Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Tag: restaurants

My favourite things

It turns out introductory posts are hard. Do you ease readers in slowly with a bit about the idea behind the blog, which will probably change as we go on? Or do you dive straight into a ‘proper’ post?

Because I don’t like decisions (and hey, isn’t compromising always the best option?) I’ve gone for something in-between. Although I love exploring new places, the truth is that – as with most people – most of my time is spent in my home city, Bristol. (Not a complaint – Bristol is amazing.) The result of this, though, is that most new blogposts will probably be set in and around the area. So I’ve decided to start as I will likely go on, with a post on some of my favourite Bristol places from the first 18 months I’ve lived here. And hopefully it’ll also tell you a bit more about me, too – mainly that I spend quite a lot of my time eating…

Photo by Adam Gasson /
Thali Cafes
The Thali Café in Totterdown was the first restaurant we tried after moving here in 2012*, and we’ve collected many a loyalty card stamp since. Made up of five venues in various Bristol suburbs, this local chain of Indian restaurants serves up some of the best value, tastiest food the city has to offer. The main attraction are their five ‘thalis’ – fresh curries that are full of flavour and also, somehow, seem to feel quite healthy. I can also highly recommend their starters, especially the poppadoms and selection of dips.

They also do takeaways and their Tiffin tins are definitely a worthwhile investment, especially if you live within walking distance of one of the restaurants. The first takeaway will set you back about £20, as you have to buy the Tiffin tupperware. But after that each refill is £8.95 – £10.50 (depending on the thali you choose), and that includes rice and two vegetable side dishes – all of which is more than enough for two people. Perfect!

*Restaurants tried during visits as ‘tourists’ not included!

birdcage bristol bites 2
Anywhere that combines tea, Chesterfield sofas and mismatched crockery, and vintage clothes is always A Good Thing in my book. It’s not just good looking – the drinks are good quality, too: they offer a good selection of loose leaf teas (my personal favourite being the Russian Caravan, whose unusual smokey flavour really does remind you of the smell of bonfires) and my friend and I agree that their hot chocolate is some of the best in Bristol. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but apparently those are pretty tasty too. Music lovers should check out some of the bands that play there, most of which are free entry. Birdcage isn’t just an ideal place to stop off mid-shopping trip though; open until 10 or 11pm (except Sundays), it offers a more relaxed late-night alternative than many of the nearby bars.

Watershed Bristol 247
Located on the harbourside (I guess the name is a giveaway!), Watershed is an arts venue, probably most well-known for its great restaurant/bar and its cinema. The latter shows a mixture of your more ‘highbrow’ ‘big’ new releases (for example Long Walk To Freedom is currently playing, as is Gravity 3D, and we saw Alpha Papa here last summer) and the smaller films that you might not find playing at the bigger chain cinemas. The bar is a great place to relax with a pint before the showing, and the cinemas themselves are lovely and comfy. If that hasn’t convinced you, tickets tend to be cheaper than the nearby chain cinemas. They also do a lot for the arts, both in Bristol and elsewhere – so lots of reasons to support them.

arnos-vale_1743956c Telegraph
Arnos Vale Cemetery 
With some notable exceptions (Highgate in London, Père Lachaise in Paris, etc), cemeteries aren’t usually very high up on the ‘visit for leisure’ list.  But Arnos Vale has something special about it; it fast became one of our favourite spots, an ideal escape for when we feel like we want to get away from the hustle of being in a city without actually leaving its confines. We mainly visit for the walking routes, some of which go through woodland and others on paved paths for when you want to avoid the mud! If you want to learn more about the history of the site, there’s a small area dedicated to the old furnace and crematorium. Oh, and there’s also a great on-site café, ideal for post-walk lunch or cake (are you sensing a theme?!).

St Nicholas Market a place to shop and snack.

St Nicholas Market
Forget Cabot Circus – if you want all your shopping under one roof then head to St Nicholas Market. Whether you’re looking for hot sauce or vinyls, second hand books piled to the ceiling or South African food supplies, you’ll find it in the maze of shops and stalls that make up the Arcades, Exchange and Covered Market. It’s also the best place to grab lunch in the city; Grillstock and Pieminister both have stalls in the Glass Arcade, where you’ll also find stands selling Caribbean food, falafel, sausages, Moroccan and much more. On Saturdays there’s also an outdoor market on Corn Street.

tobacco factory bristol post
Tobacco Factory Theatre
I’m not usually one for signing up to mailing lists, but it’s worth making an exception for the Tobacco Factory’s. They play host to diverse shows aimed at a wide range of people, but particularly seem to specialise in Shakespeare/classical theatre, comedy and family-orientated productions. Being relatively small (with the even smaller Brewery Theatre accross the road), it’s also an intimate but friendly-feeling venue that I just really enjoy visiting. Although their full price tickets aren’t expensive (generally around £12-£15 for full price, though shows such as Shakespeare can creep up to around £20 at weekends), it’s still worth looking out for their £6 ‘opening night’ ticket deals – ideal for when you’re interested in giving something a bit different a try (it was thanks to this that we discovered the brilliant Molly Naylor, for example – because for £12 for a date night, you can’t say no. Thanks Tobacco Factory!).

But there’s lot more to the Tobacco Factory than the theatre, including a Thali Café, bar and Sunday Market, all of which are worth a visit in their own right.

I’ve realised writing this that there’s lots more places that could count as ‘favourites’ of mine, so I could see this becoming a bit of a regular feature. So I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Image Credits (in order of appearance)
Adam Gasson; Emily Knight (Bristol Bites) (x2); Bristol 247; The Telegraph; Geoff Paine (Canal Scene); Bristol Post

All photos should link to original source or photographer’s website


Food Friday: Lisbon eats

Interior of the Casa do Alentejo. Credit for both photos: Retrorocketrick on Flickr
Casa do Alentejo dining room. Photo credit: Heather on her Travels

Casa do Alentejo
Rua Portas Santa Antao, Rossio
Although situated in one of the more touristy areas of town, this traditional Portuguese restaurant is not an immediately easy find. Not only is the building relatively unassuming from the outside – you certainly wouldn’t guess quite what was inside – but the ground floor is home to exhibition space showcasing Alentejan culture. The restaurant itself is situated upstairs, through a room filled with scattered furniture.

This may sound like a lot of hassle to go to for some food, but this restaurant is worth it if only for the gorgeous interior. Formerly the Palacio Alverdo, the building originally dates from the 17th century though did undergo significant work in 1918. It was renamed the Caso do Alentejo in the 1930s, when it became the secret place of Alentejans now living in Lisbon. Today it remains filled with the bright tiles that sum up the look of Lisbon, and even a stunning indoor courtyard. The restaurant itself features a murals created using these tiles and floors and furniture made of stately dark oak.

Yet despite its exuberant appearance, the feel of the restaurant itself is actually quite relaxed – there’s no need to dress up like you’re going for a royal dinner. Moreover the staff are friendly, chatter from fellow diners fills the dining hall creating a lively atmosphere, and the menu is reasonably priced. Although most patrons looked like tourists, we spotted some customers who could well have been locals too. The food itself isn’t outstanding, it was still tasty and a great example of traditional regional cuisine: coupled with the incredible setting, it made for an unforgettable dining experience.

Interior of the Cantinho da Paz. Photo Credit: Lisbon Restaurants

Cantinho da Paz
Rua da Paz 4, Santa Catarina
Tucked away in the Santa Catarina area, this family-run Goan restaurant is another one worth putting in the effort to find (and the risk of pushing open the door even if it looks closed!). It was small and friendly, and more importantly, we tasted some of the best curries we’d ever had: really rich and full of flavour. At around €15 for some of the mains, it’s not the cheapest eat in Lisbon but it was by far and away the best we experienced in terms of the food.

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz. Photo Credit: Virtual Tourist

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz
Calcada do Combro, 28, Bairro Alto
On the outskirts of the Bairro Alto, this bustling restaurant may look plain in décor, but its traditional Portuguese food is anything but. With young Lisboetas seemingly outnumbering tourists quite dramatically, this is a great place to sample ‘real’ Portuguese food – worth a visit despite the sometimes brusk service (probably because of quite how busy it is). I recommend taking a guidebook to attempt to translate the Portuguese menu, as I’m pretty sure we spotted some dishes that weren’t on the English menu we used – though I might be completely wrong!

The incredible Pasteis de Nata. Photo credit: Imaginacao Ativa
Exterior of Pasteis de Belem (my photo, for a change!)

Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belém, 92, Belem
No visit to Lisbon is complete without a visit to this famous pastry shop. Sure you can buy Pasteis de Nata (custard tarts) at most cafes in Lisbon, but these ones really are the best – and worth the queues. Sprinkle on cinnamon from the packets provided, eat warm and savour.