Bristol is one of the fastest growing economies in the UK and the sixth most populous city in the country. The city is perhaps better known though for its incredible culture and this includes a reputation as one of the greatest culinary British cities outside London.
In this guide, we’re going to take a look at what we at Air Bristol consider the top ten places to eat in Bristol in 2019.
If you’re looking for steak in Bristol, then The Ox is the place to go. Situated on Corn Street, right in the heart of the medieval old city, don’t be fooled by the Wetherspoons pub above it, walking down the stairs into the decadent dimly lit environment of the Ox is like walking into another world. The menu aims for simple but delicious, using the highest quality, locally supplied meat. You can also expect a delicious range of cocktails from the same team that run both Hyde and Co and the Milk Thistle bars. Probably not the most vegetarian-friendly restaurant on our list though; even the decor is animal themed with taxidermied animals lining the walls.
Pony & Trap
Step outside of the city proper, into the beautiful scenery of Chew Valley. Here, the Pony & Trap brings a Michelin Star to a traditional country pub. This is a 200 year-old local pub that’s still in use by farmers and other residents from the area and the food does focus on simplicity and local produce. In quality and flavour, it does, however, earn that star. Try the tasting menu for £60.
You may have to book far in advance to guarantee a table, but there’s a reason Pasta Loco is so popular; the pasta on offer from their simple short menu is simply out of this world. Popular recipes include the linguine carbonara and, on the drinks menu, the Negroni. Cotham Hill is gaining a reputation for hosting some of Bristol’s finest new eateries and Pasta Loco is quite possibly the jewel in the crown.
More Michelin winning success comes from Casamia. The prices may mean you have to save visits for a special occasion (you’re looking at close to £100 per person for the full menu or Chef’s Table, and it’s non-refundable once you book), but Casamia has a reputation for ambition that has put it at the top of Bristol’s fine dining establishments. This doesn’t make it overly formal – there’s no dress code. A focus on seasonal produce means menus change regularly, though there is an Italian influence.
At the top of Bristol pizzeria’s is Bosco. After many holidays in Italy, the owners wanted to recreate authentic Neapolitan pizzas in Bristol. After their early success, they continued to develop a range of Italian dishes to elevate their menu further. Find them on Regent Street, right in the heart of Clifton.
Just down the road from Bosco is one branch of Thali, if you’d rather Indian than Italian. Other branches are in Montpelier, Totterdown, Southville and Easton. Thali refers to the Indian style of serving several dishes on one plate, and the restaurant menu spans the breadth of the Indian subcontinent. Thali started at Glastonbury as a street food truck and it still serves plenty of “roadside” dishes. There’s a kid’s menu and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Thali operates under the principle of “jugaad”, which means doing more with less. This method has obviously paid off, as in 2013 it became the first group of Indian restaurants to be awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
Back to Cotham for Bulrush, recently awarded its own Michelin Star. Chef George Livesey trained with the Roux brothers and worked at a range of fine dining restaurants. His skill and experience show in this modern, clever kitchen full of bold flavours and local produce. Add an excellent wine list and top quality service for a truly delightful experience. The building that formerly housed a greengrocer isn’t an obvious restaurant location and Bulrush’s front isn’t the most stand-out, but the food is certainly worth it.
Yet another Cotham Hill delight is Bellita or Little Beauty. As you might expect from the name, this is a bar for tapas and drinks, where you can just as easily grab a quick bite as sit for a proper meal. Whilst produce is locally sourced, recipes are inspired by the Middle East and North Africa as well as Spain. Sit down with a friend and share one of the tasty plates. Of particular note is the wine list, on which every wine producer is female.
Another source of tapas on Cotham Hill is the Spanish-themed Bravas. Here it’s not just the food and drink, but the décor that adds to the authenticity. The staff even go on regular research trips to Spain to meet producers and try out new recipes. The menu changes every day depending on what local and seasonal produce is available, with both common and unusual tapas dishes available. The warm, sociable atmosphere makes for a welcoming ambience and the open kitchen helps connect customers with their food through both sight and smell.
St Nicholas Market
If you are looking for independent retailers, St Nicholas Market has the largest collection in Bristol. This includes a range of eateries, with cuisines from Greece, China, Portugal, India, the Caribbean, Japan and South Africa. There are also specialist restaurants for everything from sausages or pies to a vegetarian and vegan café or a juice shop.