A taste of a place – Bristol
The most important thing we learnt during our first trip to the vibrant city of Bristol, was that 24 hours in this buzzing cultural hub is nowhere near enough time to do it any justice at all!
Ideally I should recount tales of our visit aboard the SS Great Britain. Our Illuminating tour of the “We the Curious” science museum, or our stellar experience at the Observatory. And of course the time spent at the cathedral, the aquarium. Oh, and the art gallery and lido….. But no, it was not to be. Due to time constraints and our innate aversion to having any kind of itinerary (let alone actually booking anything), we mainly just caught a passing glimpse of all the culturally enriching experiences on offer (in between our free ranging eating/drinking and general mooching about).
Happily, our small and friendly hotel, Brooks Guesthouse fitted the bill perfectly; with well appointed rooms, a vast breakfast menu, an honesty bar and Airstreams (to hire), on the roof!
The location was perfect for us – directly opposite the vibrant St Nicholas market, located in the Georgian Corn Exchange building. The market is always the first stop when orientating ourselves in any town/city – our belief is that this is generally a great hub where you can get to meet local people (as well as see what they are eating!). St Nicholas market was no exception.
An eclectic market, home to more than 60 independent retailers and a glass arcade, where you will find a plethora of food stalls from juice bars to carribean food. Portuguese to South African. Indian to Vietnamese and a whole world in between. To top it off (nicely), there is a gin micro distillery, if you find yourself at that juncture…
We were led by the nose straight to Matina, a middle eastern inspired stall, where the cheery folk served up marinated lamb and salad, wrapped in freshly baked naan. I plumped for a delicious feta salad (which was so much more exciting than it sounds!). A real feast of all things fresh and tasty.
After a leisurely stroll around the harbourside and quays, rich in maritime history, we sampled a restorative coffee at the intriguingly named Ka:Fei. This cute, container based coffee shop turned out to be the first Chinese owned café in the UK, serving Chinese coffee as standard. We can concur that the Banka coffee is seriously good.
Ka:Fei is located on Queens Square – the site of last year’s Colston statue removal and the Black Lives Matter demonstration. The plinth now stands empty, the statue having been relocated to the M Shed Museum (another must do on the list for our next visit).
And so our thoughts turned to dinner. Now, some people travel to the other side of the world to taste a new cuisine – whereas we travelled all the way to the west country for our first taste of Vietnamese cuisine.
Pho was a friendly, no frills restaurant – where you could rock up without a booking (a rare, but beautiful thing these days). It was a simple offer of 15 different types of pho (there were other options, but this seemed the logical starting point).
We opted for the juicy king prawn version of this spicy noodle soup, served with coriander, lime and chilli to garnish and slurped joyously from a massive wooden spoon.
Accompanied by a delicious gin spritz for me (Tanqueray, muddled cucumber, mint, lime and soda) and a Saigon beer for Brian – a truly delicious introduction to a new cuisine – a real taste sensation. So fresh, zingy and envigorating – There can be no doubt this food has seriously restorative properties!
The next day, after a hearty breakfast, we took a stroll along the harbourside in the opposite direction, passing through what I now consider my favourite of the quays –the small but perfectly formed Oporto Quay, up the steep hill to the beautiful and much feted Clifton village.
Our primary focus was to see the famous Clifton suspension bridge and check out the amazing views across the Avon Gorge, which we did. I should imagine the views at nighttime are pretty impressive too.
We spent the rest of the morning around the lovely delis, coffee shops and arcades of Clifton village.
One of our favourite shops was Papadeli (recently voted UKs best small shop). A beautiful deli/coffee shop selling not only a plethora of fine Mediterranean foods, but the best produce from local producers – a real hotspot for food lovers!
Unfortunately, we were too early for the traditional cider based pit stop at the infamous Cori (Coronation) Tap – another one for our next visit.
For lunch we meandered our way back down through the city and over to Cargo 2 (opposite the M Shed museum) – a mini container village of tiny, local independent eateries, cafes and foodshops. (It was recently named as one of the best places to eat out in the UK).
Spanish tapas bar, Gambas was calling our name. We enjoyed some fab dishes highlights included; asparagus with romesco sauce, pulpo a la gallega (Galician style octopus), pescaito frito (mixed fried fish). Of course, a lovely drop of cava too!
We loved our whistlestop tour of all things Bristolian – finding it to be an extremely friendly place with an abundance of things to do and some really interesting food venues. I know we will be visiting again soon to discover more about the history that shaped this fascinating city and its people. To visit more areas of the city, take a river taxi, hunt out some street art and soul food and of course, go for more pho! So much to do, so little time…