Sometimes it’s tricky to know where to go out, especially if you fancy something new & unique. Of course, we all like to be regulars & have our go to places but sometimes the spirit to explore & be adventurous comes calling! So this week, Stella Eastwood, blogger at Avon Gorged unearths some of Bristol’s best hidden gems.
You don’t have to go far to discover a local gem. It’s not that I’m a lazy person. It’s just that sometimes I don’t fancy a trek across town. Luckily for me, I live in Bristol – a city where you can barely turn a corner without stumbling across an independent café, bar or restaurant. And so, to demonstrate just what might be available on your doorstop, I decided to compile my five favourite places, five minutes from my house. Because A) there are some amazing places in my area and B) okay, I am a bit lazy.
One of my friends is permanently confused by the lack of apostrophe in the name of this craft beer bar on Cheltenham Road. Grammar aside however, since it opened last year the Crofters has become my regular drinking haunt. The Crofters offers upwards of fifteen different beers and ciders at any one time and usually has plenty of local brews to choose from. It also has a weekly changing food pop-up attached to it, meaning you can try anything from dim sum one week to jerk chicken the next. Past 9pm it turns into a really buzzing venue, with live music and events running in their back room throughout the year. Points are awarded to anyone who can successfully navigate the spiral staircase to the loos after a few pints of 7% beer.
2. Katie and Kim’s.
I recently wrote a review of Katie and Kim’s in Montpelier. It is somewhere that I continue to visit post-review and you can normally find me with my head in one of their chorizo milk bun sandwiches or their famous cheese scones. The thing that keeps me coming back is the atmosphere Katie and Kim have created and their small, daily changing menu. It has become one of my must see spots for all visitors because it represents everything I love about Bristol’s independent food scene. I recommend heading down there for a weekend brunch. You might have to wait for a seat or squeeze in next to the other customers but that’s all part of the fun. And make sure you don’t leave without a custard tart. I also heartily recommend a glass of their home-made ginger tonic. It works wonders on a hangover!
3. Thali Café.
Speaking of places on my tourist trail, Thali Café never fails to impress. Thali is a Bristol institution, and the Montpelier branch certainly doesn’t disappoint. Whether you’re taking away a tiffin or eating in, Thali Café serves up fresh, well flavoured Indian food. Although I own one of the tiffins so I can just pop in, it does seem a shame as the restaurants are beautiful. Full of fabric, colour and old photos, they are a pleasure to eat in. The food is all reasonably priced and there is great flavour in all of the accompaniments such as their zingy Keralan salad. I’m a huge fan of the potato bondas starters (who knew mashed potato balls could taste like that?) and I would kill for the recipe for their chapatis!
It was difficult to choose just one pub as my favourite local, but in the end it had to go the Hare. When you’ve managed to get up the hill, you’re rewarded with a cosy and friendly pub with plenty on offer to drink. As a Bath Ales pub, you can obviously work your way through plenty of their standard beers. However, the Hare also has an impressive bottled selection and changing guest beers. It’s a real beer-lovers paradise. In fact it was the venue for the launch event of the first ever Bristol Beer Week last year. You can easily get snuggled in to the corner, crack out the Trivial Pursuit and while away several hours. I don’t normally like a pub with a TV in it, as I’m not a huge fan of that Saturday afternoon football nonsense. However, the Hare manages to remain civilised even when it’s packed for an England game. I think it must be the candles on the tables.
And so we finish with Bell’s Diner, a real gem. Bell’s is a sharing experience predominantly. Dishes are served as small plates and you’re encouraged to order as a table. The food is superb, with influences ranging from France to northern Africa. The restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner, although it also manages to do brunch pretty well. You can bring your own LPs to play or choose something from their collection to sip your coffee to on a Sunday morning. I once took my entire family and we ate our way through the menu one dish at a time. The service is perfectly timed and the wine list is extensive. They also produce the most perfect crème brûlée around. And whatever they do with their cauliflowers is nothing short of wizardry.
Stella Eastwood is the writer behind Avon Gorged, a Bristol-based food and drink blog. Stella writes reviews of local venues and offers tips of the best of Bristol. She is a supporter of independent venues and an avid beer fan.