Bristol’s inherently cool and understated style can be noticed wherever you wander, whether it’s down by the waterfront, along Gloucester Road’s promenade or around the corner from St Nick’s. You’re never short of walking into a new health cafe or burger joint, however it can be difficult to find the real gems which level style with substance. I’ve sifted through the bad and the good to put together a guide of top-notch eateries which ace aesthetic alongside great-tasting food.
Mud Dock – Waterfront
Along Bristol’s waterfront and past the Arnolfini, an indie cafe-cum-bike shop serves brunch through to dinner with handsome views to match. The Mud Dock cafe is a beautiful open space, with vintage bikes and leafy baskets hanging from the ceiling, rustic wooden walls and fairy lights drooping low across metal struts. The circular floor to ceiling window welcomes natural light and offers beautiful harbour views (an extra point if you spot the Darth Vader mural).
Out on their roof terrace you can idly watch the boats go by, a perfect set-up for a lunch interlude or an intimate dinner. Offering a polished menu which reflect the seasons, with dishes prepared daily and sourced from local suppliers, there’s plenty of reasons to take a trip to Mud Dock.
Little Victories – Wapping Wharf
Across the river in the heart of Wapping Wharf there’s Little Victories, an independent espresso bar bestowed with industrial fittings, a scattering of plant pots and a floor to ceiling menu of expertly crafted drinks. With a focus on coffee made proper, the menu covers handpicked house blends, guest espressos, filters and specialty coffees (I’m particularly excited to try the rum hot chocolate).
As day turns to night the lighting mellows, with espressos swapped for martinis and a fresh crowd of faces set with cocktails and charcuterie. What seems most flattering is the laid-back atmosphere in the day, effortlessly mirrored by the intimate warmth of the evening. It may be pocket sized, but the high windows and minimal fittings keep it feeling fresh and open, beautifully paired by lazy acoustics and the soothing scents of coffee.
White’s Botanicals – St Nicholas Street
White’s Botanicals on St Nicholas Street brings a breath of fresh air to Bristol’s health cafes. Not only is it visually enchanting, but their food gets the taste buds tingling and leaves you feeling nourished from the inside out. As you enter you’re welcomed by the aroma of fresh green foliage hanging elegantly from the ceiling, with smart white wooden furnishings and large arching windows drenching light into the room. The menu is artistically written on a large blackboard with offerings of veggie breakfasts, artisan toasties and a selection mezze plates.
I’ve tried both the veggie and vegan mezze, both of which were generously portioned and reasonably priced. The vegan was particularly impressive considering its variety: roasted veg, avocado, black olive tapenade, hummus, cashew butter, roasted squash, spicy black bean salsa, olives, salad leaves and a couple slices of sourdough toast. This was all beautifully presented on a wooden board and priced at £7.50.
It’s refreshing to find a place that offers nourishing food in substantial portions – feel-good soul food freshly made and beautifully presented all without breaking the bank.
Workhouse Kitchen – Perry Road
Workhouse Kitchen is a lovely small cafe on the corner of Perry Road, a perfect spot for brunch, a bite to eat or a cup of coffee. It’s located on a particularly busy road, however the atmosphere remains welcoming and relaxed whenever you walk in. Inside there’s a variety of leafy plants set against charcoal walls and industrial fittings, with rustic touches of dark wooden furnishings adding warmth and colour.
Their focus is to make plant-based eating taste great (alongside serving seasonal meat and fish dishes). This is where avo on toast is most expertly crafted, served with lemon on whole meal sourdough and topped with spinach, chimichuri, black beans, pumpkin seeds, seaweed and sesame salt. Their specialty drinks are also worth trying, such as the turmeric latte and the creative range of smoothies loaded with fruit, yoghurt and a handful of oats.
Once my beloved neighbour, I would take a quick trip with friends and sit out on their sun-trap with a matcha latte in hand. A hidden gem in plain sight.
Beese’s Riverside Bar – River Avon
Beese’s is a riverside bar and restaurant set beside the river Avon. This is a recent discovery of mine and what a find it was. Offering an idyllic respite from the bustle of the city, Beese’s is a convenient getaway with most visitors arriving via ferry.
Luckily the sun was shining, so we made full use of the garden and river views with giant fruity g&ts. Though the menu was rooted in pub staples, creative and healthy dishes were also available such as their beautiful Miller’s lunch: a slice of walnut and mushroom wellington, homemade chutney, hummus, crudities, fresh fruit and homemade focaccia. I also managed to scoff down a delightful cream tea (made in-house by Boho Bakery with homemade jam), just in time for the ferry to take us back home. This is a lovely hidden spot bestowed with waterside views and wholesome food – its rural environs providing a idyllic getaway for an hour or two.