Bristol is an awesome place for food. It’s got a great selection of restaurants, cafes, bars and food stalls – loads of independent eating places. Having spent so many years studying there, moving away made me realise just how good it is for lunch. One of my intentions for this blog was to share some good lunch ideas, up till now it’s mainly been recipes for lunch you can make at home and take to work. Recently I began working in Bristol again, pretty much in what I’d class as it’s ‘Food Centre’. It’s been a bit of an adventure (re)discovering places to eat whilst managing my lunch budget. At work we put together a Lunchometer to graph out optimal eating strategies.
Although the Lunchometer is a decent evaluation of the average Mobile Pie eating habits, it’s missing some places I really rate and doesn’t go into a great deal of detail so I’ve put together a list of my favourite lunchtime eating places here.
I’m always keen to hear about new places, so if you have any suggestions post me a comment or join me on Rummble, a website to find out new places with that ‘if you like this, you might like that’ approach. I’ve just started playing with it, but it looks interesting, you can see my Rummble Profile here.
Top 10 Lunches In Bristol
Although I’m very much a carnivore, I value meat and see it more of a treat rather than an everyday eating. The problem is there is a limited selection of good veggie options, especially the kind that feels like a ‘proper’ meal. I recently found The Parsnipship at the Wednesday Farmer’s Market and was bowled over by Collette + Cheryl’s produce.
The Parsnipship runs as a sort of creative co-operative, around the South West making unique vegetarian and vegan dishes like their Glamorgan Crumble – somewhere between a veggie burger and a cake made from grated leeks, carrots and mature cheddar with Breadcrumbs. Another favourite dish of mine is the Indian Summer Pudding, a pie made with butternut squash, chickpeas and coconut in a mild fragrant curry sauce with a tumeric and cumin seed pastry. One or two of their items with some salad (bought separately) makes for an awesome veggie lunch.
Unfortunately they’re only around Bristol on Wednesdays for the Farmers Market and Sunday at the Slow Food Market and the Tobacco Factory. One word of advice – if you want something for lunch, get there early for something warm, they also sell lots to take home and heat up.
Map: On the corner of Broad Street and Corn Street
In my mind, some of the most comforting and satisfying British dishes include sausages. There is a huge difference between British bangers and foreign sausages, but thats a whole other post. Most supermarket ones just don’t compare to what you’d get at a place like this. When it comes to variety, I haven’t been to too many places that compare with the Bristol Sausage Shop.
The range of cooked sausages is always on rotation, so it’s always a nice surprise, with two or three available daily – there are many more you can buy and take home to cook. For lunch you have two options – a sausage baguette or a sausage and mash, with optional extras like gravy, onions and black pudding. If you’re greedy like me, there isn’t much around for better value than the mash option – including a choice of three sausages for £3.80.
Map: Glass Arcade, St. Nicholas Market, Off Corn Street
The Market Place has become a big favourite with the Mobile Pie crew, at the moment it’s quieter than somewhere with that quality of food should be, but still with a nice atmosphere. The quality of food is something I’d be excited about having for a classy meal out. I love the variety of meat on offer as well which sits nicely with my trying to eat ‘nose-to-tail’ ideal, but without going to the extremes that Heston or HFW might. The veggie options are also really good according to Alice.
Typical dishes include cheek + black pudding wellington with faggot and mash, Jacob’s ladder (the meat and bone above the rib I think) with an onion sauce and bubble + squeak or Fennel tart with artichoke and bull’s blood salad (a type of salad leaf).
At the moment they are doing a cheap lunch deal with main meals for ~ £5, which I’d imagine should be a lot more. I’d love to go and try three courses sometime but I’m not sure that fits into my lunch hour. They also have a huge selection of various Whiskys which I definitely intend to make my way through.
Map: St Nicholas Street, between busy Corn Street and Baldwin Street
I love the Folk House, I only wish I could go visit more often (it’s slightly too much of a walk). Not only do they have a brilliant cafe, but they also run courses on anything from Comics to Spanish or Qi Gong as well as putting on some great events – gigs, exhibitions or markets. It’s a co-operative run for the benefit of the community. What could be better than building a community vibe, learning new skills and eating tasty, nutritious food. I wish there were more places like this around the country. Maybe that was overly sentimental, but check it out.
The cafe is like a bohemian community centre. It’s a big favourite with Jenny and Alice too. The food ticks all the boxes for me – exciting, healthy, unpretenious, colourful, filling, good value and most importantly delicious. It’s probably not for everyone, but to me its a real ‘food hero’ and is very similar to the stuff we cook at home. They also do a good selection of tea and juices.
Map: Hidden down an alleyway off Park Street
I’m assuming that the Magic Roll’s reputation has spread, now that they’ve got a chain of stores across Bristol. I started visiting them when they first opened up on The Triangle. So what is a magic roll? Take one flatbread (Lebanese/Syrian style), stuff with exotic fillings – anything from falafels, lamb patties, haloumi cheese, avocado, butternut squash, alfalfa sprouts – wrap and put in a griddle toaster. You end up with something close to a proper San Diegan burrito.
I guess to try and explain to someone new to Magic Roll, it’s a bit like Subway – but with proper ingredients and a genuine atmosphere. You make you choice of roughly what roll you’d like, customise it with any other ingredients and sauces, toast and away you go.
Back in the day they experimented with Pide (Turkish Pizza) in the evenings, it never really took off but they were delicious – a definite gap in the market.
Map: The Triangle, Off Victoria Street or Fishponds
Alice was supposed to have written a review of our visit almost a year ago. Since then they’ve closed, changed owners and re-opened. I’ve not yet had a chance to visit since they re-opened, because they’re up in Stokes Croft but next time I’m in Bristol for a weekend or have a long lunch break I’ll certainly be heading up there.
Walking into Zazu’s is like stepping into someones country kitchen. The kitchen is open in the centre of the cafe, with seating all around. There is a selection of salads, quiches, and hot food. When I visited I had a Mezze which was served on a long wooden board and included houmous, celery+chickpea Soup, langoustine, stuffed vine leaves, chorizo and bread. Jenny had a Breakfast Quiche which included things you’d find in a British fry-up – sausage, mushroom and baked beans whilst Alice opted for a veggie salad with quinoa.
Map: On the corner of Jamaica Street and Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft
7. Blue Juice
When I lived towards the Downs, my walk down into University was often punctuated by a visit to Blue Juice. Stepping into the place is almost like being transported to a different country, the decor and the staff show exactly what they’re about – fresh, friendly, chilled out, and vibrant. As the name indicates, they specialise in juice and smoothies. I haven’t been to that many juice bars that compare with this place – the range and freshness of ingredients sets it apart.
Down to food – mainly wraps, salads and paninis. Some good veggie options too. I’m a big fan of their breakfast burrito or quesadillas.
Map: Cotham Hill, just off Whiteladies Road
8. Portuguese Taste
This is one that’s often missed by visitors to St Nicholas Market, I’ve only started going there over the past few months despite being a visitor to SNM for several years – I’ve heard many people say the same. Forget about anything you might have against Portuguese cuisine as a result of South African chain Nandos, this is the real deal. Proper Portuguese food is rich, full flavoured and wholesome.
During the winter my favourite lunch option has been their Feijoada – a beans and pork stew served with rice. I also really loved their lamb liver and potato stew. Their real star dish though is their leite-creme (custard tart), which is saying something from someone who’s not a big dessert fan.
Map: Glass Arcade, St. Nicholas Market, Off Corn Street
I don’t think this needs any introduction, Pieminister have become an iconic Bristol brand. So what’s so special? Awesome fillings, awesome pastry – good honest food. Jenny and I are such big fans, we had them for our wedding served with some fancy veg. Flavours include Heidi Pie – sweet potato, goats cheese and spinach and Matador – beef steak, chorizo, olives and sherry. Their reputation is such that you can now find them in Harrods. The Queen even had them for one of her Christmas parties. Despite the hype, their ‘home’ remains modest – settled in Stokes Croft, food served on enamel plates, at reasonable prices.
Map: Stokes Croft or Glass Arcade, St. Nicholas Market
Another leading light of the West Country, Boston has eight cafes in the area, three of which are in Bristol, that are primarily known for their fantastic tea and coffee. Their teas are how tea should be served – loose leaf in a teapot, with range of the ‘usual’ Darjeeling, Earl Grey and Roiboos and some more exciting types like Lapsang Souchong (my favourite tea) or Keemun. Coffee is all fairly traded and roasted locally, and is a step above your Nero or Starbucks.
The food at Boston is equal to the standard of the drinks. Most ingredients are locally sourced and free range, with some good veggie options. For lunch they do a range of quality sandwiches and paninis to eat in and take away or a good selection of cooked meals including the great west country burger, mezze platter, harissa-marinated chicken and delicious salads. The place on Park Street (the only one I’ve really eaten at) is brilliantly bustling at lunchtime, which just adds to the atmosphere. The downside is you can expect to wait a little for cooked dishes, but they’re worth waiting for.
Map: Top of Park Street, Clifton and Whiteladies (near the old cinema)
Other notable lunches in Bristol:
Sourdough Cafe (formerly Bakery Agnes)
Only narrowly missing out on a top 10, mainly because I’m biased towards full dishes over sandwich options. Arnaud and Emmeline make their own artisan bread which you can buy whole or made into a tasty selection of sandwiches. Their sandwiches are divine – goats cheese and honey and streaky bacon spring to mind – good value and tend to be stuffed full. They also sell some gorgeous cakes in some of the biggest portions I’ve seen. Their excellent tea and coffee is also worth sampling. Located in St Nick’s.
More commonly known as the Cheese Shop in St Nick’s, they do however on Wednesdays make tasty cheese based food. A couple of months ago I tried out their raclette – melted cheese on potatoes, picked onions and gherkins. They also do toasted sandwiches.
Another Bristol legend located by fountains serving quick, tasty veggie wraps. They are part of the same group as the Abu Noor bakery that provides Wild Oats and Chandos Deli with some of their breads. Popular with students and late night clubbers.
Day + Night
I get the feeling having passed this place a few times recently at lunchtime, that they might have stopped opening at lunch. Day + Night is a nightclub/bar, as such it is barely noticeable during the day. They did however serve the best calzone I’ve had, prices were really cheap too.
Before you shoot this down, I know you might not think Boots really fits in with our ‘blog ethos’, however I think it’s important that big food retailers become more responsible with their food. Boots deserve a thumbs up for stocking Fresh!’s naturally organic sandwiches, with their £3.50 meal deal it’s a definite winner.
A Moroccan souk nestled in St. Nicholas Market, favourites include Moroccan Lamb and Falafel.
Well renowned arthouse cinema also a safe option for good quality food, with a range of styles and a good selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Spice Up Your Life
Good option if you fancy curry for lunch. Vegetarian option is good value – veggie curry, dahl, rice and poppadom for £3.50.
In the Glass Arcade at St. Nicholas Market, good Jamaican food especially their Goat Curry.
Hope + Anchor
Just down from The Triangle, possibly the best pub food in Bristol, usually tricky to find a table.
Ubiquitous delicatessen around the South West. Tasty sandwiches and salads.
Another one at St. Nicholas Market. They sell Boerewors (South African sausage), unfortunately sans Mrs Bulls.