When I visited my west country cousins during the holidays in the 1980s, Bristol seemed to be the epicentre of holistic, ethical living - you couldn’t move for health food shops, CND stickers and vegetarian sandals. In the ensuing years, numerous regeneration projects have transformed the city into a sophisticated cultural hotspot. Voted 2017’s ‘Best place to Live in the UK’ by The Times, on the surface it’s a world away from it’s old hippyish image, but does that mean the city has lost its ethical credentials? Having just spent the weekend there, I’m pleased to say that my worries were unfounded.
If you’re looking for somewhere to eat on a first date, I could think of no other place than 1847. Sophisticated, but relaxed, 1847’s stripped-back aesthetic lets its beautifully presented modern vegan and vegetarian European dishes take centre stage. Dishes of particular note include grilled polenta, red pepper cream, heritage tomatoes and cashew “parmesan”, which is a perfect starter, courgette ribbons, borlotti beans, mixed leaf, lemon & mint dressing and toasted quinoa, and saffron & white bean barley risotto, sundried tomatoes, tender stem broccoli and gremolata for the main course. 1847 is also surprisingly well-priced, so you can impress your new love interest, without maxing out your credit card. The restaurant also has branches in Birmingham and Manchester.
Best for: Great for informal dates or to visit with friends.
Address: 25 St Stephens Street, Bristol, BS1 1JX
Vx is a favourite London haunt of mine, so I was thrilled to find a branch has opened in Bristol. Founded by Amandine Tcou and Rudy Peando (founder of Hackney’s famous Pogo Café and the mastermind behind the Secret Society of Vegans clothing line), Vx serves up the most delicious and (seemingly) sinful junk food, including breakfast baps, kebabs, burgers and homemade vegan ice cream. Who said having ethics mean you can’t splurge once in a while (or in my case, quite a bit)?
Best for: An hearty and informal bite to eat.
Address: 123 East Street, Bristol BS3 4ER
Fi Real serves up a delicious selection of vegan and vegetarian Caribbean foods, such as the mouthwatering vegeballs in tomato sauce, plus comforting vegan cakes and smoothies. It’s a family-run business, which adds to its feeling of warmth – but if you’re still feeling a bit chilly, their homemade Kickin’ Ginger drink will definitely heat you up!
Best for: Vegan lovers of Caribbean food, and a great meal on a budget.
Address: 57 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0BZ
Ethica Food Editor, Danica Wyber-Thomas Recommends
The Assembly Bakery at Wapping Wharf
Wapping Wharf is the newest regeneration project in Bristol and is located on Spike Island just along from the SS Great Britain. There is a great selection of cafes, shops and restaurants situated in a series of repurposed shipping containers all along the waterfront. We visited The Assembly Bakery first for a cup of coffee and something sweet. The coffee was great and they had two vegan cakes on offer; a German style breakfast cake with apple, blackberries & thyme and a seeded beetroot cake with coconut frosting. Both were delicious, moist and satisfying. They will be launching a vegan pumpkin brownie this coming week as well as some other seasonal sweet treats and aim to have two to three vegan options on a daily basis. If you are looking for a little pick me up this is a great place to stop.
Best for: Coffee and cake with friends
Address: Cargo, Wapping Wharf, near the parking lot and opposite M Shed, Bristol BS1 6WP
Our second stop on our Wapping Wharf sojourn was Root, again located in a mini shipping container complex this place is stripped down and stylish. Their menu is made up of a selection of small plates in a tapas style which works really well if you like sharing your food. Although Root is an omnivorous establishment it caters heavily to vegans and some of the dishes really were surprising and delightful, of special note is the vegan version of the cauliflower and cashew nut dish as well as the beetroot with roasted hazelnuts. The food came out quite slowly but that wasn’t a problem as the views were stunning and we were enjoying soaking in the early afternoon sun and atmosphere.
Best for: Long lunches with friends and family as there is something for everyone
Address: Cargo, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf Bristol BS1 6WP
See (and eat some more)
Head to the Arnolfini. where you can get your fill of contemporary art, as well as a delicious vegan breakfast in their café. If you go later in the day, and want something a little stronger, you can head to the Arnolfini bar, where the Bristol Beer Factory will serve you a range of locally produced vegan beers.
Best for: Breakfast, followed by an art exhibition, and later a drink to wind down from all that wonderful culture.
Address: 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA
Current show: Grayson Perry: the Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! runs until Sunday 24th December 2017. Entry is free.
If you’re passing by one of the many food markets that have popped up in recent years, then look out for Nature's Pantry: it sells an amazing selection of homemade nut butters and incredible vegan fudge. Yes, that’s right, VEGAN FUDGE, in loads of different flavours! I was in hog heaven.
Best for: VEGAN FUDGE!
Address: 33 Weston Road, Long Ashton, BS41 9AA
All that walking wearing your converse out? Well, schlep down to Collection & Co for vegan shoes with no hint of a hippy sandal. All beautifully designed, Collection & Co use a variety of recycled materials (and non-animal glues) to create gorgeous, up-to-the-minute footwear, from classic brogues with a modern twist, to sophisticated and fun high-heels that would easily take you from work to a night out.
Best for: Vegan and ethical footwear.
Address: BG29 Broadmead Gallery, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3XB