a time with ample room between to look forward to the next. An obscenely good chocolate mousse competes for the limelight with the best rhubarb sorbet I’ve ever had the joy of eating; zingy, sharp and velvety. Bristol really is lucky to have this delightful restaurant nestled in its centre.

Marmo, 31 Baldwin Street, Bristol, BS1 1RG | 0117 316 4987 | hello@marmo.restaurant | www.marmo.restaurant

The Clifton

Despite being in Clifton Village, there’s an almost rural feel to this restaurant

(The Clifton)

I fell in love with The Clifton immediately thanks to the nostalgic waft of smoky countryside fires and homely cooking that always takes me back to my grandparents. Despite being in Clifton Village, as the name would suggest, there’s an almost rural feel to the place; it’s welcoming and warm and sets the scene for the hearty and unpretentious food they serve. You can easily picture hunkering down on a Sunday and drinking and eating for hours and hours.

Courtesy of their custom-built grill, their twice-daily changing menu encompasses lots of cooking over fire; from grilled asparagus – served with capers, diced shallots and a fantastic cods roe – to smoked new potatoes. Juicy, fat langoustine arrive with nothing but lemon; there’s no need for anything else when they’re cooked just right, and a rich chicken liver parfait comes perfectly piped on toasted pain au lait, meaning every bite is covered in the delicious, smooth pate. Service was utterly seamless, friendly and attentive but never in the way. I was surprised when the table next to us demanded the tip be deducted from the bill, claiming it had been a “shambles”, (it turns out the dishwasher downstairs had caused a leak and all hands on deck were required for around 15 minutes, so I’ll put this down to the pair just being pernickety arseholes). A beautiful chicken, pork belly, fennel and wild garlic pie, topped with flaky, buttery pastry is pub food, but seriously elevated; the balance of aniseed is spot on.

The only slight let-down was the souffle: though perfect in texture, I couldn’t taste a whole lot of the promised blood orange, but it was a minor setback. A surprising standout was the unassuming homemade soda bread. Not only did it add to the my-grandma-could-have-made-this element of the meal, it was so biscuity and subtly sweet that I could have easily eaten half a loaf. I can genuinely say I adore this place and plan on heading over again on a Sunday to eat and drink the day away.

The Clifton, 16 Regent Street, Bristol BS8 4HG | 0117 431 2002 | info@thecliftonbristol.com | thecliftonbristol.com

The Coconut Tree

Hoppers are a must-have for first-timers at The Coconut Tree

(The Coconut Tree)

There’s something so innocently and unpretentiously fun about The Coconut Tree that you can’t help but love it. Plus, when the cost of literally staying alive, let alone dining out, is higher than ever, a menu where plates start at £4 (lamb cutlets, hoppers and sambol) and go up to a maximum of a tenner (beef brisket kothu and prawn fried rice) is very, very welcome.

Offering up authentic Sri Lankan flavours in small ceramic dishes designed to be shared, there are tons of bold, spicy and vibrant things to choose from. From “cheesy colombo” – sticky cubes of fried cheese covered in a tangy sauce and hot butter calamari – battered squid covered in a shrimpy coating and topped with crispy chili and garlic; to a creamy, coconutty and perfectly spiced prawn curry and crimson, spicy “devilled chicken wings”, the only problem you’ll have is deciding what to order. Fear not, for £25pp (or £20pp for vegan) the staff will help you out by choosing – with your input – a selection that they think you’ll enjoy.

Instead of napkins there’s a roll of kitchen towel; a necessity if you order the wings. Don’t skip the hopper, a “must-have for first timers”, a bowl-shaped coconut pancake with Sri Lankan relishes and salsa, plus an egg for an extra 50p, whereby you mash it all together and roll it up to devour in a collision of spices and textures.

My only gripe with the meal was that the pork belly was a bit on the dry side, but the smoky spice mix courtesy of “Granny Gertie” kept me coming back for more. It’s a little hectic here, at one point there was a near-overwhelming amount of food on the table at once as it’s all brought out as soon as it’s ready, but that’s part of the charm. The Coconut Tree promises a taste of Sri Lankan family hospitality – if that means energetic, exuberant, friendly and generous, then I’d have to agree.

237-239 Cheltenham Road, Bristol, BS6 5QP | 0117 924 0284 | reservations@thecoconuttree.com | www.thecoconut-tree.com

1 York Place

Everything about 1 York Place, from the decor to the food to the service, is elegant

(1 York Place)

One word that came to mind over and over again while at 1 York Place, sister to the well-loved littlefrench from Freddy and Nessa Bird, is elegant. Located in Clifton Village and invitingly decorated with light wood and dried flowers, and home to an impressive winding metal staircase, this place easily has all the ingredients for becoming a destination restaurant.

The menu is broadly European, and changes daily (or twice, in our case, when our menu was swapped for another as we sat down as there had been a small tweak), and will appeal to traditionalists and non alike, as there are bar snacks, starters, mains and sharers. A standout of the former is whipped cods roe with radish, smooth as they come and deliciously fishy, plus a smart way to trick me into thinking raw radishes are utterly sublime. Served alongside the crunchy sourdough makes for an irresistible dip to add to the irresistible stracciatella, chestnut honey and truffle. A blini topped with wild prawn and ribbons of pickled cucumber and dill-y fennel is wonderfully delicate and light, while just-cooked white asparagus smothered in parmesan cream and (more) truffle is a puddle of creamy, cheesy comfort.

The sharer of hot roast shellfish (for £100) is incredibly tempting but something about the gnudi was screaming my name. As is often the case, I’m glad I trusted my gut as the pillowy little ricotta dumplings swimming in brown butter with crispy sage leaves is as good as it gets. All the portions feel really generous, especially considering all the ingredients are of the highest quality; a seafood risotto is crammed with clams, lobster and a scallop and sits somewhere between a risotto and paella. It’s one of those meals where you’re hit with dish after dish of breathtaking food.

Leaving just enough room for an amalfi lemon set cream is a wise idea. The ideal citrusy sharp palette cleanser to round off a load of rich, buttery goodness; served with a gorgeous brown butter shortbread in case you were worried that wasn’t enough. The wine list is varied yet approachable, with the cheapest glass of red, a Portuguese quinta da boa, starting at just £4.50. 1 York Place is sure to be a hit with locals as well as one well-worth travelling for; as a Londoner I’m already planning my return.

1 York Place, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1 AH | 0117 244 7775 | bookings@1yorkplace.co.uk | www.1yorkplace.co.uk

Poco

The setting doesn’t really get more vibrant than at Poco

(Poco)

Sat with arguably the best view of Turbo Island in the whole of Stokes Croft, settings don’t really get more vibrant than at Poco. There are a few ways to dine, a la carte with their tapas, or from a carefully selected either root to fruit (vegan) or nose to tail set menu. I opt for the latter; as someone who suffers from choice paralysis I love not having to think about what to order.

The meal starts with a “snack”, something crunchy with some pickled carrot, and some preserved lemon fava houmous sprinkled with za’atar. Both are tasty if a little forgettable, but the wonderfully inventive smoked pigeon and chicory spin on a caesar salad more than makes up for it. The thin slices of dark meat look devilishly like anchovies, covered in a lovely crunchy crumb in place of croutons, all snowed under piles of parmesan. Momentum is kept up by Irish moss cured mackerel – its skin charred and crisp, adored with shavings of pickled beetroot and beet crackers, dotted with garlic mayo – and rich and earthy wild venison, both fillet and shoulder, the flavours accentuated by parsnip crisps and apple fondant.

There’s a big focus on seasonal, low-waste cooking, the blackboard changing regularly depending on what needs to be used and what’s available. Each dish comes as one plate, designed for two to share; it’s an intimate way of eating and thoroughly enjoyable. Sadly, after 13 years on Jamaica Street, Poco will be closing its doors sometime this spring. The worst part about this news is I don’t know if I’ll ever get to try their caramelised apple beignets with apple custard again; truly magnificent fried balls of soft dough coated in cinnamon sugar. A pud to rule them all.

Poco Tapas Bar, 45 Jamaica Street , Bristol, BS2 8JP | 0117 923 2233 | info@pocotapasbar.com | www.pocotapasbar.com

Wilson’s

Everyone wants a neighbour like Wilson’s

(Wilson’s)

Wilson’s is a special place with a great concept at its core that Bristol is blessed to have. The sustainably minded restaurant has its own two-acre market garden located a 20-minute drive away where they grow the majority of the vegetables and herbs they use. This farm-to-table ethos has landed them Michelin green star.

What’s grown on the farm dictates the £68pp menu, which fluctuates from day to day. The devil is in the details at Wilson’s, whether it’s buttery trout served with leeks and preserved black truffle, topped with a perfect square of crisp skin; freshly baked bread served with butter they churn themselves from dairy cows in Frome; smooth pumpkin with vanilla running which gives it a delightful caramelly sweetness; or a blitzed “farm herbs” sorbet wearing a hat of blowtorched meringue.

Delicate, restrained courses are then heavily juxtaposed by a slab of rustic tarte tatin; sticky, hard caramel with tender apple on flaky, puff pastry, it comes with a serrated knife to cut for the table and disperse as you please. A greedy and delicious way to end a graceful meal. Although on the pricey side, it’s worth getting the wine flight if you want your drinks to perfectly match the dishes – the staff really know what they’re talking about and it’s fun to let their expert knowledge wash over you as you try to work out if you actually know what they’re talking about. However, you could easily opt for a bottle of your own choosing and have equally as good a time.

Harmonious, friendly, clever and welcoming, there’s a reason why it’s known as the perfect neighbourhood restaurant. If I could choose my neighbours, they’d be exactly like Wilson’s.

Wilson’s, 24 Chandos Road, Bristol, BS6 6PF | 0117 973 4157 | fiona@wilsonsrestaurant.co.uk | www.wilsonsbristol.co.uk



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