Even committed carnivores are beginning to come around to the fact that vegan and vegetarian dishes can taste every bit as good as burgers, steaks, roasted chickens and rumps of lamb. Maybe it's something to do with a greater need for creativity. Maybe it's because the produce we're getting these days is so much better. Or maybe it's just that more people are bored with seeing the vegetables, legumes, grains and pulses of the culinary world playing second fiddle when they should be shining bright. The restaurants below let them do so. Go and get dazzled.
Bristol's best vegan and vegetarian restaurants
Maitreya Social was one of the first restaurants in the area to be dedicated purely to plant-based eating, and while the owners may have changed over the years, its laidback atmosphere and creative menu remain. Expect seasonal, inventive dishes, designed to make ingredients work as hard as they possibly can. Each dish is a clever combination of flavours, tastes and textures; think sweet potato pancakes, with ginger braised leeks and grilled halloumi (£10.95), or goats’ cheese, quinoa and beetroot cakes (£5.95).
You can’t get much more Bristol than this Stokes Croft workers’ co-operative café. The menu is entirely vegan but carnivorous types would be wise to leave any preconceptions at the door. This is strictly a deprivation free zone. Breakfast is a highlight, with flavoursome meat-free fry ups (crispy hash browns, garlic mushrooms, facon) our pick of the bunch. Wash it down with a soya latte (though they do make an exception for cow’s milk in drinks if you prefer) and watch the rest of the world rush to work through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows.
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. When you get to know the Thali Café formula you begin to understand how it has become so successful in such a short period of time.
Located on the edge of Bristol’s main shopping area, Pepe Nero may not seem like the obvious choice for dinner, but ignore this place and you’ll be missing out on some of the best vegetarian and vegan pizzas our city has to offer. Walk past the pizza oven downstairs and take a seat in the modestly decorated restaurant upstairs, with its chequered tablecloths and bright lights while you ponder the extensive menu. Vegan and vegetarian pizzas have their own dedicated sections on the menu, although meat-eaters are catered for too.
Ethical and sustainable are certainly buzzwords in the food and drink industry these days but some restaurants often only pay the concepts lip service. Not so Poco, which weighs its rubbish every day and then recycles or up-cycles 90% of it, with the ultimate aim of producing no waste. Poco’s commitment to the environment doesn’t stop there – the majority of ingredients are sourced from the UK, most of the vegetables come from community farms in the Bristol area, and only fish caught in Lyme Bay and graded by the Marine Conservation Society is served.
Eat A Pitta made great waves when it first took over from the soup and salad stall in St Nicholas market’s glass arcade. The perfectly cooked falafels and pitta breads overflowing chopped salads, homemade pickles and sauces had everybody talking and the queues could take 20 minutes at lunchtime. Luckily, fuelled by demand, a second location has opened since, in the heart of Broadmead shopping area, meaning you can get your fix with less of a wait these days.
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).
Tucked away on Bristol’s once-industrial harbourside, The Olive Shed might not look like much from the outside, but step inside and prepare for a relaxed and cosy evening eating top-notch Mediterranean food. Even if it’s raining outside, the waterfront views and bright interiors will have you channeling thoughts of warmer climes. The menu is small, but perfectly formed, with around five choices on the main evening menu including strong vegetarian options.
Not your average Indian restaurant, Krishna’s Inn specialises in South Indian, Keralan food. Dishes from other parts of India are available on the menu, but you would be wise to follow their roots and sample the authentic flavours of the south. Don’t be shy either, the selection of vegetable dishes is unrivalled, so order a few and dig in and share. The spicing is delicate and mild, letting the key ingredients do the talking, while coconut plays a lead role in many of the dishes. Ever had an Indian beetroot curry? Krishna’s is the place to try it.
Bristol’s cleverly named community bike workshop also doubles up as a café and event space serving wholesome vegetarian food. Sitting inconspicuously on Quay St in amongst what’s left of the legacy See No Evil graffiti, you get a good idea of Roll For The Soul’s character just from its location. Inside, the main café area is bright airy and a bit rough around the edges, in the kind of rugged way you would expect from somewhere that doubles up as a bike workshop.