You can certainly spend a lot of money at Bristol's many fine restaurants. But you can also spend a fraction of that money and get some really rather very good food indeed. Whether it's tantalising tapas, brilliant bao or just the perfect pie, you just need to know where to go. So we've put together a list of our favourite cheap eats in Bristol, where tucking into some of the city's finest fodder really won't break the bank - in fact, it'll barely even make a dent in the front door. Your overdraft will be pleased.
'GIANT BAPS!' says the sign that adorns the window of Maximillions – tucked a little off the beaten track on Bristol's snoozy Broad Street. And it is a giant bap you'll get, as long as you can get there when the queue doesn't reach the back of the shop and out again. Simply pick your meat – usually a selection of roast this or bbq that, which changes daily, pick a white or brown bap, and then any five salads to go in it. You get most of this for under a fiver. £3.70 per bap in fact, regardless of fillings. Most won't be able to finish in one sitting, and everyone returns once they have experienced a Maximillians giant bap.
Ramen, like much pan-Asian cuisine popularised in Britain, can be very hit and miss on English shores. And it's this fact this that makes Sticks & Broth such a stand out. The mix of classical elements and modern fusion, alongside a great drink selection and popular lunchtime special, mean not only is it now more attainable than ever, but you can experience some of the best British ramen for under a tenner. The £6.50 Tokyo Express menu allows you the option of ramen or donburi in particular. The House Ramen is tremendous. Perfect lunch time fare or for a lavish but inexpensive evening with the chopsticks and the other half. It's a gem.
For those who don't know, a bao is a small, steamed bun – the Taiwanese equivalent of a bap, used in a flavoursome Asian take on the sandwich. A simple menu seeds a magnitude of flavoursome, healthy and fresh options steeped in traditional thai and pan-asian flavours. Baos are a snip at £3.50 or two for £6. The lunch for a fiver menu is some of the best value you will find – even as close as this place is to the popular St Nicholas Market – with a choice of baos, pho or better known traditional style thai classics such as green curry or Japanese teriyaki with rice or noodles.
Operating from a kiosk in Castle Park, Edna’s Kitchen certainly gives Eat A Pitta a run for their money. Modest it might be, but the food certainly packs a punch. All the dishes on offer are vegetarian and crafted by Israeli-born Edna’s fair hands. Choose from mezze salad boxes packed full with chopped crunchy salads, falafel, tabouleh and freshly made hummus, a herby Israeli omelette, aubergine and egg salad, or if you’re lucky Edna’s special shakshuka (eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce). Most dishes are priced at around £4, while the mezze box is full to the brim and still comes in at under a fiver – perfect for a quick shopping pit stop or swift lunch break from work.
All the fish are fried to flakey, soft perfection in brittle beer batter. You'll find a fantastic cod and chips for around the £6 mark, and the portions are hearty, vinegar soaked and served with a slice of lemon to cut a zing through the feast. If your pushing the sustainable boat out, get some oily, crisp whitebait (£3) on the side and an old school portion of mushy peas (£1) with a hint of mint and butter. Over and above the eco-angle, Fishminster just serve really bloody good fish at chips that won't break the budget and come with a side of guilt-free gluttony.
Pickle consists of a tiny little portable – think a roadside bacon buttie van – set up a stone's throw from Temple Meads Station, and they are serving some of the best gourmet sandwiches in the South West. A dizzying selection of fillings await you, with the selection changing each week. Classics such as the Grilled Cheese (£3.95) stack mouth-wideningly high and warm on those winter months. Other regulars, such as the Big Fish – shaped with line caught tuna, cheddar and lemon mayo, slaw, pickles, cucumbers, capers and an extra squeeze of lemon juice - touch on lip-smacking awesomeness. It's all balanced, hearty and great value.
What began (and still continues) as a stall selling vegetarian Indian food at festivals now has a restaurant in every corner of Bristol. The Montpelier branch is the original, and although over the years the menu has evolved to include meat offerings, Thali Café is still staunchly loyal to its vegetarian roots. The Northern Thali is the classic vegetarian and consists of vegetable curry, dahl, Keralan salad and rice. Add a soft thin chapatti or poppadum to savour with the homemade chutneys and you will not be sorry. Especially when you see how damn pocket-pleasing it all is.
A tapas counter is full of the day’s dishes at this excellent Spanish restaurant, on a bar that stretches almost the length of the room. It's perfect for pulling up a pew and sampling the chorizo cooked in cider (£5), chicken and spinach croquettes (£1.50 each), tortilla and alioli (£3.20), and of course the patatas bravas (£2.90), which are, unusually, thinly sliced, rather than cubed potatoes, served with a fiery sauce.
Yurt Lush embodies a little bit of Bristol in everything it does. A tongue in cheek name that nods to its Brizzle heritage. A bit of world culture (without the hemp and poi stylings of other establishments) in a Mongolian yurt. A Michelin-starred chef in director Josh Eggleton. And a kind of friendly aplomb that some will tell you is a special Bristolian trait. Yurt Lush succeeds in affordable, fantastic gnosh in a unique setting. Not many can make that claim.
Steak. When done right it is the carnivore's kryptonite. Cowshed do it right. They source from the good ol' West Country babber, age it for 31 days (any steak worth it's salt seasoning should be aged for 28, supermarkets rarely surpass a fortnight), they cook high and quick, and not for too long. Give them a tenner at 6pm, and you can get a lovely rump with thick, steak cut chips and a cold beer. The £12 three course lunch is a fantastic deal, too.