Bristol is famous for its music and culture, and it has a vibrant food scene to match. Updating our first cheap eats guide to the city, we pick 10 more great restaurants to eat for under £10
Could it get any more Bristol? Slap bang in the centre of Stokes Croft, the city’s radical, graffiti-tagged heart, the Canteen cafe-bar occupies the ground floor of Hamilton House, a former office block, which is now a non-profit creative community hub. Its work spaces are occupied by everything from radio stations to costumiers, while hosting classes that cater to every urge in personal growth, be it drumming or hatha yoga. Naturally, there is a huge Banksy mural, a few feet from the entrance.
The Canteen kitchen’s ethos is of a piece with all this. Its aim is to offer honest, home-cooked affordable food, with an emphasis on local supplier networks. Getting into the spirit of things, I opted for a vegan winter vegetable casserole of remarkable creaminess (it’s the coconut milk, the friendly kitchen staff explained). All the ingredients – from kale and celery to chickpeas and cauliflower – were cooked to a T. Topped with toasted seeds it was a quiet riot of good flavours.
Meat eaters rest assured, the Canteen also does a cracking sausage roll (£2.50), while it’s daily-changing menu might include pork loin with Jerusalem artichoke, wilted spinach and cider sauce, or intriguing “jerk mussels”, cooked with Scotch bonnet and all spice in milk stout. Likewise, there is nothing worthy about the bar, which carries cask and craft-keg beers (from £3.50 a pint) from local breweries, such as Bristol Beer Factory and Arbor Ales, among others. The former’s dry, hoppy Sunrise was in fine, easy drinking form.Nungwi Village
While we’re up this end of town, it is also worth mentioning the Gallimaufry (brunch dishes £3.50-£9). It was closed for refurbishment on my visit, but this Good-Food-Guide listed, late-night bar/ music venue has a good rep for, in particular, its brunch menu of eggs Benedict, eggs Florentine, gussied-up sandwiches and populist sub-£10 mains, such as macaroni cheese and beer-battered fish and chips. It’s hot on local suppliers, too; all its meats come from Bristol’s foremost butcher, Ruby & White.
• Dishes, £4.50-£10. Hamilton House, 80 Stokes Croft, 0117 923 2017, canteenbristol.co.uk
One for the hardcore foodies, this small Clifton restaurant deals in sharp southern Mediterranean food, and its £9.95 lunch is a great way to sample these polished peasant dishes such as potato gnocchi with duck and smoked pork ragu; fried ling with mustard and lentils; or a cauliflower and Seville orange salad. Portions aren’t huge – you pick an hors d’oeuvre and a small main – but served with bread (excellent sourdough with a beautifully sharp, sunflower yellow olive oil), you won’t leave hungry.
A thick stew of (marginally undercooked) black beans was smoky with chipotle and lifted with lemon oil. A rustic dish of twice-cooked kid with a quarter of chargrilled cabbage, was a first on both fronts. Not unlike lamb breast, kid is challengingly fatty, but it was cleverly paired with capers and a light vinegary sauce, to give the dish a cutting edge. It was, if nothing else, a very interesting lunch. If you want to splash out a little, Flinty Red also offers a wine of the day for £3 a glass. And as the restaurant is co-owned by nearby vintners Corks of Cotham, expect the wine choices to be as intelligent as the food.
Talking of foodie adventures, I didn’t get a chance to try the long-standing and much-loved Clifton deli-cafe, Papadeli (dishes £4.95-£10) but its £10 Italian lunch dishes – such as a risotto of roast garlic and artichoke hearts, or a smoked pancetta, black bean and butternut squash broth –certainly whet the appetite.
• Two-course lunch £9.95. 34 Cotham Hill, 0117 923 8755, flintyred.co.uk
This neat Japanese takeaway and restaurant over two floors – its gun-metal grey basement brightened by cherry blossom art and cute paper screens – does a solid line in the classics (katsu curries, teriyaki, donburi rice bowls, ramen and other noodle soups), at keen prices. A bento box of sweet, smoky miso-marinated mackerel with rice and a little salad of edamame beans and vivid green, translucent strands of wakame seaweed, was light, clean and true in its flavours. On the side, a typically bland, inconsequential miso soup was trumped by first-rate gyoza, their thin, crisp shells yielding a well-seasoned chicken filling.
• Main dishes £5-£8. 9 Cotham Hill, 0117 200 2888, yumekitchen.co.uk
Edna’s Kitchen & Eat A Pitta
Researching this piece, I found Eat A Pitta was the top tip of pretty much every Bristol foodie that I spoke to, and little wonder. Utilising his Algerian gran’s recipe, Dan Levy’s stall doles out falafel in pittas and salad boxes, ram-jammed with bright colours and zingy flavours for £3.95. My outsize pitta – more of a catcher’s mitt – was overflowing with pickles and mixed salads, hummus and couscous, plucked from huge piles and then dressed with tahini and lemon oil. It was very good.
However, two minutes walk away, in Castle Park, Edna’s Kitchen is arguably even better. Eat A Pitta has the sunnier salads and pickles, but Edna Yeffet’s falafel – verdant with herbs and seemingly rolled in tiny seeds for extra crunch – edge it. They are fresh, fragrant, remarkably light and dangerously moreish. Her chilli sauce is also sensational. A spritzy, blitzed mix of herbs and green chillies, it seems almost fruity before its smooth heat hits hard, leaving your lips tingling.
As well as falafel, Edna serves Middle Eastern salads, such as roast aubergine sabich (an Israeli sandwich), served with her insanely creamy hummus, and eija, a frittata spiced-up with a little spicy matubucha tomato relish. My advice? If you’re in Bristol for a couple of days, do the taste-test yourself. Eat A Pitta versus Edna’s Kitchen: everyone’s a winner, whatever your verdict.
• Eat A Pitta, 1-3 Glass Arcade, St Nicholas Market, 07825 659525, eatapitta.co.uk. Edna’s Kitchen, Castle Park, 07928 436212; ednas-kitchen.com (menu items £3.95–£5.95)
Former street-food slingers Mitch Church and Leo Thompson are now permanent residents at this trendy St Nicholas Street gaff, all big, weathered salvage-wood tables, indie soundtrack and craft beers from, among others, Bristol’s Arbor Ales. The choice of bagels is almost bewildering, ranging from a classic, locally-smoked salmon and cream cheese, to a slow-cooked chilli bagel with cheddar, creme fraiche and guacamole. Bagel Boy also does a range of bagel burgers, featuring such exotica as a Thai-spiced pork patty. If in doubt, go for the signature salt beef with pickles and mustard. The bagel itself is the real deal, dense and chewy; and the salt beef fibrous, gelatinous and full of flavour. I was less impressed with a side of barbecue beans, but no matter. On its own, the bagel would make a filling lunch or provide quick, cheap ballast before a night on the tiles. The staff are friendly, and, usefully, Bagel Boy is open until 11pm, too.
Talking of street food operators who’ve grown-up and settled down, you may be wondering where Meat & Bread is in this list. Unfortunately, it has recently had to suspend its operation at the Three Tuns pub but keep an eye out for its return, as almost everyone I spoke to in Bristol raved about M&B’s gourmet sandwiches, made with its own, home-smoked and cured meats and fish. In the meantime, if you like good beer, make a beeline for the Three Tuns anyway (pint from £3.40). An Arbor Ales pub, its seven cask pumps, four keg lines and shortish but thoughtfully compiled bottle list, make it something of a boozy gem.
• Bagels from £3.50. 39-41 St Nicholas Street, 0117 922 0417, bagelboy.co.uk
Even before you taste anything, you can tell that you are in safe hands, here. Not only does this Bedminster chippy fry to order, it also makes many of its own sides, such as coleslaw and curry sauce, fishcakes, fish fingers and, erm, falafel burgers. It’s good to see a chip butty (£1.70)on the menu this far south, too. Cod and chips doesn’t disappoint. The chips are fat and fluffy, and the superlatively fresh fillet is encased in a silky, delicate (glossy-not-greasy) crisp batter. Personally, I prefer a chunkier tartar sauce, but flavour-wise it hit the spot. Unless you are staying this side of the river, or perhaps visiting the Tobacco Factory, it is a bit of bind to get here from the city centre – but if you crave fish and chips, it is certainly worth the detour. There is also a licensed Fishminster takeaway and restaurant in Clifton (133 Whiteladies Road, 0117 933 5599).
• Fish and chips from £5.55. 267 North Street, Bedminster, 0117 966 2226,fishminster.co.uk
Mark Newman’s small craft bakery and cafe is a refreshingly low frills operation. Housed within the Bristol Beer Factory brewery, they have painted the breezeblock walls a sunny yellow and posted some bits of info-tainment about bread, but otherwise this is very much a light industrial workspace. Those sacks of flour stacked in one corner look less like dressing, than stock. The bakery supplies a number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the Bristol area with its breads (many of them, wild yeast), and it is clear why. Its sourdough is terrific. A pain au raisin (£1.30), is exemplary, almost treacly with caramelised sugars and packed with fruit.
Not unsurprisingly, the cafe menu revolves around bread: toast, soup served with a trio of sourdoughs, bacon butties, a rarebit and filled baguettes, all featuring local ingredients and the fastidious home-making of everything from baked beans (wot, no Heinz!?) to jam and ginger beer. A sample croque monsieur was very good, the cheese topping worked into a creamy emulsion, and the dish given a clean edge by the addition of two little hillocks of celeriac remoulade and a shredded beetroot and pumpkin salad. Of course, the cafe also serves Bristol Beer Factory’s bottled ales (£3.80) and traditional Severn perries and ciders.
• Dishes £2-£6.50. 291 North Street, Southville, 0117 953 7997, marksbread.co.uk
Like Eat A Pitta, Grillstock is one of several stalls that make St Nicholas Market (St Nicks, as locals know it) a prime destination for good, cheap chow. Grillstock specialises in slow’n’low, US-style barbecue and puts on an annual festival in Bristol to celebrate “America’s only true cuisine”. Its tight menu was confined, on this visit, to just a brisket roll with burnt ends; brisket with ox chilli and cornbread; and its signature 18-hour hickory smoked pulled pork roll. Many of you are probably sick to death of “dude food”, and pulled pork in particular, but this is a £4.50 reminder of why it once seemed so exciting. Generously piled onto a robust roll with a smoky, not overly sweet sauce, the fibrous, moist meat, just crisped at its ends, is a serious mouthful. Be warned, you will end up with meat juices dripping off your wrists, if not elbows.
Grillstock also has a permanent site in Clifton, where several of its barbecue plates, hot dogs and burgers come in at under £10. It has a decent craft beer selection too, including bottles from Brutal, Brooklyn and Somerset brewing aces, Wild Beer.
• Takeaway, £4.50-£6.50. Glass Arcade, St Nicholas’s Market; grillstock.co.uk
When talk turns to curry in Bristol, the conversation rarely gets further than legendary local mini-chain, The Thali Cafe (formerly One Stop Thali). But there are others cooking good Indian food in the city. For 10 years, Nick and Jay Jethwa have been dishing-up Gujarati curries – predominantly veggie, spicy, less oil and no ghee – from Tiffins, a small, colourful takeaway cafe. They serve the dishes either hot or cold to reheat later. “This is how it would taste in India,” I’m promised, as I pick and choose from that day’s dishes.
They were certainly right about “spicy”. A tomatoey cabbage curry starts out innocuous enough, but packs a deceptive residual heat. It’s a bomb with a long fuse. Not that these dishes are all about chillies, of course. For a spinach dish, Tiffins’ saag paneer is remarkably sweet and fruity; while its urad daal is smooth, comforting, wholesomely savoury. If the keema and channa masala curries will be familiar, there were some more interesting dishes on offer, too, such as kichadi (a mixture of split green lentils and rice), that’s served dressed with khadi, a yoghurt soup.
• Mixed curries with rice £5.50-£6, larger curries with rice around £8. 151 St Michael’s Hill, High Kingsdown, 0117 9734 834, tiffins-bristol.com
A good sandwich is a beautiful thing, and the hot sangers served from this Portwall Lane trailer are, as they say in Brizzle, gert lush. Filled with, for example, three cheeses and ale chutney or honey-roast ham, Dijon mustard and pickles, fat Herbert’s Bakery baguettes are then grilled flat, sandwiched between two hotplates, until their exterior takes on a crisp, buttery crunch. My sample “rumpy pumpy” (no, that really is its name) was A1, not only huge, but packed with unusually tasty chargrilled rump steak and plump gherkins, and slathered in a garlic mayo that was melting into a fine red cabbage slaw.
• Breakfast sandwiches £2.95-£3.95, otherwise £3.50-£4.50. Portwall Lane, 07870 460009
Travel between Manchester and Bristol was provided by Cross Country Trains Accommodation was provided by Brooks Guesthouse, a smart, contemporary bolthole, it is very central and has doubles from £55 a night. For more information on Bristol, see visitbristol.co.uk.