Frankly, there’s nowhere better than Bristol for an unpretentious and delicious dining experience – even the higher-brow restaurants we list here share a sense of fun when it comes to their food. This city’s predilection for only the most ‘authentic’ restaurant offerings also means the turnover of eating establishments is fast and furious, and that the spots that make it past the one-year mark really have proved themselves something special. So whether it’s burgers, brunch or bar snacks you’re after, here’s but a tantalising slice of the packed dining scene the South West is enjoying right now.
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Best restaurants in Bristol
Why go? For sumptuous Spanish small plates.
You don’t have to fly to Spain to get a true taste of the country. Right here in Bristol you’ll find Bravas, a tapas bar and restaurant owned by English couple Kieran and Imogen Waite. If the English part set alarm bells ringing, don’t fear: this duo take their staff to Spain every year to ensure their food remains authentic and to cement their connections with Spanish suppliers. Some of the delights on offer include pan con alioli, gordal olives, wild venison chorizo, blue cheese with orange blossom honey and salted chocolate truffles.
Why go? To eat well and feel smug about it.
Ethical and sustainable are buzzwords in the food and drink industry these days but some restaurants often only pay them lip service. Not so Poco, which weighs its rubbish every day and then composts or recycles 95 to 100 percent of it, with the ultimate aim of producing no waste. Poco’s commitment to the environment doesn’t stop there – the majority of its ingredients are sourced from the UK, most of the vegetables come from community farms in the Bristol area, and only served fish caught in Lyme Bay and certified by the Marine Conservation Society. Thanks to this, the awards cabinet is bulging. Of course, none of this would matter a jot if the food wasn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, it is.
Why go? Yet another must-visit from the Pasta Loco team.
The Bristol cousins who launched the wildly popular Pasta Loco, Pasta Ripiena and La Sorella have opened yet another jewel in their culinary crown. Taking over the building that once housed much-loved Bell’s Diner was going to be no mean feat, but this tight-knit family team have more than met expectations. Think impeccable Italian food and an incredible wine list – all served with a twinkle.
Why go? Their out-of-town country grub doesn’t disappoint.
It may have a Michelin star, but the ever-bashful Pony & Trap is still very much a country pub at heart. The menu features comfort food faves such as ham, egg and chips, plus dry-aged steak, chargrilled pork and smoked pancetta. Why not splash out on the classic chef’s menu (£60 per person, with optional £40 drinks pairings)? Expect beetroot tartare, lamb and a cheese course that you’ll be dreaming about for weeks. The Pony & Trap may be a car journey from Bristol, but it’s well worth the trip.
Why go? For top-notch dinner with epic views.
Set inside a restored Victorian walled garden 12 miles outside Bristol, the Ethicurean is a bucolic delight, with sweeping views over the Mendip hills and beyond. Before or after your meal, take a stroll through the gardens to see where your greens have come from. You might even discover the apple-pressing hut where strong muscles are needed to squeeze the juice from the fruit grown in the orchard around you.
Why go? Quality steak at bargain prices.
Style and elegance underneath a Wetherspoons? You better believe it. The basement on Corn Street is where you’ll find cocktail bar and steak joint The Ox. Lit warmly by an array of small lamps, atmosphere here is cosy and upmarket. Leather-bound chairs stand in neat rows, while food comes out on oh-so-hip wooden boards. To save a few pennies, book a table between 5pm and 7pm Monday to Friday to enjoy a 6oz rump steak, fries, sauce and a glass of house wine for just £15.
Why go? Huge portions of delish Italian food.
This Italian neighbourhood joint won both best breakfast and best Italian restaurant at the Bristol Good Food Awards in 2018, and its dishes are certainly deserving. Vegetarians could eat here quite happily, though there’s enough on the changing menu for meat-eaters too. Choose from antipasti, risotto, pasta, gnocchi and homemade bread – and make sure you leave room for dessert. Ingredients are fresh, local and seasonal.
Why go? For organic Korean dishes with a (delicious) twist.
One of the joys of Sky Kong Kong is not knowing what you’ll be eating. What you do know is that you’ll be eating very well and paying very little. Korean chef and owner Hwi Shim (Wizzy to her friends) moved to Bristol after working in Michelin-starred restaurants in London, including Nobu and Hakkasan. Sky Kong Kong is Wizzy’s opportunity to showcase her considerable talent: she cooks behind a bamboo curtain at the far end of this former pie shop. Depending on the day, you might be served provençal fish stew, paella, Korean-style sashimi or pad thai.
Why go? Their one-page, no-frills menu is ideal for the indecisive eater.
The ever-changing, stripped-down menu, whitewashed walls and stark décor at Birch are all very St. John, and that’s no coincidence – chef and owner Sam Leach previously worked at the renowned London restaurant. Closer to home, Sam also spent some time as a baker at Mark’s Bread and, before that, hosted supper clubs with his partner (and Birch front-of-house) Beccy Massy in their flat.
Why go? For arguably the best burgers in Bristol.
Chomp has amassed a loyal following since opening in 2014, perhaps because it favours quality over quantity. The choice of burgers is refreshingly simple compared to the thousands of combinations on offer elsewhere. For simplicity, stick to the house classic, cooked medium and served in a brioche bun with fries and coleslaw. There’s also an 8oz ribeye steak and an excellent veggie burger (the ‘bloody veggie’). Wash it down with the Chomp house brew, a 6 percent pale ale specially brewed by collaborators Wiper & True.
Why go? For a well-thought-out tasting menu (plus super-attentive service).
Michelin-starred Casamia serves impeccably cooked and delightfully presented seasonal dishes. Yes, the five-course tasting menu will set you back £118 per person (unless you make a mid-week or lunchtime booking when it’s £98), but if you blow your special occasion fund here, you won’t regret it.
Why go? Moreish curry – sans grease stains.
The small potted herb garden outside is an indication that Chai Shai isn’t your standard curry house. Instead, this is Indian (and Bangladeshi) food that won’t leave your hands dripping with oil. A menu of no more than 20 options guarantees your food will be freshly cooked, while an upstairs dining room has been added to cater for the crowds. And you’ll receive one of the warmest welcomes in town from Faruk and Shilpi Choudhury, who were still Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Bristol when they opened Chai Shai at the start of 2014.
Why go? For excellent-value Middle Eastern-inspired small plates.
Purveyor of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, Souk Kitchen offers a fantastic array of mezze for under a fiver, including Iranian gherkins and Turkish slaw, plus shakshouka (poached eggs, peppers, tomatoes and onions on grilled flatbread). However, it’s not just exotic ingredients from warmer climes on offer here. The sausages are from Gloucester Old Spot pigs and most of the bread here is made by Mark’s Bread a few hundred yards away on North Street.
Why go? To replace the calories you burnt in the pool, and then some.
Lovingly restored by the owner of the Glassboat restaurant in the city centre, this first-floor spot overlooking the water is easily one of the best rooms with a view in Bristol. There aren’t many places where well-dressed gourmets mix with fellow diners in fluffy dressing gowns who’ve come straight from the pool or spa. The food here has a Spanish feel and the wine list is comprehensive.
Why go? For modern European dishes that taste as good as they look.
If you’re going to put your own name above the door you’ve got to be pretty confident. James ‘Wilks’ Wilkins backed himself and was right to – just over a year after opening in 2012, his restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. The extravagant dining experience at Wilks will never leave you hungry. We reckon you’ll fancy nibbling on something from every section of the menu, whether it’s the hand-dived scallops, wild boar saddle or citrus meringue sphere.
Why go? Tip-top pub grub served in a Bristol landmark.
Good ol’ pub grub is what you’ll get here, but this isn’t your typical British boozer. The Pump House, tucked inside a beautifully renovated Victorian pumping station, belongs to top chef Toby Gritten, who serves fish fresh from the coast, fruit and veg from nearby allotments and local brews Butcombe and Bath Ales on tap. Everything on the à la carte menu is worth a go, but if you’re feeling particularly adventurous (and flush), plump for the eight-course tasting menu.
Why go? For an exquisite glimpse into our meat-free future.
Oowee is a Bristol-born restaurant brand who’ve turned their back on serving IRL meat and are leading the city’s plant-based revolution. Their classic Sneaky Clucker burger still somehow tastes like the dirtiest chicken burger ever. Feed your most carnivorous friend one of their many meat-free creations and we promise they won’t believe their tastebuds.
Why go? Because tomatoey, cheese-laden dough. Obvs.
Bells and whistles have their place in fine-dining establishments, but there’s nothing more comforting (and arguably, tastier) than a slice of pizza. Proving menus needn’t have millions of options, Flour and Ash stick to basics, and do it well. It’s a pizza and ice cream restaurant, where the prices won’t break the bank. Make the most by throwing in a few sides for good measure, from dream-come-true truffle polenta chips to smoked sardines. Trying to save a few quid? Arrive before 6.30pm on a weekday or 6pm at the weekend to take advantage of the £9 pizza deal.
Why go? For festival food in the city centre.
Anyone who’s been to Glastonbury festival will tell you it’s possible to survive for days on Pieminister pies and cider alone. This is especially true if you choose the Mothership, a behemoth of a meal, with a pie on top of mash, mushy peas, gravy, grated cheese and shallots (also available in a vegan version). Pieminister was founded in Bristol, with its original Stokes Croft home recently refurbished and looking fresher than ever. If the pies don’t get you drooling, other options include halloumi chips and mac ‘n’ cheese. The bottomless brunch is guaranteed to banish any hangover.