Bristol's pub scene is pretty much second to none, with a very impressive array of boozers ranging from hip young spots brewing their own beer to traditional old inns playing unwitting homage to yesteryear. And then there are those gastropubs serving food to rival the very best restaurants, the live music venues, the student favourites... yep, Bristol pubs really can match those of anywhere else in the country. Here's our pick of the very best.
The Cornubia has been given a new lease of life since award-winning landlords Phil and Jakki took over in 2010. While the pub has been a fixture on Bristol’s real ale scene for decades, it’s taken the CAMRA award-winning duo to restore it to its former glory. The Cornubia should now be considered something of a hidden gem, in part due to its curious, off-the-beaten-track location.
Before it was taken over and re-branded by experienced landlord Stephen Wallace – most famous for turning the Golden Guinea into one of Bristol’s best-loved establishments – the pub now known as The Steam Crane was one of Bedminster’s most notorious watering holes. Since re-opening in early 2014, Wallace has turned around the venue’s fortunes, largely through a dedication to great drinks, and a tasty food menu.
The Bag Of Nails has long been regarded as one of Bristol’s best real ale establishments. It is, without doubt, also one of the city’s most eccentric pubs. Much of this eccentricity stems from landlord Luke Daniels, a self-proclaimed “opinionite [sic], non-conformist and cat-fancier” whose dedication to real ale is notorious.
Since landlords Leigh Pascoe, Timothy Denny and Matthew Duggan took over, the main focus of The Star & Dove has been its’ “historic dining rooms” restaurant. Certainly, the popular pub – based a stone’s throw from the bottom of Victoria Park, and close to Totterdown – has a reputation for offering great quality British food in laidback surroundings.
While Redfield has become something of a desirable location in recent times – for first-time house buyers, at least – the neighbourhood’s pub scene has yet to catch up. In a sea of weird local boozers, down-at-heel establishments and depressing chain pubs, The Old Stillage sticks out like a sore thumb.
Long before Stokes Croft became the city’s most bohemian locale, The Bell was widely regarded as something of a Bristol institution. Tucked away on Hillgrove Street, just off the main Stokes Croft drag of bars, independent stores and kooky cafes, it has long served a multitude of purposes; a laidback meeting place for local artists, DJs and musicians, a low-key community pub, and a popular weekend pre-club boozer all rolled into one.
When climbing up the frustratingly steep St Michael’s Hill, you’re unlikely to miss The White Bear at the summit; a life-size replica of the creature that gives the pub its name dominates the front wall at first-floor level. It’s a useful metaphor, because The White Bear can be as lively as its towering mascot – an unsurprising fact given that it’s owned by legendary local club promoter turned venue owner Julian Smith (a face on the Bristol scene for the last two decades). It’s at night, though, that the White Bear comes alive. Then, the pool table gets put away, the tequila flows and it becomes a party destination of choice.
Given the general exclusivity of the area, it’s surprising how few high class drinking establishments there are in Clifton Village. It’s not an area short on good quality pubs – there are numerous others in our list of Bristol’s best pubs, for starters – but The Albion just feels different. It’s aimed at a higher class of customer, something that becomes plainly obvious when you browse the list of trips and activities put on for patrons and regulars. Certainly, there are few other pubs in Bristol that organise fly-fishing and clay pigeon shooting trips.
For the assorted students, young professionals, party people and liberal locals that make up The Cadbury’s clientele, the pub has legendary status. For many, the weekend isn’t complete without a hungover, bleary-eyed trip to the pub for its regular Reggae ‘n’ Roasts Sunday session. As the name suggests, it’s an opportunity to tuck into one of the tastiest – not to mention cheapest – roasts in the city, while having your aching leads and head soothed by some of the best roots, dub and reggae around.
The re-opening of the once popular Greenbank pub in Easton in early 2014 was good news for an area largely light on good quality community watering holes. The pub had been shut for a couple of years and there were rumours that the building was to be converted into flats. Thankfully, experienced publican James Savage – the man behind the acclaimed Zazou’s Kitchen range of eateries – decided to save it from the bulldozers.