Literary City Guide | Bristol, ENGLAND


The most beautiful, interesting and distinguished city in England.
— John Betjeman, former Poet Laureate

Tour Guide: Emilia Morano-Williams

Emilia is a food writer and coffee addict who fell in love with cappuccinos as a student in Bristol. Although she currently lives in New York, she’s a hopeless anglophile and perpetually planning a return to the UK—though she makes time for blogging and writing for WORD of MOUTH.

Q&A

Relationship to Bristol: I lived in Bristol for three years while studying at the University of Bristol.

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Bill Bryson! I bet he’d tell some hysterical stories.

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Massimo Bottura (because it’s probably the only chance I’ll get to try his cooking).

Writing soundtrack: P6 Beat on Radio Denmark

Pen or Pencil: Pen!

Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the morning, peppermint tea in the afternoon.

Paperback or Hardback? Paperback


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

Foyles. This is the only location of the famed London bookstore outside of the capital and is a perfect escape from a day of shopping in the mammoth Cabot Circus. In addition to well-stocked shelves, the book store runs plenty of readings and events.

Stanfords. If you’re planning a trip, or just suffering from wanderlust, head to Stanfords. The bookstore focuses on travel titles, ranging from tour books to travel memoirs—check out the impressive map collection in the basement.

Papersmiths. From stationary to magazines, Papersmiths celebrates all things printed on paper. Their emphasis is on local publications and it’s easy to lose hours flipping the pages of Another Escape or Lagom in the airy shop.

LIBRARIES

Clifton Library. Duck in this small library after a morning of strolling around well-heeled Clifton Village. The selection is limited, but it serves its community well. Kids stop by to take out book and local students use it as an alternative study spot.

Bristol Central Library. With wooden study carrels and vaulted ceilings, Bristol City Library feels a bit like living out your boarding school fantasies. The building was built in 1906 and still retains many of its original features.

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Watershed. Bristol’s ground zero for cultural events, Watershed hosts a range of inspiring talks, lectures and films. There’s also a café with gorgeous views of the harbor.

Bristol University. Central Bristol swarms with university students. Fortunately for the locals, this means they have access to top-notch cultural programs. The university regularly hosts lectures in the Wills Memorial Building at the top of Park Street. There’s also frequent lunchtime concerts in the nearby Victoria Rooms.

OTHER FINDS

The Coronation Tap. Just steps from the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, this intimate pub is famous for their double strong cider. It’s served in half-pints and tastes like apple juice with a kick.

Arnolfini. Directly across from the Watershed, the Arnolfini gallery hosts a range of cultural events and discussions, usually in relation to their current contemporary art exhibition.

 

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

Boston Tea Party Park Street. Boston Tea Party boasts several locations throughout Bristol, but the original Park Street location best captures the atmosphere that turned BTP into a local institution. Students study over cappuccinos, office workers swing by for sandwiches to takeaway, and families connect over weekend brunch. All the food is delicious, but the flapjacks are legendary.

Friska. You might not expect a café in a record store to offer a top-notch brunch and delicious coffee, but Friska surprises. Order by the records, wait by the music books and enjoy your cortado and salmon eggs on the stage.

Small Street Espresso. One of the first cafes to start Bristol’s coffee renaissance a few years back, this wood-paneled shop makes for a cozy escape on rainy afternoons. Grab an ultra-creamy cappuccino, a custard-y pastel de nata and curl up in the window with a book about coffee from their mini-library.

At the Well. Bristol’s entrant in the laundromat café trend succeeds in being a place that’s just as welcoming for weekend brunch and French press coffee as it is for doing laundry. The bright space is in edgy Stokes Croft, a Bristol destination in and of itself.

A PROPER MEAL

Cowshed. Head to Cowshed for expertly cooked steaks and fresh takes on British cuisine in a casual upscale setting. During the summer, they set up a stall out front at the weekend and sell hamburgers grilled to order.

River Cottage Canteen. Halfway up Whiteladies Road Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bristol edition of River Cottage serves up classic British dishes with a fresh twist. Everything is organic and preferably local—they even choose to serve freshly pressed rapeseed oil over the more traditional olive oil in their bread course.

Bravas. This tapas restaurant steps away from Whiteladies road was one of the first Bristol restaurants to herald Bristol’s recent food revolution and is (unsurprisingly) always packed. Head with a group of friends and be sure to try the broccoli with manchego and anchovies, a surprising combination that totally works.

Thali Café. There are several locations of this Indian restaurant around Bristol, but they all feature the same Thali with abundant portions of a variety of Indian dishes. The atmosphere is casual-cool and a step above your average Indian restaurant.

Rosemarino. Tucked in lush Clifton, Rosemarino offers lovingly cooked Italian dishes with a light twist. Try the tarragon arancini and an antipasto platter. Their weekend brunch is also award winning with Italian-twists on morning favorites such as eggs benedict and the full English.

TREATS

Hart’s Bakery. Located just underneath the main train station, Hart’s Bakery serves up all varieties of tasty treats. The brownies are deliciously dense, but don’t overlook the pastel de nata, which is burnt to the perfect caramel crisp.

Papadeli. From freshly made croissants and cakes to gourmet truffles and Italian cookies, Papadeli is a food-lover’s paradise. You can eat your treats at the counter in the window or take them away to one of Bristol’s many parks.

Chandos Deli. Whether you’re looking for a great cheese or something special to bring to a dinner party, Chandos Deli has a delicious range of pantry staples. They’ll also make sandwiches to takeaway—perfect for a picnic lunch.

 

 


Literary City Guide: Bristol, England

EMILIA'S 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: From the top of Brandon Hill Park you get fantastic views of the city and its surroundings. It’s a steep climb up, but worth it.

2. Favorite place to write: At a table by the window in the Watershed cafe.

3. Favorite museum: The SS Great Britain, Isambard Brunel’s powerful steamship, offers a fascinating glimpse into the industrial age—and is a blast to explore! (http://www.ssgreatbritain.org)

4. Favorite coffee shop: Boston Tea Party combines fantastic coffee, friendly service and a pleasant atmosphere.

5. Favorite thing about Bristol: There’s always something going on and the size makes it feel like locals can directly participate and effect change in the community.