Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Bristol
Hardens guides have spent 32 years compiling reviews of the best Bristol restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 75 restaurants in Bristol and our unique survey based approach to rating and reviewing Bristol restaurants gives you the best insight into the top restaurants in every area and of every type of cuisine.
Featured Bristol Restaurants
1. Clifton Sausage British, Modern restaurant in Bristol 7 Portland St - BS8
“As good a range of sausages as you could ask for, and the ones we had were very good!” – it does what it says on the tin at this descriptively named café; “cheerful service and a nice atmosphere” too.
2. The Olive Tree, Queensberry Hotel British, Modern restaurant in Bath Russell St - BA1
“Chris Cleghorn produces high-quality fare with a range of tasting menus” at this long-established and well-renowned venture (currently Bath’s only Michelin-starred establishment), in the cellar of a comfortable independently run hotel. This year’s average food scores were particularly high. There are still quibbles raised by some about the “slightly sterile basement dining room” and that a visit is “not cheap”. Such concerns were mostly drowned out this year, though, by the majority who pronounce it “virtually perfect in every respect: a Treat with a capital ‘T’!”
3. BANK International restaurant in Bristol 107 Wells Road - BS4
BANKis an independent neighbourhood restaurant nestled in the heart of South Bristol. Cooked over live fire and designed for sharing, our menu is perfect for a light lunch or a leisurely feast shared among friends and family....
4. 1766 Bar & Kitchen British, Modern restaurant in Bristol King Street - BS1
2021 Review: “Better food than expected” is to be discovered in this striking, light-filled (perhaps “noisy”) space – part of the recent £25m renovation of the UK’s oldest theatre, dating back to, er, see if you can guess. Open all day until an hour after the last evening performance, it aims to be a community hub, serving a menu devised by head chef Coco Barone (ex-Glassboat and Rosemarino). There are also pre-theatre deals, obvs.
5. Pasta Ripiena Italian restaurant in Bristol 33 Saint Stephen's Street - BS1
2021 Review: It’s not fancy (wood banquettes and orange school chairs), but this small new Redcliffe Italian turns out “wonderful” fresh stuffed pasta – a USP in this country – that’s full of “interesting seasonal flavours”. The owners, behind Pasta Loco, are fast building a local empire, having opened a deli/café, La Sorella, two doors down from the premises in May 2019, followed by trattoria Bianchi in the old Bell’s Diner (RIP).
6. Marmo Italian restaurant in Bristol 31 Baldwin Street - BS1
“Beautifully cooked, simple yet imaginative dishes” have helped raise the profile of former St John and Brawn chef Cosmo Sterck and his wife Lily’s first venture, and brought critics panting to the door, with Tim Hayward of the FT and Tom Parker Bowles of the Mail leading the charge. Top Tip – the weekday lunch menu is steal at £19 for 2 courses, £23 for 3 as we went to press.
7. San Carlo Italian restaurant in Bristol 44 Corn Street - BS1
“You can always be sure of a good cheery welcome at this upmarket Italian” which is a longstanding stalwart both of the city and also of Carlo Distefano’s smart national chain. “Perhaps it’s slightly overpriced”, but “the fish is always good as is the pasta” and service is “very efficient and well-trained”.
8. riverstation British, Modern restaurant in Bristol The Grove - BS1
2022 Review: In the unusual and attractive setting of a former river-police station, “this long-established dockside restaurant still continues to offer value and quality, despite the change in ownership a few years ago (to Youngs)”, although nowadays in a much less foodie vein than in its heyday over 20 years ago. As of a 2018 refit, diners can opt for the Pontoon Bar, a popular brunch/lunch haunt, while upstairs “pre-theatre meals are also popular”.
9. Harbour House British, Modern restaurant in Bristol The Grove, Harbourside - BS1
2022 Review: This August 2020 newcomer in the docks replaces the long-standing Servernshed brasserie and aims for the style of a ‘relaxed lounge and pub’ while serving a menu of staples. No reports as yet, but – with the splendid waterside location and outside terrace of its predecessor – it sounds like a similar package for a relaxed bite.
10. Adelina Yard British, Modern restaurant in Bristol Queen Quay, Welsh Back - BS1
“A small restaurant serving glorious tasting menus” from chefs Jamie Randall and Olivia Barry, who set up shop in Bristol in this “pretty simple” venue near the Docks eight years ago after stints in some of London’s top kitchens (Galvin Brothers, Angela Hartnett). They work hard to keep things interesting, and a number of reports note the “top-notch wine flights”.
11. Gambas Spanish restaurant in Bristol Unit 15 Cargo 2, Wapping Wharf - BS1
“Sister restaurant to Bravas, with similar inventiveness” – “you get brilliant tapas, in a noisy, converted shipping container in the dock area” at Kieran & Imogen Waite’s “very buzzy” operation. Fans feel it’s “perhaps not quite cheap and cheerful, but incredible value, with excellent seafood options”. “The shipping container environment is not a constraint and its first floor location gives good views over harbour” (and is “great outside on a warm day”).
12. Box-E British, Modern restaurant in Bristol Unit 10, Cargo 1, Wapping Wharf - BS1
“Tiny restaurant but amazing food!”. Elliott Lidstone (ex-Ortolan and Hackney’s The Empress head chef) and his wife Tess opened their 14-seater spot “in two shipping containers at Bristol harbour’s Cargo development” in 2016, and it has become one of the city’s gastronomic highlights, earning national fame. Their 45-bin seasonal wine list is also a winner (with bottles available on a retail basis).
13. Root Vegetarian restaurant in Bristol Wapping Wharf - BS1
“The inventive food is amazing” at this dockside container venue, which flips the usual omnivore convention and casts vegetables as the stars of the show, with meat or fish in supporting roles. Part of Josh Eggleston’s Eat Drink Bristol Fashion operation, the venue is run by chef Rob Howell and his partner Megan Oakley (both ex-Pony & Trap). Reporters say they’re “made to feel welcome – nothing is too much trouble”.
14. Casa British, Modern restaurant in Bristol The General, Lower Guinea St - BS1
2022 Review: Chef Zak Hitchman has taken over the culinary reins from founder Peter Sanchez-Iglesias at Bristol’s brightest foodie star. And his ‘Casamia 2.0’ – the new, August 2020 iteration of this famous property (sometimes cited, including by us, as the UK’s best) – receives a mixed reception from reporters. Covers are down from 32 to 18, street art and bespoke projections enliven the walls and there’s a new sound system – making it “a joyous temple to food and inventiveness, with a fun club-like atmosphere” to those who vibe with its funky new guise. The quality of the cuisine is not in doubt. “The menu is brevity itself, giving no clue as to the clever interaction of the main listed ingredient and its supporting cast. And what is so impressive is not just the combinations of ingredients, producing visually attractive and novel taste experiences, but also the way dishes that have had similar predecessors are brought up to new, even more striking levels by the clever intensification of various elements.” But even some big fans note that “it’s a fine line between religion and cult, and the slightly messianic service perhaps comes down on the wrong side”. In some cases, the approach seems to verge on the confrontational (“we were told not to return if we do not like the music blasting away…”; “they did not allow for our dietary concerns, and if we couldn’t eat a course told us to skip it – a draconian and arrogant disregard for hospitality”). And then there’s the pricing which seems “hiked” and ever-more “greedy”. Even one or two rating the food “outstanding” say that as a result they “won’t be going back”. “Pity, because the food is just so enjoyably inventive and the atmosphere so unlike any of the other food temples in the UK.”
15. The Mint Room Indian restaurant in Bristol 12-16 Clifton Rd - BS8
The “well-cooked and interesting” “Moghul-style cuisine” at this slick Clifton outfit (and its Bath spin-off) is “a big change from usual Indian restaurants”, with “incredible spice balances”. Top Tip – “the monkfish starter is tops!”
16. Paco Tapas Spanish restaurant in Bristol Lower Guinea St - BS1
Newly expanded and now sole occupant of the Sanchez Group’s harbourside HQ following last year’s surprise closure of the all-conquering Casamia, this “lively” and “enjoyable” tapas bar (named after patron Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’s father) is “well worth a visit”. Nobody doubts the quality of the “great tapas” and accompanying Spanish wines and sherries, but there are persistent grumbles about the “expense” and the “extremely loud music” that can make conversation difficult for some.
17. Pasture Steaks & grills restaurant in Bristol 2 Portwall Lane - BS1
2022 Review: This “wonderful steakhouse (which also does an exceptional Sunday lunch)” was opened by former Jamie Oliver chef-director Sam Elliott three years ago in a spruced-up Victorian warehouse, opposite St Mary Redcliffe church, and serves impressive cuts of West Country beef displayed in chiller cabinets, alongside vegetables and fruit from is own farm. It’s already made a big impact on the local dining scene, and has spawned a spinoff in Cardiff.
18. Lido Mediterranean restaurant in Bristol Oakfield Place - BS8
“A hidden gem” “in the heart of Bristol's university quarter” – this “balcony restaurant overlooks a secluded mid-Victorian lido”, now restored and once again full of swimmers. It’s a “well-designed, light-filled space with large windows”, and a “menu that offers imaginative combinations, including vegetarian options”. There was also the odd critical report this year, saying that standards had “deteriorated” of late, but even that said “the tapas served downstairs are still OK” (in the separate café area).
19. Sonny Stores British, Modern restaurant in Bristol 47 Raleigh Road - BS3
“This is how you treat great produce with care and respect and create beautiful things!” – so say fans of Mary Glynn and Pegs Quinn’s Italian-influenced two-year-old in Southville, whose “excellent” cuisine is informed by Pegs’s 18-year stint at the Hammersmith’s famous River Café. “Service is good and the place is lively and noisy (but some softening of the acoustics might help)”.
20. Bar 44 Spanish restaurant in Bristol 18 - 20 Regent Street - BS8
2021 Review: “Proper jamon, a good selection of small plates, and an excellent Spanish wine list with a wide range of good sherries” – “a great drinks list with something for everyone” – help inspire positive reviews on this Hispanic yearling – “a great new addition to Bristol” and the first English branch of a small minichain originating near Cardiff.
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