I have to admit that Bristol, UK, wasn’t on our radar as a food-focused city. But, we met someone from the tourism board at a food tourism conference and she convinced us that the Bristol food scene was one to check out.
Once we did a little research we soon became very excited about the trip. We were not disappointed. We ate at some amazing Bristol restaurants, ate traditional British food, drank artisan gin and craft beer. Before we even left, we talked about returning.
Bristol Food Guide
In this Bristol Food Guide, we share some of the best places to eat in Bristol both for traditional British pub eats as well as international cuisine. In one trip, we ate Indian, Sri Lankan, pizza, Persian, vegetarian (yes, vegetarian), and more.
We start by sharing some must-eat dishes in Bristol. Then, we share recommendations for some of the best restaurants in Bristol. There are also some recommendations for other ways to enjoy this food-focused city, including a recommended country break and a Bristol food tour. Last, we share some tips on what to drink in Bristol, which is pretty easy to do. Bristol is a fun city.
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What To Eat In Bristol – The Best Food In Bristol
Normally when we put together one of our food travel guides for a city, we start with what to eat in that city. Most of the time this is a list of traditional dishes that are must-eats in that destination.
This Bristol eats list is a little shorter because we ate so many different cuisines while traveling to Bristol. This region, including Bristol and Bath is a melting pot with so many international cuisines represented.
As much as many of our Bristol best dishes were international, we also ate some darn good traditional British cuisine. When eating out in Bristol, particularly when looking for good pub food in Bristol, look for these dishes.
The Best Food In Bristol – 7 Must-Eat Dishes
We travel to the UK a lot, but mostly to London. We also travel to Ireland a few times a year. Some of these dishes are versions of the British comfort food that I love. Some of it is pub grub. Regardless of what you call it, it’s totally tasty.
Traditional Full English Breakfast
This gut-busting breakfast is certainly not something that I can eat every day, but I always try to eat a full English breakfast at least once during a trip. A “Full English” includes eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, and normally mushrooms and a grilled tomato.
Many pubs will offer a Full English. We ate this version after our night spent at Thornbury Castle. They also had individual pieces of an English breakfast on the buffet at the Bristol Hotel.
British Meat Pies
This is another British food I try to track down whenever I am in the UK. We did the same when eating in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh. The most traditional versions are steak and ale or steak and kidney pie. The meat and gravy are put inside a personal pie crust and baked. There’s something so tasty about the slight sweetness of the pastry crust and the warm filling.
Where to eat meat pies in Bristol: There is a local meat pie chain called Pieminister. We visited their stall at St. Nicholas’s Market, where we ate this meat pie with one side for €6.50. It was fabulous, warm on the inside, with a perfect crust.
The Brits seem to love meat mixed with a pastry crust. In this case, it’s ground pork sausage rolled inside a pastry crust and baked. It’s often eaten for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day.
Where to eat a sausage roll in Bristol: Locals rave about the sausage rolls at Pinkman’s Bakery on Park Street, up the hill from the Bristol Harbourside. I found their sausage roll to be a bit too thick and too dense but the pastry was tasty. There is also a well-known cake shop with good sausage rolls at St. Nicholas Market called Ahh Toots.
The British tend to do game meats very very well, and that includes venison. Venison is deer meat, it’s lean, and it’s sustainable. In Bristol, you can find venison steaks and tenderloin on many restaurant menus. It’s also frequently made into sausages.
I know venison has a bad rap in the US, with many people feeling like they are eating “Bambi.” If you’ve never tried venison before, do it.
Sunday Roast And Yorkshire Pudding
If you are visiting on a weekend, definitely make plans to do a Sunday lunch in Bristol. The Sunday Roast is a British tradition started as the meal to be eaten after church on Sunday.
Generally, a Sunday Roast includes a roasted beef, pork, or chicken with all the trimmings, including roasted potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and of course the famous Yorkshire pudding.
Although made from a pudding base that includes egg, flour, and milk or water, a Yorkshire pudding is baked until it has more of a consistency of bread than what many people think of as a pudding.
Where to eat a Sunday Roast in Bristol: A Sunday roast is the British version of going for Sunday brunch in Bristol. Most pubs that serve food offer a roast each week. It’s best to reserve ahead of time and to go early, around noon or 1 pm. The pubs will only have a certain amount of roasts available each week and when they sell out, that’s it.
We ate our Sunday roast in Bristol at 1766 Bar & Restaurant at the Bristol Old Vic Theater. Although not a traditional pub, the space was open and light, filled with locals, and their roasts were amazing!
Bread And Butter Pudding
This is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world to eat. Now, I’m even making bread and butter pudding at home with leftover bread. It’s just so perfectly yum.
Layers of bread, soaked in milk, egg, and sugar, butter, and in this case served warm with vanilla ice cream and custard. Bread pudding is comfort food for me.
Dal And Lentils
Whenever we travel to the UK we always track down Indian food. There is so much great Indian cuisine in the UK. After all, the national dish of England is Chicken Tikka Masala.
Our trip to Bristol happened to coincide with the British Dal Festival, which originated in Bristol and now occurs nationwide each February. I assumed the Dal Festival focused on Indian dal recipes but was surprised to see that it is a festival focused on pulses, which are lentils, legumes, and beans.
The goal is to encourage more sustainable forms of protein. Restaurants across Bristol and the UK participate by featuring dal and lentils on their menu.
We also visited Poco as part of British Dal Week and learned all about Hodmedods, a company that is working hard to revive the lentils industry in Southwest England. Even if you are not in Bristol for the festival, treat yourself to a little dal anyway!
Where To Eat In Bristol
I feel like we covered a lot of territory while in Bristol, at least our step counter seemed to imply that.
We stayed at the Bristol Hotel in the city centre. We spent a good amount of time dining around the area, but also explored some other neighborhoods in Bristol.
Here we will offer recommendations for restaurants in Bristol City Centre, Stokes Croft, and Gloucester Road Bristol restaurants, as well as a few others that don’t necessarily fall into these neighborhoods. We also made some recommendations on Bristol places to eat for particular dishes, which are included above.
Eating And Drinking At Cargo
This was one of my favorite areas of Bristol. Cargo is a community of repurposed shipping containers that are loaded with all sorts of shops and eateries.
Over the course of our stay in Bristol we visited a few times. It helped that it was a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Cargo is home to the Bristol Cheesemonger and a great craft beer bar called The Wild Beer Co Bristol, which offers an extensive selection of sour beers and stouts (my favorite).
I also like this area as an alternative to the large Bristol Harbourside Restaurants across the water. Cargo is more hip, intimate, and definitely local. There are a series of casual eateries, including Pigsty, Woky Ko, and The Athenian.
Tare At Cargo In Bristol
We were fortunate enough to dine at Tare, a Michelin-Recommended Restaurant located in two shipping containers on the upper level of Cargo.
From husband and wife team Matt and Diane, they offer contemporary cuisine in a cozy space (only 24 seats), with a four-course tasting menu that changes with the seasons. We loved this meal. Matt prepared every dish expertly without a lot of fuss. Every element of the dish served its purpose, with no extraneous flavors or elements that I see a lot of young chefs trying to add.
Because of its size, reservations are definitely recommended. Tare is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner and on Saturday for lunch. Tare’s four-course tasting menu is £40 per person, which is a great deal for the quality of the food.
Places To Eat In Bristol City Center – St. Nicholas Market
St. Nicholas Market is a historic building in the center of Bristol on Corn Street that now is home to all sorts of arts and craft stalls. The market stalls stretch across two buildings and in between is a tasty food alley of local producers.
Check out Ahh Toots for pastries and sausage rolls, Pieminister for meat pies, and Chilli Daddy, offering spicy Chinese food. This is one of the closest things to street food in Bristol. And, take a moment to admire the architectural details in the building, which dates to 1743.
St. Nicholas Market Details
The market is open 9:30-5 Monday through Saturday. Most of the food producers open around noon and close when they sell out. We’ve gotten used to meal times living in Spain.
We visited the St. Nicholas Market around 11 am (our snack time in Spain) and not much was open. We returned around 2:30 (a normal lunchtime in Spain) and many stalls sold out. The sweet spot is probably to arrive between noon and 1 pm for the best selection. That seems to be a good rule for eating Bristol in general. Many lunch places close at 2 or 2:30 pm.
There is also a great coffee place nearby that made Eric say out loud “I love great coffee.” Check out Full Court Press Bristol only a few blocks from the market.
Cool Places To Eat In Bristol
I feel that each of the places where we ate in Bristol was unique from each of the other places where we ate. The variety of dining on offer in Bristol was a breath of fresh air.
From quirky cafes to vegetarian restaurants, to creative pizza, we ate some darn good food. Most of these restaurants are in the Stokes Croft area, but not all. There has been a recent trend in Bristol restaurants where many are serving small plates, or tapas-sized portions. I was happy with the trend because it enabled us to try a lot more during our visit to Bristol.
The Gallimaufry on Gloucester Road is known for its craft beers, artisan coffee, and desserts. It’s a real neighborhood space, with a funky feel. They feature local artists and are one of the better known vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Bristol.
We enjoyed a few desserts there, including a vegan apple crumble. I enjoyed it so much I felt like I needed to give up my “I Love Pork” badge. Well, almost. I balanced it off with a very much un-vegan friendly cheesecake.
Koocha Meze Bar
Koocha, on Zetland Road, has to be one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Bristol. Eric and I fully admit that we’ve never really been a vegetarian or vegan-friendly travel blog. That is probably not going to change.
But, our meal at Koocha was actually pretty darn good. We tried a series of meze, all of which were flavorful. Even their vegan shawarma had the perfect flavors. The bright-colored foods and platters are also entirely Instagram friendly. The cafe is cozy, but just as bright at their plates. Try the beetroot dip and koopa, deep-fried rice balls with cinnamon and turmeric.
Flour and Ash
I would not have normally sought out good Bristol pizza restaurants, but this was an introduction during our Bristol Food Tour and I was thrilled to visit.
Flour and Ash specializes in sourdough pizza in some truly creative flavors. We tried their oxtail cheek and red wine ragu pizza, which was incredible, along with truffle polenta fries. They also carry a good selection of local Bristol craft beers.
Flour and Ash is located on Cheltenham Road and offers deals for £9 pizzas before 6 pm.
Jamaica Street Stores
Jamaica Street Stores on Jamaica Street is probably best known for its brunch, which they don’t limit to Sundays. Focusing on small plates with international influences, it’s a must-visit restaurant in the Stokes Croft area.
They also carry local craft beer, including drafts from the Bristol Beer Factory. Try the fried chicken with honey, peanuts, and kimchi. Oh my yum.
Coconut Tree prepares small plate Sri Lankan food, with a few locations in the city. We visited as part of British Dal Week and tried their specialty dal of the week, made with red lentils, coconut, and turmeric.
Having never traveled to Sri Lanka, I am not entirely sure how authentic their recipes were, but the food was very tasty.
We ordered more small plates than we probably should have, including egg hoppers, hot battered spicy cuttlefish, devilled crispy pork, and chicken kotthu. All of it was incredible. A must-visit Bristol restaurant if you like Asia cuisine.
River Cottage Kitchen
River Cottage Kitchen is in a former church on Whiteladies Road. It is one of three restaurants run by Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, a local celebrity chef who focuses on seasonable and sustainable ingredients.
The space is massive (the complete opposite of dining at Tare in Cargo), open, and airy. Try the slow-roasted West Country Cabrito, or baby goat. River Cottage Kitchen also offers a £13 lunch menu during the week.
Michelin Star Restaurants In Bristol
There are loads of options for fine dining in Bristol. There are both Michelin recommended restaurants and Michelin Starred restaurants in Bristol. Either way, they are some of the top restaurants in Bristol.
Locals also tend to note that the Michelin Starred restaurants in Bristol are a little more down-to-earth than their counterparts in London. We didn’t manage to eat at any of the starred restaurants but enjoyed a lovely meal at the Michelin recommended Tare and loved it.
Casamia is probably the most well-known of Bristol’s best restaurants. What started as a traditional trattoria is now a fine dining restaurant where both the menus and the interior change with the seasons. The Sanchez brothers behind Casamia also operate Paco Tapas, a Michelin Starred restaurant focusing on Andalusian cuisine and tapas.
Check out Wilks on Chandos Road in Redland in Northern Bristol, which focuses on an eclectic mix of international influences with local produce. They offer an a la carte menu, two tasting menus, and a set lunch menu.
Bulrush Bristol is the newest Michelin Star restaurant and has a reputation for catering to vegans and vegetarians with pleasure. Pony & Trap is a countryside pub located in Chew Magna, about a half-hour south of Bristol that focuses on locally sourced or foraged ingredients. They even have their own working farm on site.
Bristol Food Tour
We’ve taken food tours all over the world, from Bangkok to Barcelona. Normally, the food tours we take focus on the traditional cuisine of the area, perhaps sharing the history of dishes.
Our Bristol Food Tour was entirely different. Instead of focusing on traditional British cuisine, the tour focused on highlighting the favorite local restaurants of a particular British neighborhood. Our tour guide, Jo, shared not only the history of the restaurants and the chefs behind them, but also focused on finding spots where there is a focus on fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients.
I found it interesting when talking with Jo that more than 60% of her food tour guests are locals who want to learn more about their own cuisine and to find new places to eat in Bristol. A real education.
We took The Bristol Food Tour’s Stokes Croft Tour, which focused on the Gloucester Road Bristol food scene, a hip and trending neighborhood with loads of great restaurants, cafes, and pubs. Some of our recommended Bristol restaurants above are in the Stokes Croft neighborhood. They even offer 100% vegan tours too.
What And Where To Drink In Bristol
There is no shortage of places to drink in Bristol, and I can imagine it is a fun weekend break for many Brits. We tried, though, to focus on drinking as local as possible. This included Bristol craft beer, local, artisan gin, and even British ciders.
We learned so much about the local drink that we published a Bristol Craft Beer Guide and a Bristol Gin and Cocktail Guide. Some of the highlights included learning about local cider at the Bristol Cider Shop and all about the craft beer scene over at Moor Beer Bristol on Days Road.
I would also recommend spending an afternoon checking out all of the craft beer bars on King Street. If you are a wine lover, try checking out some of the local wines from Southwest England. In particular, the region is known for their rose wines.
Weekend Break In The Country In Thornbury
Thornbury is an adorable British town just a short drive from Bristol city center. It would make a great destination for a weekend break separate from Bristol.
We dined at Romy’s Kitchen on Castle Street. Romy’s Gill is one of the few female Indian chefs in the UK, and her food was fabulous. We were famished when arriving straight from the airport, but each and every dish left me wanting to lick the plate clean.
Chef Romy focuses on using local ingredients, including crab from Devon and local venison. Definitely try the samosa chaat, a samosa buried under all of the toppings for chaat, a typical Indian snack. Romy also features gin and tonics using Thornbury’s own 6 O’clock Gin.
We also dined like royalty while staying at Thornbury Castle, a 16th Century Tudor Castle once owned by Henry VIII. I felt like I was on the set of the series the Tudors, with a four-poster bed, stone walls, spiral staircases, turrets, and suits of armor.
After enjoying a 6 O’clock Damson Gin Negroni and canapes, we dined fireside on scallops and venison in what was once a chapel at the castle.
Yes, a perfect British country weekend escape should include a stay at Thornbury Castle, a meal at Romy’s Kitchen, and a gin tasting and tour at 6 O’clock.
We were hosted by Visit Bristol during our stay in Bristol, but all views are our own.