Think you know Bristol's food scene? Think again... Josh Francis reviews The Bristol Food Tour for Epigram - with mouthwatering results...
With more gastronomic haunts than you could shake a chopstick at, the foodie terrain of Bristol is diverse and ever evolving. There’s no doubt there. And yet, this also poses somewhat of a dilemma for even the most earnest of diners: just how to squeeze in trips to all those restaurants, cafés, and everything else in between. Luckily, the visionaries behind The Bristol Food Tour (tBFT) have the perfect solution.
Created by fellow-foodies Alice & Jo, tBFT run regular weekend excursions linking together numerous gastro stopovers, with the eating-walking balance (happily) swung firmly towards the former. Their original tour, currently running weekly, encompasses the array of eateries in Stokes Croft and the City Centre; it was the monthly ‘South of the River’ trip, however, that I eagerly booked on to, having shamefully overlooked the delights of Southville and Bedminster thus far.
Our quest begins at Bertha’s Pizza of Wapping Wharf, where the intrepid crew of eight guests and Anika – our guide for the day – assemble, hungry for the inaugural tasting. The tBFT folks stick to this size as many venues would be swallowed up by any larger party, but also because it elevates the camaraderie of each tour. Before the sourdough pizzas are crafted and slid into the wood-fired oven, we’re already chattering away, fuelled by a common-calling of food and all its attendant joys.
Epigram / Josh Francis
Talk soon turns to the exquisiteness of Bertha’s creations. We try two of the ‘white’ options: The Woods, with generous handfuls of mushrooms scattered over onion chutney, and Zucca, with an utterly delectable slathering of butternut squash purée, spiced up by dices of N’duja. A couple of dreamy slices down, lots more still to come.
Next port of call is The Bristol Cheesemonger, a tiny, temperature-regulated nook of Cargo 2 stocking a range of locally-sourced fromages, of which we sample a trio. As with each of the businesses we visit, Anika provides a passionate overview of their history, ethos and crafts, satisfying our hunger for local knowledge as well as for tasty produce.
Epigram / Josh Francis
It’s less than a stone’s throw to Gopal’s Curry Shack, a hubbub of Indian street food that started life as a pop-up, before being crowdfunded into a Wapping Wharf residency. And it’s worth every penny: the aloo tikka chaat is a mesmeric melange of flavours and textures to the last forkful, and one of the day’s standout dishes amongst our discerning band of foodies.
Spices still clinging to the palette, we venture over the Gaol Ferry Bridge, now (well and truly) south of the river. With the next eatery still several minutes away on this no-holds-barred tour, that could only mean one thing – a cake break. Luckily, Anika has dutifully conveyed a box of sweet bakes, courtesy of Chandos Road’s Pearly King; gathered on a street corner, we soon hoover up the moist, delicately decorated squares.
But more feasts shimmer on the horizon. Our penultimate sit-down stop is Marks Bread, a community-facing café-bakery that freights produce to carefully chosen eateries…via bikes. We’re treated to an array of breads, cheeses and chutneys – an artisan ploughman’s dream. Beginning to feel rather well-fed, we stroll east to the Soukitchen, transported instantly from the farmer's table to a mezze extravaganza, where we indulge in everything from tabbouleh salad to possibly the most incredible cauliflower dish ever created (trust me).
Our culinary mission reaches a triumphant crescendo at Zara’s Chocolates, where I select two suitably boozy truffles – a margarita and an espresso martini – to pack a punchy end to the tour. And what a journey it was. You’re left feeling full – not the ‘You could pop me with a pin’ kinda full, but a deeply satisfying fullness that can only result from munching your way through some of Bristol’s finest gastronomic delights.
With tBFT, though, such delights are inexorably improved by sharing the experience – chatting, laughing and ambling – with fellow eating-enthusiasts and a guide visibly passionate about all-things food. Further, it’s an insight into local communities you may not normally engage in; a chilled-out way to explore new phenomena you may otherwise miss. As a way of navigating Bristol’s ever-changing foodie landscape, and enjoying a truly uplifting afternoon to boot, look no further than tBFT – just be sure to save room after breakfast.
Visit www.thebristolfoodtour.com to find out more and book a tour for yourself
Featured image credit: Epigram / Josh Francis