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How to eat and drink like a real University of Bristol student

Emily Brewster takes you on a whistle-stop tour of Bristol's eclectic food and drink scene.

By Emily Brewster, Third year History

As you enter Bristol’s pearly city gates as a newly enrolled student, you’ll swiftly come to the realisation that this city loves to eat and drink. Its earthy, trendy reputation and vibrant multiculturalism has attracted culinary genius from across the globe to fill Bristol’s streets with pubs, cafés and eateries of every description.  

Just as your archetypal Bristol student has a distinctive ‘look’, they also have tried-and-tested favourites for wining and dining. Be it chic spots to take visiting family and friends (their treat, of course), the most ‘Bristol’ coffee stops, budget-friendly pubs for the night before or healing bites for the morning after, this guide is your bread-and-butter to enjoying the very best that Bristol has to offer.

The best lunch spots for drop off day (when a parent is paying) :

Muiño (Cotham Hill). Just down the street from Bravas - Cotham Hill’s original tapas joint - its slightly younger neighbour offers fierce competition with scrumptious Spanish and Moorish inspired tapas. With stunning sharing plates and a semi-open kitchen, this small-cover restaurant promises a fantastic dining experience.

The Alma Tavern (Clifton). If fortune has it that you arrive in Bristol on a Sunday, you’ll be lucky enough to grab a roast before the dreaded unpacking begins. My pick? The Alma Tavern, tucked away in Clifton. Of all the pub roasts I’ve enjoyed in the city, this one takes the prize. In addition to superb quality and portion sizes (order the beef and thank me later), students are entitled to claim a free bloody mary – just be confident you’ll enjoy it or risk being charged for waste!

Pasta Ripiena (City Centre). If you’re after great pasta, this is the spot. Pasta Ripiena, part of Bristol’s popular Bianchis Group, specialises in stuffed pastas filled with wonderful flavours. Created from scratch in-house, their frequently changing menu and attractive weekday lunch deal (two excellent courses for £22) make it hard to resist.

FED (Redland). Signposted inconspicuously as an old-fashioned newsagent, this trendy haunt is located just off Cotham Hill. Selling sweet and savoury bites, scrumptious salad boxes and plenty of vegan and dietary-friendly treats (this is Bristol after all), FED is a firm student favourite for a high-quality coffee or lunch with friends.

Bakesmiths (Whiteladies Road). A 10-minute walk from campus, Bakesmiths is prime for students wanting to romanticise their study sessions: a spacious, light café with huge selections of baked-in-house cakes and pastries. Bring your laptop along to work and feel (for however fleetingly) like you’ve got your life together.

Primrose Café (Clifton Village). Located in one of Bristol’s most picturesque neighbourhoods, Primrose Café is loved by locals and students alike. Whether tucked inside the cosy bistro or people watching from a table outside, it is a lovely place to go with friends for a refreshment while exploring the city.

Unsplash / Paul Underwood

Pubs and bars with great vibes and even greater prices:

The White Bear (St. Michael’s Hill). Quite possibly in every Bristol student’s top three, the White Bear never fails to host a big night. Located near the ASS (Arts and Social Sciences Library), the pub is particularly popular amongst second and third years. Ideal for pit stops during deadline season, the pub’s cool shabbiness is appealing enough without mentioning the prices. Nevertheless, when you find a pint of cider or lager for £2.90 (even if it is Carling) and a double mixer for £4 in 2023, you know you’ve struck gold.

Steam (Clifton). Conveniently located opposite the U1 bus stop, there’s no excuse not to pop into this watering-hole for a couple (or more – who’s counting?). Steam’s enormous outside seating area is perfect for happy hour, offering £3.50 pints of Amstel or Thatchers and £5 double mixers before 7pm.

Vittoria (Whiteladies Road). This edgy dive bar is my go-to for a well deserved and affordable treat. The elegant interior is aptly matched by its cocktails; these aren’t your basic Cosmos. For only a fiver during their 6-hour happy hour, you can get enjoy some seriously well-made aperitifs including ‘Hollywood’s Handshake’, a must for amaretto lovers.

Bristol’s hottest hangover hubs:

Rubicon Too (Cotham Hill). You’ll find Rubicon populated with more peaky students than any lecture hall on a Thursday morning. Serving cracking brunch classics alongside paninis and salads at affordable rates with outdoor seating for much-needed fresh air, you can while hours away here recalling the night before. Don’t shy away from ordering the holy trinity of coffee, juice and icy water - you deserve it. Adjacent to a beautiful greengrocer, grab yourself some fresh fruit to continue the recovery at home.

The Bristolian (Montpelier). Comfort is the be all and end all of this brunch champion. Arrive expecting cosy seating (inside and outdoors) and traditional breakfast plates that’ll get your mouth watering. If it’s a good fry up you’re after, ‘The Bristolian’ full English (also available for veggies and vegans) will satisfy every craving.

Eat a Pitta (the Triangle). Alternatively, if your hangover strategy is healthy nourishment, look no further. Nothing short of a Bristol institution, your soul will feel cleansed the second you step inside. Customise your own pitta or salad box or copy my order to cut costs a little – three freshly made falafel, smeared with masses of hummus, with two salads of your choice for just over a fiver.

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Though one could easily fill shelves reviewing Bristol’s eclectic food and drink scene, you have got to start somewhere, and this guide will help you do just that. So, the highest welcome to this brilliant university and city! Be sure to use these valuable years to eat and drink yourself silly, in true Bristol fashion.

Featured image: Unsplash / Joshua Rodriguez

What's your favourite food or drink spot in Bristol?