Thousands of people have fled London for buzzy, creative Bristol in recent years. Among them: top chefs, bakers, brewers and baristas. ‘There’s a thriving community of young food entrepreneurs, many refugees from the viciously profit-driven London restaurant scene,’ says Xanthe Clay, chef, food writer and Bristolian. ‘They are taking advantage of lower rents and rates to cook what they want to cook – not what some venture capital backer demands.’
Those to watch include Jamie Randall and Olivia Barry – the chef team behind Adelina Yard, near Queen Square in the city centre – who bring experience working with the likes of Angela Hartnett. There’s also James Wilkins, an ex-pupil of Gordon Ramsay, who set up Wilks, which took Bristol by storm before sadly closing (keep an eye out for whatever he does next).
The city’s dining scene was always excellent, benefitting from a young, food-focused population and bountiful natural surroundings. But now it is truly booming. Two Bristol restaurants currently hold a Michelin star (Paco Tapas and Bulrush). Two more (Wilsons and The Ethicurean) hold the recently introduced Michelin green star, which commends chefs going above and beyond on sustainability.
And while Birmingham might have just pipped Bristol last year to be the most star-spangled English city after London, Bristol has more restaurants listed by the Michelin Guide (17 in total). Per capita, the city punches far above its weight – and at just over an hour and a half from London by train, it’s an ideal hop for foodies after a weekend getaway. Follow our guide to the four restaurants to book.
The vaulted black walls and low lighting inside Paco Tapas in Redcliffe make you feel as though you’re dining in a private wine cellar. The atmosphere is buzzy – like the best Basque bar de tapas – but at the same time intimate, from the way the chefs lovingly craft a coherent arrangement out of your whimsical choice of plates, to the waiter’s diligent attention to detail when selecting you a wine (for our table, a fruity, oaky Garnacha was a superb choice).