The home of the contrarian and a city bursting at the seams with creativity, it's little surprise that when we launched another UK pop-up earlier this year, we did so in the heart of bustling Bristol. Reknowned for its legendary street art and impressive culinary scene, we asked some of the city’s key players to reveal their favourite haunts and best-kept secrets - with a pit stop for coffee and cake too, of course.
Founder of Foozie Bristol, Thom Whitchurch has made a career out of touring the city’s bars and restaurants. Always on the run, plotting his next event, he knows the importance of refuelling:
“Tapas bar, Poco, in Stokes Croft, is my happy place – I’m there three or four times a week. There’s something addictive about watching the craziness unfold outside and I love how you can just grab a coffee while your friend, next to you, tucks into delicious tapas.
“When it comes to a sit-down dinner, though, I can’t get enough of Pasta Loco on Cotham Hill. It’s the best restaurant to open in the past twelve months, offering a modern and rebellious spin on Italian dining.
“For that all-important nightcap, I’d recommend The Old Bookshop on North Street. If I could move any bar nearer to my home, it would be this one; it’s quirky, attracts a diverse crowd and serves smashing drinks.”
“Here you’ll also find BOX-E – which, along with the likes of Birch, is leading the way when it comes to exceptional dining – not to mention Little Victories. From the same team behind Small St Espresso, this serves some of the best coffee in the city.”
And coffee, a much-needed boost for even the most seasoned shopper, is certainly taken seriously in Bristol. Sam Baum, owner of the design studio, Studio Baum, and creator of ‘Bean: The Bristol Coffee Map’, knows exactly where to get your caffeine fix:
“For the best flat white in town, head to Full Court Press, near to St Nick’s Market. Not too far from there, you’ll also find Playground Coffee House, which has an impressive variety of coffee-related drinks, including espresso martinis. The tactile, wooden board games and the use of swings, rather than chairs, makes for a great interior, adding something more to the café experience.”
“When it comes to other design spots, I’m a big fan of the Montpelier Window Shop, run by local artist Alex Lucas. She regularly sells her artwork outside her front window, in a beautifully painted house on Picton Street. Then there’s Papersmiths, the stationer located opposite Anna, a patisserie in the heart of Clifton village. Beautiful stationery and a decadent cake; a trip there is a real indulgence.”
For those interested in Bristol’s art scene, there are few people who know the city’s offerings as well as Stephen Hayles, owner of Upfest Gallery and the brains behind Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival:
“The highest concentration of street art can be found in Bedminster and Stokes Croft, which is the cultural home of graffiti. Of course the world’s most well-known stencil artist, Banksy, has left his mark across his home city, but nowadays it’s emerging artists who make use of the city’s urban canvas.”
“When it comes to sampling the work of Bristol’s many creatives, one of my favourite spots is Centrespace, which – despite its central location - feels tucked away from the main thoroughfares of the city. A not-for-profit, volunteer-run gallery, it champions up-and-coming artists in the community.”
It’s this strong sense of community which keeps Bristol’s many independents not only alive, but thriving. Amy Cox, a former art director and co-owner of the charming vintage tearoom, Cox and Baloney, selects a few of her favourites:
“For quality vintage pieces, dating back to as early as the 1920s, I’d recommend Heartfelt, a charming boutique in Clifton. And if you’re after cool, retro fare from the sixties onwards, then head to Urban Fox, a firm favourite on Corn Street.”
“Of course, Gloucester Road is a real hub for independents. There is a flurry of art shops – Fig, Paper Plane and Room212 in particular – that I love, and from there you can walk through the Arches and into Stokes Croft. If you were to stop at every great shop along the way, that route could literally take you all day. It’s surely the best way to get some exercise, though!”
If, after all that walking, you’re still in the mood to explore, Amanda Nicholls, Editor of The Bristol Magazine, the city’s leading lifestyle publication, has some insider tips for you:
“The Ethicurean is one of Bristol’s best kept secrets. Not only does it offer impressive, culinary alchemy, but it is tucked away in a picturesque walled garden, boasting stunning rural surrounds.”
“Another great, but hidden, venue is The Loco Klub, a kooky performance space located underneath the Passenger Shed by Temple Meads Station. There I saw the amazing Trainspotting adaptation that came to Bristol last year, and it has the perfect underground feel to it.”
Article written by: Cate Brown
Imagery by: Emli Bendixen