Looking for Bristol restaurants? Check out the best places to eat in Bristol, including cafés, bars and restaurants. Here you’ll find local beers and interesting wines, lively bars and buzzy cafés. Check out our local food and drink guide to Bristol…
We also have a dedicated guide to the best restaurants in Wapping Wharf, Bristol’s new foodie development made up of shipping containers. Check out our Wapping Wharf guide here…
Best restaurants in Bristol
In a nutshell: Unassuming and yet pioneering, adventurous and yet accessible, Casamia was one of the first in a new wave of British fine-dining restaurants where it was okay to talk above a hushed whisper, where you could dress up or dress down, and either way you’d be welcomed with open arms by the maître d’ Paco (his son, Peter, is the head chef).
What’s the vibe? Relaxed high end – tables are clothless, menus are presented in leather envelopes, and exposed brickwork is matched by calming shades of grey. The kitchen areas are open plan so you can see and hear the team at work, and the tasting menu is served by the kitchen team rather than the waiting staff who stick to keeping you topped up with great wine, clearing, and answering any questions you might have.
What’s the food like? The 16-course tasting menu (that changes quarterly with the seasons) begins with three ‘snacks’ (on our visit Ragstone cheese and beetroot tartlets, ‘asparagus on a journey’, and a tartare of the sweetest fresh scallop).
Starters included the ‘breakfast egg’ (a slow-cooked yolk, tiny button mushrooms, confit tomatoes, and an egg mousse); langoustine dressed in bisque topped with shitake mushroom gel; and mackerel risotto, intensified in flavour by fish-bone stock and a mighty hit of parmesan.
A fish course of monkfish tail – supremely tender – came bathed in a cider cream sauce and topped with a iron-rich spring green crisp. The cheese course turned out to be slices of Somerset Quicke’s cheddar sandwiched between homemade crackers with mango chutney, and was followed by five different sweets. Super sweet ‘carrot and thyme’, masterful ‘blood orange’, elegant rhubarb, edible flowers, and a final bite of pine nut sponges with lemon curd and meringue.
And the drink? There’s a £60 matching wine flight, and the sommelier here is as forward thinking as the chef, presenting sake to match the umami tsunami mackerel risotto.
olive says… Peter understands how to perfectly balance flavours and textures, and his mentoring of the young staff is seriously admirable. This is one of the most exciting and fulfilling dining experiences you’ll ever get to experience. The West Country should be seriously proud.
This modern British restaurant in the Cotham area of the city has quickly made an impression on locals thanks to the clever cooking, interesting techniques (they’re big fans of fermentation) and bold flavour pairings from 30-year-old chef George Livesey. Originally from the Peak District, George has worked at St. John, for Dan Cox (executive chef of Fera at Claridge’s), and White Rabbit in Dalston before deciding to head West.
His menus champion the produce of the region, including all the foraged ingredients he can get his hands on (from fiddlehead ferns and pine, to juniper and sea kale). Order off the good-value tasting menus – £45 for nine courses, while set lunch menus start at £15 for three courses.
With personable and passionate service, a cracking cocktail menu that complements the food, and sterling cooking coming out of the tiny kitchen, George and his team are giving well-established names on the Bristol food and drink scene a run for their money…
In a nutshell: With Rob Howell (previously of Michelin-starred The Pony & Trap in Chew Magna) as head chef, Root is a new veggie-focussed restaurant in Bristol’s Wapping Wharf development.
What’s the vibe? Plants hang in the floor-to-ceiling windows, glossy green tiles line the walls between licks of purple paint and crates of fresh produce sit beneath a blackboard of specials. The kitchen is open, in every sense – chefs chat to diners across the bar.
What’s the food like? Designed to be gentle on the environment, the one-sheet menu of small plates is proudly almost all veggie, with just a few select meat and fish dishes.
Warming, woody cauliflower steak – cooked with or without butter, to suit vegan diners – is heaped with more cauli, in the form of purée and shavings. Cashew milk makes for a rich, creamy base, while a squeeze of lemon zings.
English burrata, framed by swirls of seeded dukkah and smoked rapeseed oil, is a heavenly blend of creamy and crunchy textures. Onglet tartare (one of the rogue meat dishes) is a marvel. Beneath a nest of moreish matchstick fries (made from leftover potato scraps) and plump, raw steak pieces is a cured, pickled egg yolk. The yolks are left to cure in brine for half an hour then pickled for a further couple of hours, which produces their seductively silky texture.
And the drinks? The drinks list features natural and biodynamic wines, as well as local Somerset brandy.
olive says… A brilliant and totally fitting, of-the-moment addition to this vibrant new Bristol restaurant quarter.
Read our full review of Root here
Bellita restaurant is a firm favourite on Bristol’s restaurant scene. Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel’s food is astonishing and the drinks list (including an all-woman wine-maker wine list, curated by olive’s wine writer, Kate Hawkings) exudes the kind of cool that makes you realise how little you know about the drinks world, but how much you love to drink. Order the spiced chicken pincho skewer with yogurt and harissa. bellita.co.uk
Spiced chicken pincho, Bellita, Bristol
Pasta Loco has become so well loved with locals that there’s a two-month waiting list for weekend tables. The first venture for cousins Ben Harvey and Dominic Borel, this compact restaurant is Bristol’s first fresh pasta house and has quickly become the place to go for signature dishes like linguine carbonara, which is twist on the classic, if much maligned, recipe.
With three days of preparation involved and three styles of pork – crumbled salsiccia, crispy pork belly and a pancetta-wrapped poached egg – word soon got around about the dish via social media and it’s been on the menu ever since.
The pair have also become well known for their negroni – it’s so good that Dominic has to make a vat to keep up with demand. pastaloco.co.uk
Pasta Ripiena is the second opening in two years from Bristol cousins Dominic Borel and Ben Harvey, who have built up a considerable following in their city since launching the original Pasta Loco.
At the smaller Pasta Ripiena, Ben’s brother Joe and his team change the menu every fortnight, developing new dishes and testing the elements of each one for a week before putting them on the menu.
To keep things seasonal, the restaurant gets two weekly deliveries from the Milan fruit and vegetable market. This produce ends up in a range of dishes, particularly stuffed pasta, which is made on site every day. Typical main courses include tortellini of salt marsh lamb, artichoke barigoule, pancetta and ricotta salata, and ravioli of beef shin ragu, crispy coppa, chard and pedro ximénez.
Dominic says: “You’ll find Joe rolling five different styles of stuffed pasta between the end of lunch service and dinner – the PX sherry jus on the beef ragu is sticky, sweet, rich and just plain naughty!”
Jamaica Street Stores
In a warehouse-like space in the rough-round-the-edges-but-loveable Stokes Croft Corner of Bristol, Jamaica Street Stores proves yet again that those in the South West really know how to make veg taste lush.
You feel at once like you’re in an artist’s studio and a greenhouse – with leafy plants on nearly every wall and even a tree at the heart of a bar, from which to sip your aperitivo. There’s no constraints when it comes to influences for the menu – you’d expect nothing less in Stokey – but the team is strict when it comes to animal welfare, sustainable farming, fair trade and the environmental impact of allits ingredients. That’s why at least half of the menu is plant based. And rather delicious, at that.
Cushion-soft, pan-fried gnocchi bob in an earthy broth with sweet and delicate asparagus tips and sharp, salty slivers of parmesan for an added umami hit. Cauliflower is roasted, buttery and charred, served with yet more caramelised and puréed, and begging for its dukkah dusting and crispy kale platefellow to bring back the crunch. When meat does appear on the menu, it’s cracking – like the eternally popular, Korean-esque fried chicken with kimchi mayo, crispy chilli and a rubble of peanuts.
Do a few lengths in the restored Victorian pool to sharpen your appetite then enjoy a two-course poolside lunch at Bristol Lido (Oakfield Place). Chef Freddy Bird’s must-eat dishes (click here to make his recipes at home) include wood-roast scallops with herb and garlic butter and his salted butter caramel ice cream. Downstairs offers tapas. Booking essential.
Bell’s Diner (1-3 York Road) in boho Montpelier used to be Bristol’s fine-dining destination, but it’s now relaxed into a local bistro with dishes inspired by the Mediterranean and Middle East. Enjoy the succulent, slow-cooked veal cheek with morcilla, sherry and celeriac purée. The wine list is imaginative.
Bag a table by the window (or on the terrace) in the glass-fronted River Station (The Grove) to catch the action in the harbour. Go all out in the smart upstairs restaurant with mains such as roast hake with parmesan crust and cannellini beans, the two-course set lunch in the relaxed downstairs café-bar is a bargain.
In a nutshell: Located in smart Clifton, Nutmeg serves up seriously delicious Indian cuisine (read our guide to some of the best Indian restaurants in the UK here). With its buzzy, welcoming atmosphere, this restaurant doesn’t mind if you’re dressed up or down, but the dishes are certainly special enough for a celebration.
What’s the vibe like? In its dishes, decor and demeanour, Nutmeg is wonderfully colourful. Street-art-style murals on the walls are pure Bristol, while wooden floors and red banquettes add polish.
What’s the food like? Owner Raja Munuswamy and head chef Arvind Pawar source ingredients from local indie suppliers, including Ruby and White butchers and Bristol Sweet Mart. While the tasting menu focuses on one region at a time (on our visit the northern region of Kashmir), cycling every two months to keep things fresh, the à la carte features flavours inspired by all 29 of India’s states.
After a tray of well-balanced homemade chutneys, the amuse bouche of golgappa puri – a traditional street snack of deep-fried tried filled with tamarind water, chilli, chaat masala and chickpea – proved to be one of the standouts of the night. We also found ourselves particularly enamoured with the main course’s yakhni gosht – rich, slow-cooked lamb that was moreishly tender, warm with ginger and cumin and cooled with a hung yoghurt sauce.
Paired with a fruity pinot noir rosé, the pudding rounded the evening off beautifully; a deliciously syrupy jalebi acted as the perfect foil to a fragrant ball of homemade rose kulfi ice cream.
And the drinks? Highlights include a wine menu with helpful food pairing suggestions, a roster of lightly spiced gins and a short offering of Indian-inspired cocktails – we enjoyed an elderflower champagne creation.
In a nutshell: There are six HUBBOX branches across the South West and the latest, with its chic, all-black frontage and monochrome tiling, has opened on Bristol’s Whiteladies Road. Expect delicious gourmet dogs, burgers, and craft beer.
What’s the vibe like? Old meets new at this relaxed restaurant. High ceilings show the bones of the Georgian building HUBBOX lives within but now pendant lamps hang down from exposed metal strips, neon signs glare against exposed brick, and a shipping container is reimagined as a canteen-style serving hatch.
What’s the food like? Key ingredients at this fast food joint are carefully considered, their vital statistics shared on the menu. Hot dogs are made using high-welfare, outdoor-reared, free-range pork, smoked over applewood and tucked into organic bread rolls.
Try the Hub burger – 21-day-aged beef is charred on the outside and succulent inside – and the dirty double dog, almost impossible to hold, let alone eat, thanks to a heft of toppings. But, persevere. Lavish layers of low ’n’ slow pulled pork and ‘dirty mix’ (jalapeños, onions and mustard) prove impressively flavoursome.
Sides include a fresh salad of gem lettuce and avocado, plus a mug of mac’n’cheese with the creamy tang of West Country cheddar and a crisp parmesan crumb. Be sure to order the another-level BBQ burnt-end beans, too. They come in a thick, smoky sauce, mixed with a scattering of brisket and pork.
Old-school shakes for pudding are made with ice cream, malt and whole milk, and served with whipped cream on top. Thin enough to easily sip through a straw, yet decadent enough to satisfy sweet tooths (try the salted caramel).
Click here to read the full review of HUBBOX…
For a pre-dinner bite, cross Whiteladies Road to small, buzzy Bravas (7 Cotham Hill), which, with its exposed brick walls and hessian coffee sacks, could be a backstreet tapas bar in Spain. Make sure you try the lamb à la plancha with hazelnut and parsley salsa or the tortilla with homemade aïoli.
Finish with a flourish by dining in central Bristol’s only Michelin starred restaurant, Wilks (1B Chandos Road). Chef James Wilkins’ lobster bisque is a starter you’ll want to remember forever. Or try the five course vegetable tasting menu (available Sunday only, booking essential).
For Bristol chef Henry Eldon, cooking over solid fuels is driven by a desire to connect to the origins of cookery. Dishes like roasted monkfish tail and home-cured pancetta and charcoal-grilled jerk aubergine are created in a kitchen powered entirely by solid fuels.
There is a wood-fired oven, a coal-powered vintage iron Swedish stove, a 60-litre cast-iron cauldron and a Japanese-style yakitori grill. Henry’s decision not to have gas was a result of “a primitive connection to the smell of a bonfire” as much as it was not having to rely on the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers.
Best cafes and coffee shops in Bristol
The queues snaking out the door tell you all you need to know about Hart’s Bakery. Set under the arches at Bristol Temple Meads railway station, swing by for epic sausage rolls and Saturday Bread.
Bakers and Co
Bakers & Co is a buzzy daytime hangout, along Bristol’s funky, independent-heavy Gloucester Road, knocking up seasonal brunches and great coffees.
This café whispers of San Francisco with its low-key coolness and sharp but laid-back service. All rustic wood, white walls and pops of sunshine yellow inside, it hums with atmosphere on the weekend as diners from across the city meet up for drawn-out breakfasts and catch-ups over single-origin coffee topped up with creamy, organic Ivy House milk from Somerset.
Aside from a daily sarnie (how does coffee-spiced, slow-roast pork with espresso barbecue pork sound?) and salad (cucumber and mango with a bold chilli kick) special, it’s all about brunch here. Imaginatively topped toast, breakfast bowls and hot plates like crispy bacon belly tacos share the menu with patisserie staples and add-ons you didn’t know you wanted – think slow-cooked pinto beans and fried potato with garlic mayo.
Granola comes with honey-roasted figs and cardamom-infused yogurt, while the standout ‘Morning Toast’ is all orange, cinnamon and contentment – plums stewed with zest and bark top sugar-and-spice-coated sourdough, along with crème fraîche, flaked almonds and a drizzling of the rosy stewing liquor.
Click here to read our full review of Bakers and Co
Two Day Coffee Roasters
As unpretentious as coffee shops get, Two Day Coffee Roasters sells an impressive selection of beans by weight, as well as cups of coffee to go (there are no seats). The Bristol coffee scene may have grown over the past few years, but these guys were right there at the start.
For more Bristol coffee shop suggestions from the UK’s top baristas, click here…
Ease yourself into the day with brunch at one of Bristol’s longest-standing food institutions, the Primrose Café (Clifton Arcade, 1 Boyce’s Avenue). Go for the All-In-Two cooked breakfast, haddock fish cakes, or a slab of its legendary chocolate and salted caramel cake.
Transport yourself to the Med at Papadeli (84 Alma Road), a deli-cum-café-cum cookery school whose ‘papa’ is affable ex-chef Simon MacDonnell. If you’re staying beyond the weekend, book onto a weekday evening cooking class. Otherwise, devour a chocolate brownie in the café or snap up a Sorelle Nurzia Italian Easter Colomba cake in the deli.
Spicer & Cole
Amble back into classy Clifton for tea at the newly opened Spicer & Cole (9 Princess Victoria Street), the antidote to faceless coffee shop chains. Ingredients are locally sourced and the sandwiches and cakes are handmade on site. The carrot cake is addictive.
Best bars and pubs in Bristol
Ineffably stylish and with a killer wine list, Bar Buvette is every inch your modern bistro. Let the French waiting staff inform your wine choice and order the fried cheese sandwich along with a plate of charcuterie and some spiky cornichons.
Bar Buvette made it into our top UK wine bars, check out the full list here…
Bowl of mussels at Bar Buvette
Hyde & Co
Round off the evening with a cocktail at Hyde & Co (2 The Basement, Upper Byron Place), Bristol’s prohibition-style bar. We recommend a Stroll in the Grounds; Somerset cider brandy shaken with sloe gin and lavender sherbet, topped with Camel Valley fizz.
Tucked away in tranquil Kingsdown, the cosy Green Man (21 Alfred Place) could almost be in a Somerset village. Savour a pre-dinner pint of Bristol Best, made with British malt and hops by Westcountry brewers Dawkins (who own the pub). If you’re not booked elsewhere for dinner, the home-cooked food is good too.
Best food and drink shops in Bristol
The Bristol Cheesemonger
Shopping in a shipping container is cool, right? Literally in the case of The Bristol Cheesemonger, since the space is also refrigerated; proprietor Rosie Morgan sells excellent More Wine bag-in-box wine and the most marvellous array of British cheeses, including an awesome trio of cheddars (when in the West Country…).
Check out our favourite restaurants in Whapping Wharf, Bristol’s foodie area made up of shipping containers.
Bristol Sweet Mart
Head to Easton (east of Bristol city centre) to find Bristol Sweet Mart, a glorious South Asian emporium where you can buy anything from tiffin boxes to bunches of herbs, chutneys, fresh pickles, pulses and grains (make sure to nose through the gargantuan selection of spices). sweetmart.co.uk
Wai Yee Hong
Apart from having one of the funniest Twitter profiles out there, Wai Yee Hong is a behemoth of a Chinese supermarket, requiring a whole day to fully explore its shelves. Charge round with a shopping trolley stocking up on all things Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai. waiyeehong.com
You can spot the queues long before you reach Mark Newman’s artisan bakery (291 North Street) on the popular North Street. Bag a loaf of his sourdough, still warm from the ovens behind the counter, or settle down with a paper and croque Monsieur in the café next door.
St Nicholas’ Market
Soak up the atmosphere at St Nicholas’ Market (Corn Street) which offers everything from wheatgrass juice to handmade Pieminister pies (try the Heidi with Somerset goat’s cheese), and pulled pork sandwiches from Grillstock Smokeshack. At the gorgeous Source food hall & café, grab a Gloucester Old Spot sausage roll or stock up on local goodies.
Arch House Deli
‘Hopping’ green chocolate frogs made with popping candy by James’ Chocolates and sold at Arch House Deli (Boyce’s Avenue) make novelty Easter presents. Stock up your own fridge with West Country cheeses such as Montgomery Cheddar or local charcutier Vincent Castellanos’ pâté de champagne.
The Bristol Cider Shop
The Bristol Cider Shop (7 Christmas Step) is one of the numerous independent vendors on Bristol’s medieval Christmas Steps, stocking over 100 local ciders. Try the champagne-style Pilton cider and Julian Temperley’s Somerset Pomona, which is great with cheese.
Reg the Veg
Take your pick from the veg-laden cart outside another Bristol stalwart, Reg the Veg greengrocers (6 Boyce’s Avenue). Reg has moved on and it’s now run by John Hagon and son Tom. Vegetables come from nearby Failand or in the case of asparagus, the Wye Valley. There’s Bradley’s apple juice and Ooh! Chocolata bars made in Nailsea too.
The best cookery school in Bristol
Square Food Foundation
The benchmark for all cookery schools, Barny Haughton’s Square Food Foundation runs many courses throughout the year, for all ages and cooking abilities. Its Day of the Dead pop-up demo and feast will be a knockout.
Where to stay in Bristol
Double rooms at Bristol Harbour Hotel (above) start from £155, b&b. For the best deals on rooms at Bristol Harbour Hotel, click here
For more info see visitbristol.co.uk.
The Gold Bar, Bristol Harbour Hotel
Words by Claire Thomson (Bristol-based chef and the author of three cookbooks), Mark Taylor, Rosie Sharratt and Tory Parks
Photography by Sam Gibson, Mike Lusmore, Getty