I know that this is going to sound slightly ironic when reading this; here we are, yet another non-Bristolian who moved here some years ago and never looked back, raving about why they love this city so much, yadda yadda yadda.
But, I’ve not travelled far. I came to Bristol six years ago from the quieter, smaller landscape of Exeter in Devon, so I’m keeping it within the South West. I’m not from London (can I say that?!) insert winking emoji here. I jest of course.
But what is it about Bristol that has me convinced I will probably (most certainly) never move myself back down to the shire? Why do I want to stay here? I thought I might write down some of the reasons why I FUCKING LOVE BRISTOL.
Well, let’s start with the obvious. I love to eat, but I never realised just how passionate I was about food and everything connected with it until I came here. There is a strong focus on sustainability, being ethical and supporting local and surrounding businesses – it’s collaborative, enthusiastic and extremely positive.
Bristol is surrounded by plentiful and beautiful greenery, perfect for foraging and collecting ingredients to be used in kitchens. It also means there are farms right on the city’s doorstep, providing us with a great selection of organic and free-range meats or poultry, vegetables and dairy. We really are situated within the West Country’s glorious larder. The food we enjoy in Bristol’s independent restaurants is fresh and of high quality, and it really doesn’t get much better.
No one is jostling and fighting for the spotlight, and if anything, restaurants, kitchens and bars actively promote each other across various platforms and encourage locals and visitors alike to give their city neighbours a try. We’ve got some strong offerings across this patch, all serving up quality and variety. I’ve always said if there is a certain cuisine, or dish that you fancy, you are most likely to find it somewhere in Bristol, and nine times out of ten, it won’t bankrupt your wallet. Growers, producers, farmers, restaurant owners and chefs all work together here collaboratively, and I fucking love it.
The Bristol Lingo
When I first moved to Bristol, I lived in Horfield and had the chore of commuting to and from the centre every day. Hearing the immortal words, ‘cheers drive’ has never grown old though, and now I don’t get the bus anymore I kind of miss it (not the bus journey, but the saying). The Bristolian lingo is one I love and I have learnt many new phrases since arriving here; who knew that getting your hair off meant you were in a pissy? Or the end of a loaf was the topper? I’m not sure I can get on board with smoothing the cat rather than stroking it, and I couldn’t get away with saying I was going to see ‘are muh’ but I love hearing it. Plus, I will never tire of being called ‘love’, ‘lover’ or ‘babber’ by friends and sweet strangers. There’s something so heart-warming about it.
I haven’t seen a city fully embrace creativity and freedom of expression like I have seen it in Bristol. Embraced so much so that, in fact no one bats an eyelid. There are often events happening that I just don’t think would go on in other places, and I’m not sure if this is because there is a much stronger independent offering here which allows more flexibility, or that there are just more creative minds in Bristol possessing quirky ideas (I’m going with the latter).
Whatever it is though, I’m not complaining. I’ve twerked to hip hop in an actual fish and chip shop, I’ve dressed up as a hero of Ancient Geese and ran from pub to pub like a madman with my teammates to complete challenges which included throwing crab sticks down each other’s pants, I’ve danced to Golden Lookin’ Chain at the amphitheatre and the one closest to my heart; I led the Big Bristol Burger Crawl with the help of some very special friends, restaurants and a wonderful group of enthusiastic eaters. I would never have been able to do this in my hometown, for various reasons but mainly because it’s on such a smaller scale. I’ve created hilarious memories and fucking enjoyed every minute whilst doing so. Friends and family often comment to me how jealous they are that I live in a city with so much going on all the time, it never gets boring and there is always something to do.
Power Ballads at the Fleece
The first Friday of every month sees this epic club night at The Fleece and no matter how many times I go it never gets old. It’s a no frills, no-holds barred karaoke session basically, with you and every other reveller on the dance floor. There have been many occasions when I have belted out 4 Non-Blondes and Whitney Houston whilst flaying about and being my own air guitar master; serenading complete strangers who also meant to only go out for ‘one’ after work on a Friday. It’s a bloody laugh innit.
I couldn’t write down the reasons I love Bristol and not mention the burger scene. For anyone who knows me knows how much joy I get from chowing down on a bap and we are truly spoilt for choice with options all over the city. Of course I understand the arguments for having too much of one thing, but I disagree. I believe each establishment offers us something different; there are places to takeaway, to sit in and have cocktails, restaurants that are better for families and venues which aren’t afraid to try something new. It would be pretty boring if they were all the same anyway right?
Through my love of eating, I’ve also managed to forge some lovely friendships with the teams behind the buns, and their enthusiasm for bringing the best to Bristol is wonderful to see. I often get tagged in burger photos on Instagram and on Twitter, and receive messages from friends and strangers asking for recommendations on where to get their next burger fix and this brings me no end of joy. I’ve been able to meet, communicate and discuss all things meaty with a bunch of new faces which I really love. It’s just another reason (aside from them being delicious) that I will always champion the Bristol burger gods and for some people to call me Bristol’s burger queen is beyond a compliment.
Action for Change
There are so many examples of initiatives and events I could shout out for this example of why Bristol is special, so big up to everyone championing to make a difference in any way they can. Not only do individuals recognise problems and the need for change here, but they actually roll up their sleeves and start doing something about it.
The 91 Ways events have proved hugely popular across the city, and the idea behind it is really quite simple; uniting people through the love of food. Bristol has a diverse range of communities that live together and these events are designed to fuse these different cultures and promote a healthier, more sustainable city. It also allows communities or people who may feel isolated or out on a limb to make connections with others and engage in important discussions. It is ideas like this that allow people from all walks of life the chance to come together.
There are also smaller scale (but no less important) projects, such as Incredible Edible Bristol which promotes the use of land (no matter how big or small) to grow food. The team here, made up of volunteers and partners have created over 30 edible gardens in spaces across Bristol and the food grown is free and for anyone to take away and eat. This initiative has also introduced a scheme to get schools involved, so that youngsters can see the importance first hand of being able to grow and eat sustainably.
As in every city there are charities designed to help the less fortunate, so this is not something new in Bristol, however the support and willingness of people to get stuck in and help knows no bounds here. People collecting donations of food and warm clothes to hand out to those sleeping on the streets, unwanted/unused scarfs tied to lampposts so that those who are homeless can take them to keep and fund raising events are just a small selection of ideas I have witnessed whilst living here. Care in the community has never had more of a profound meaning.
So Bristol, I love you, do you mind if I stay?
The Time I Beat Bristol’s Scariest Escape Room
I’m put in many a tricky situation exploring the very ‘Best of Bristol’.
Usually up high, scaling buildings and cranes (#antimitchclimbs), but I didn’t think it would result in being locked in a prison cell with a psycho killer called Pig Face (pictured above). Welcome to Hell in a Cell, ay?
Now for some of you reading, Hell in the Cell will make you think of wrestling but I can promise you this is scarier than when Shane McMahon jumps off the top of that cell.
Hidden beneath the old Crown Courts on Bridewell Street, within the cells, this has been dubbed “Bristol’s scariest attraction”. And so in the interest of research I took on Pig Face, and lived to tell the tale!
I can’t actually give away too much of the game, because this is an escape room and that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?
What I can reveal though, should give you a taste of what to expect.
Like any escape room, Hell in a Cell Bristol sets players challenges that they have to complete. Perhaps the first challenge is not backing out after you’re handcuffed with a sack placed over your head.
It’s then trying not to cack yourself as you’re led into the pitch black cells, where you know you’re not alone, but you can’t quite tell what’s there.
It’s that lovely fucker by the name of Pig Face.
Pig Face is reasonably fair at this point and allows you an hour to make your escape. It’s go time!
Oh, and all your belongings have been taken off you, so you can’t use your phone torch or ask Siri for help.
What I will say is that you bond pretty bastard quickly when you’re scrambling to find light and remove your handcuffs. I was with my good friend Colin Moody, but with three other people I did not know, and we came out of it with an unwavering sense of camaraderie.
That probably explains why this Bristol escape room has proven so popular with corporate clients in the city. Hell, it’s proven pretty popular with all but one reviewer on a popular site that rhymes with whip chastiser. That person claimed it wasn’t very scary. Ooooooo sorry ‘ard.
The game itself was challenging, terrifying and fun (if you like being scared). It will most certainly fill you with adrenaline and leave you in need of a celebratory drink if you do make it out.
This is NOT for the faint hearted. I don’t scare easy, and if you’re like me you won’t feel a sense of fear, but you’ll definitely be made to jump. Nobody is immune to that.
If you do scare easily, go to the bathroom beforehand. Or don’t, these are real holding cells so you could always have a pee in there..
Tag us in your psycho selfies on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you take on Pig Face
Sampling The Lesser Known Ciders From Thatchers
Despite the recent rain, bbq season is upon us, and no camping trip or garden gathering is complete without a few ciders to sweeten the deal.
With honey notes and a golden colour, the medium-dry Thatchers Gold is the flagship cider from one of Somerset’s oldest cider makers – and it’s a great go-to cider on any occasion – but Thatchers Cider have been producing and pressing apples in the Somerset village of Sandford since 1905, and their selection these days is broad.
An introduction to Thatchers Cider and Pasture
To showcase the full range of their cider offerings, the Thatchers Cider team descended on Pasture – the stylish new bar and restaurant near St Mary Redcliffe – last week.
With butcher Sam’s enthusiasm for local produce and Thatchers’ chief cider-maker Richard Johnson on hand, it was the perfect pairing.
Richard introduced us to the Thatchers Cider story – starting over 100 years ago with farmer William Thatcher making cider to help pay his workers, and ending with William’s great grandson Martin (the current managing director) overseeing Thatchers Cider distribution throughout the UK. In between tastings, Pasture’s Sam talked us through the menu selections he’d made to bring out the best in the ciders chosen.
Food and cider pairings
The Thatchers team opened with Katy, a light and softly sparkling cider made from Katy apples, and with it came Pasture’s scallop ceviche with pickled gooseberry and lime – the delicate seafood working beautifully with the light, bubbly cider. There followed five further mini-courses, each paired with a different Thatchers’ cider.
The meaty steak tartare with oyster mayonnaise met its match in Thatchers’ Old Rascal – a peppery 4.5% cider made with Tremlette and Somerset Redstreak apples for a bittersweet flavour. And Pasture’s short rib croquettes with delicate gochujang aioli balanced nicely with the bold and beautiful Thatchers’ Vintage – an oak-matured 7.4% cider with fruity aroma and crisp flavour.
It was a great chance to try lesser-known Thatchers ciders you don’t regularly see in the big supermarkets, and clear to see the thought Sam had put into the food pairings he chose.
If you’d like to give a few of Thatchers’ lesser-known ciders a try, take a look at the full range and buy online here. And for more details on the flame-grilled offerings over at Pasture, check out their website here.
Bristol’s Biggest Food Festival Is Back
Bristol Food Connections 2018 is nearly here, so it’s time to plan your festival!
Bristol Food Connections is one the highlights of Bristol’s food calendar, with a ridiculous amount of events (130 at the last count!) taking place across the city from 11-17th June.
It’s a fairly huge festival, covering everything from growing your own food to huge gala dinners and talks on sustainability. We’ve decided to break down what’s happening and pick out a few of our favourites from this year’s programme.
Booze it up
There are plenty of ways to hit the hard stuff (and find out more about it too)…
- A Journey Through Gin on Brunel’s SS Great Britain (Thu 14th, £22)
A tutored tasting of the full range of Bramley & Gage’s gins (inc. 6 O’Clock Gin) and liquers aboard Bristol’s historic ship.
- Traditional Cider Making, Orchard Tour & Tasting (Sun 17th, £10)
Enjoy a guided tour of this orchard in North Somerset & taste several ciders.
- Whisky and the Senses (Tue 12th, £8)
Find out why whisky tastes the way it does, and why you like some but not others.
- Cider vs Beer (Tue 12th, £25)
Taste your way through a selection of great beers & ciders and find out their similarities and differences!
- Portuguese wine dinner (Sat 16th, £45)
A three-course Portuguese dinner complimented with a paired wine flight.
- A Celebration of Bread & Beer (Fri 15th, Free)
Left Handed Giant and Assembly Bakery join forces for this street food party in Finzels Reach.
- Avery’s Summer of Wine (Sat 16th, £25)
Avery’s annual wine fiesta takes over Colston Hall, with over 100 wines for you to try!
See more of Bristol
With events dotted in every far flung corner of Bristol, now is the time to get out and explore!
- World Food Passport (All week, £8)
Taste your way around the food businesses of Gloucester Road, collecting stamps as you go (or you can also do a guided food tour of Gloucester Road that week too).
- Behind the Scenes of a Gin Distillery (Sat 16th, £25)
Head out to Thornbury for this special tour of 6 O’clock Gin’s distillery to find out more about how their delectable spirit is made (with plenty of tasters along the way, obv).
- Shroomshop (Sun 17th, £30)
Get some hands-on tips about mushroom cultivation at this workshop in St Werbs.
- Thyme Trail (Fri 15th, £15)
Visit various vendors in Wapping Wharf, hearing the stories behind the businesses and getting tasters as you go.
- TimeZone: Eat Your Way Around the World (Sat 16th, £4)
Try a range of international cuisine in Easton, including Jamican, Indonesian and Spanish.
- Eco day at Hartcliffe City Farm (Sun 17th, Free)
Try your hand at pond dipping, searching for bugs and other activities.
It’s not just about filling your face with food, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or hear some interesting perspectives on the food we eat too:
- In Our Hands Screening (Thu 14th, £5, or £12 with a two-course meal)
Head to City Hall to see this thought-provoking documentary about Britain’s food system.
- Transforming the Education System Through Food (Tues 12th, £8)
Can schools transform learning through diet? Head along to this talk to find out.
- Philosophy Breakfast: The Ethics of Global Food Production (Sun 17th, £14)
Is it possible to eat ethically? Join the debate (breakfast included)
- Startup Stories (Tue 12th, £10)
Hear from several Bristol food businesses how they started out, and how to build a successful independent business.
- The Secret Life of Cows (Sun 17th, £8)
How do cows naturally behave, and what issues does this raise around farming?
- Fermentation Collaboration (Thu 14th, £25)
The Pickled Brisket & Bristol Cider Shop explain the process of fermentation, followed by a cider tasting and one of Pickled Brisket’s mega sandwiches.
Some seriously special dinner events from well-known chefs and local producers…
- FUTURE: FEAST (Mon 11th, £25)
Star Trek meets Come Dine With Me in an ‘immersive dining experience’.
- A Summer’s Feast (Fri 15th & Sat 16th, £30)
The next generation of Bristol chefs serve up a seasonal feast.
- It’s a Bristol Ting! (Sun 17th, Free)
Celebrate Bristol’s Jamaican community with rum & jerk chicken at Lakota.
- Chocolate Gala Dinner (Mon 11th, £35)
A special dinner to kick-off festival week, with all 3 courses featuring chocolate.
- Summer Dine & Vine Feast (Thu 14th, £30)
A three-course tasting menu paired with bio-dynamic wines.
- Homegrown Collective Supper Club (Fri 15th, £35)
Three-courses of local, seasonal food accompanied by music.
There are also loads of free talks and demos at the Festival Hub (next to Watershed) throughout the week, so it’s worth stopping by to see what’s on!
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