This is a report from three months ago, but it’s all from notes I took at the time. Apologies for taking so long to get around to posting it; hope it’s still useful.
Harts Bakery, 35 Lower Approach Road, BS1 6QS (website)
A proper bakery in a railway arch just by Temple Meads Station (for a short-cut, bear left on exiting the station instead of going right towards the bus stops, and head towards the walkway leading to the Bristol & Exeter House; there’s a somewhat rickety staircase here leading down).
A sandwich of prosciutto and cheese on foccacia (photo) could only have been improved by leaving out about two-thirds of the mayonnaise — it was decent, house-made stuff, but at room temperature it made everything annoyingly slippery. The bread was great, though, really good flavour, texture, and crust.
They also do sweet and savoury pastries as well as whole loaves to take away — if they weren’t closed on Mondays I’d have been seriously tempted to come back on the way home to take some of the latter back to London with me.
Kansai Kitchen, Hillgrove Porter Stores, 53 Hillgrove Street North, BS2 8LT (website)
Karaage chicken (photo) had a nicely crisp coating and flavourful, juicy meat. Squid and kimchi kinomiyaki (photo) was overall a little sweet for my taste, but good aside from that, with soft cabbage, well-handled squid, and extra bite from kimchi. Black sesame ice cream had a good balance of bitterness and sweetness, and was served with tart, well-flavoured raspberries each sitting on a small blob of the black sesame puree used for the ice cream. I don’t usually like desserts, but I’d eat this again.
The chef is not Japanese, but knows his stuff, and is keen to stick to the cuisine as eaten in Japan rather than putting any twists on it. The pub is also worth a visit in itself — a traditional but not dated ambience, and ten or so handpumps each dispensing a non-mainstream real ale including those on the darker side.
Yurt Lush, Clock Tower Yard, BS1 6QH (website)
Shakshuka (photo) wasn’t bad, and included some greens which I quite liked the idea of (I’m all for vegetables for breakfast) and which worked nicely for dredging in the tomato sauce. There was pesto too, with some fairly large chunks of hazelnut which gave nice textural contrast. One of the eggs had a runny yolk; the other, buried deeper in the sauce, had one that was really more creamy. Overall, it was a little oilier than ideal, not helped by the ridiculously over-buttered slice of sourdough toast that accompanied it.
Comfort-wise, it’s all bench seating, half of which is fixed far enough away from the tables that dropping food in your lap is practically guaranteed, and the other half of which left my feet dangling inches from the floor. The only semi-comfortable seating I could find was on a stool by the open door, right underneath a speaker blasting out Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Accessibility: A ramp to get in, and it’s step-free to the toilets too.
Thali Cafe, 64–66 St Mark’s Road, BS5 6JH (website)
There are a few branches of this; I was at the one in Easton. I’d really only wanted some pani puri and a sit-down partway through a long walk, but it was before noon so they were only serving their brunch menu.
Utthappam (photo) was well-priced at £2.50 plus £1 for sambar and coconut chutney (confusingly so, given that they were advertising masala dosa for £7.50). When it arrived, it turned out to be smaller than usual, though not overly so. It was fine; cooked competently and well-studded with chopped tomato, onion, and fresh coriander, though not as sour as I prefer. The sambar and chutney were both lacking in chilli heat, though decently flavoured otherwise.
Yume Kitchen, 9 Cotham Hill, BS6 6LD (website)
Kaisendon was a dish of sushi rice with sashimi on top (photo). The sushi rice was actually more heavily seasoned than I like, which was a surprise as normally I find the opposite. The sashimi was generously and competently cut, with no ragged or chewy parts. Unfortunately the scallops were a touch gritty.
I suspect I was the only person in here who wasn’t a student.
Accessibility: The toilets are down a steep, narrow staircase.
Souk Kitchen, 277 North Street, BS3 1JP (website)
There are at least two branches of this; I was at the one on North Street, to the southwest of the city centre. I hadn’t booked, and as they’d given their last walk-in table to the two people who got there literally about 10 seconds before me (the door didn’t have a chance to close between us), I had to talk them into letting me occupy a booked one by promising to be out in 45 minutes.
Persian fish curry (photo) was fine — not exactly what I’d describe as a curry, seemingly more of an assemblage of separately-cooked white fish covered with a dark, fesenjan-like sauce — but tasty enough, and the fish was accurately cooked. The accompanying rice was also accurately cooked, but a touch oversalted.
Bristol Coffee House, 121 Whiteladies Road, BS8 2PL
A last-minute substitution for Kuch, which apparently changed its opening
hours between when I last looked at its website and when I arrived there
hoping for breakfast on a rainy Friday morning. No comfortable seating inside, unfortunately — it’s all high stools aside from one small backless bench with a table almost as low as the bench itself.
A cheddar and leek sourdough toastie (photo) was pretty good; the cheddar good quality, the leeks cooked just right, and the sourdough decently textured and cut not too thick. A pot of English breakfast tea was fine except for the cup, which was one of those small hipster ones that you can’t get your fingers through the handle of.
Accessibility: Steps to get in.
Cafe du Jour, 72 Whiteladies Road, BS8 2QA (website)
Bristol has at least two of these — I moved on to the Clifton Down branch for a drink and a read of my book after my Bristol Coffee House breakfast while waiting for one of the rather infrequent trains from the adjacent station.
(A digression here on public transport in Bristol. They do have a suburban train line, but it barely serves any of the city and there are only a couple of trains per hour — even fewer at some stations. Some of it’s actually single-track! There’s no trams or subway. There is a boat service along the Floating Harbour, which is mainly useful for moving between tourist attractions but is also used by commuters. Bus coverage is decent, but very little information is provided at the stops, and only about a quarter of the 23 (!) buses I took during my five days there actually announced the stops. I managed by a combination of GPS mapping, advance planning, and careful counting of the stops as they went past, but really this is not very visitor-friendly at all.)
Anyway, Cafe du Jour did iced tea, hurrah, but it was a sweetened fruit tea which unfortunately tasted mainly of sugar to me (photo).
Accessibility: A small step in, and another to the (rather palatial) toilet cubicle.
Waamo, 200 Lawrence Hill, BS5 0DR
One of a number of Somali cafes on Lawrence Hill. The breakfast menu lists things like scrambled or fried eggs, liver, kidney, suqaar, and foul madamas with bread or canjeelo. This is only served until it runs out — I got there at 1pm and was too late. The rest of the time, there’s lamb, beef, chicken, or fish served with rice, bread, pasta, or muufo. They open at 4am, seven days a week, to serve the taxi drivers who’ve worked all night.
From the lunch menu, I had fish and rice (photo). This involved onions, fried enough to remove harshness and give flavour, but still crisp and juicy. The fish was still tender despite being pre-cooked and kept warm in its creamy sauce. The rice had nicely separate grains (some tinted with green food colouring). On the side was a bowl of stewed potato and cabbage in a tomato-based sauce/soup. A fresh green chilli relish came in a small bowl along with a bottle of long-life lemon juice.
Spiced tea (70p) came as a teabag in a glass of boiling water, with sugar and two spice shakers containing ground ginger and a mix of ground cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon.
I went again a couple of days later for breakfast: canjeelo with foul madamas (£3) (photo) and a glass of qashar (50p). The canjeelo was thin pancake-like bread, similar to injera but less sour and with a less even thickness. The foul madamas was pureed beans cooked with onions, lightly spiced and well seasoned. The qashar had a light texture and was also spiced.
Accessibility: A step to get in, and another to the toilet.
The Bristolian, 2 Picton Street, BS6 5QA (website)
Probably the most imaginative vegan breakfast I’ve ever had: scrambled tofu, spinach wilted with sesame oil, crispy aubergine fries, house-made vegetable sausage, fried potatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and toast (photo). There were some imperfections in the individual components — the potatoes were a little oversalted, the aubergine fries were on the greasy-and-floury side, and the scrambled tofu was over-endowed with turmeric but lacking in other seasoning — but overall the variety was excellent.
Yatta Sushi, Little Chinatown, 5 Nelson Street, BS1 2JT
A selection of sushi and sashimi shared with others (photo). There were a few bits of connective tissue in the yellowtail, the tuna was a little mushy, and the scallops were a little bland, but overall it was fine, and good value too, especially with the half price lunchtime offer.
Accessibility: On the first floor, no lift that I could see.
Bento Boss, 6 Whiteladies Road, BS8 2PH (website)
Eel nigiri (photo) was very good — eel well handled, sauce not too sweet, rice competently cooked and served warm and loose. Chicken gyoza (photo) were also good, decent meat studded with finely chopped vegetables, and a nice crust on the wrappers. Edamame (photo) were fine, and a huge portion.
On the less-good side, agedashi tofu (photo) was executed competently, but the tofu tasted strongly of aseptic boxed tofu. Pork bao (photo) was rather dense and flat, and the pork was a little overcooked. I liked the mix of crispy onion and peanut it was served with though. Prawn tempura (photo) was disappointing, with overcooked prawns and thick batter.
They were happy for me to sit there for a couple of hours, reading a book, drinking wine, and ordering bit by bit.
Accessibility: On the first floor, no lift that I could see.
Pinkmans, 85 Park Street, BS1 5PJ (website)
A breakfast of cornbread with avocado and smoked salmon (photo) on my last morning in Bristol. It looked a bit small when it came, but actually it was plenty. The cornbread was slightly sweet, and I wished it hadn’t been, but I liked the hint of chilli and the texture of coarse-ground cornmeal. The different components of the dish were in good proportion.
Accessibility: No steps to get in. Most of the seating is up steps and on high stools, but there’s regular-height seating for about a dozen people at the front.