A POSTCARD FROM - Wapping Wharf, Bristol
Most people don't like change, but I crave it. I love to be spontaneous, I sidestep routine, and I relish freedom. And so almost five years ago I left London for Bristol, pretty much on a whim. Although it was an unusual decision for me professionally (my illustration commissions still all come from the big smoke), I've never looked back and I love my new home. But until recently there was something missing as I found it almost impossible to go out locally midweek and find somewhere buzzing with atmosphere. And then Wapping Wharf arrived.
This new development is smack bang in the middle of the route I take when walking to my office, and to be honest whilst it was being built I didn't give it much thought. I expected to see a Starbucks nestled into the armpit of a Wagamamas, with a view of the water crudely obscured by the glassy facade of Pizza Express. But instead what happened was nothing short of magic, and I've captured as much as I can of it in the drawing above.
Independent restaurants I'd never heard of appeared. The gift shop from the bottom of my road relocated there. There were rumours of great coffee, and of incredible cakes and of a local cheesemonger and a tiny wine shop. And then the shipping containers arrived and with them came a yoga studio, fabulous lunch time snacks, beautiful plants and even more restaurants. At Christmas times lights went in the trees, and never came down. Every night this place sparkles and I love it.
I'm slowly working my way around all of the small businesses in Wapping Wharf, but for now here are my favourite places to go. I've been to all of these as a paying guest and this post isn't sponsored.
Root is a small plate restaurant focusing on vegetable dishes and offering meat on the side. I took my friend here last weekend and we had such a fantastic evening. I'd checked first via twitter to see if they could cater for her (vegan) and they said no problem. When we arrived, there was already a menu especially marked up with vegan options and a bespoke vegan dessert was offered too. The food was delicious (the beetroot, hazelnut & blackberry was the winner), the service was super friendly and I can't wait to go again. You need to book in advance, and I would recommend to not sit at the shared main table as it's rather wide and meant we had to shout at each other to be heard (although I do think we are both going a bit deaf).*
I'm no coffee connoisseur. As a result, many of the trendy little places popping up everywhere send me into a mild panic when they ask brew related questions. Thankfully the team at Little Victories (despite being of the genius coffee variety) don't bamboozle mere mortals like me. The welcome is friendly, my delicious cappuccino order is dealt with quickly, there's always a seat, and there are free glasses of tap water on offer. It's the sort of place I could sit for hours, watching the world go by and sketching the view. It's still open by night too, when the team serve up organic wine, craft beers and coffee cocktails (I sense danger).
I went here recently with friends, who have been waxing lyrical about the cakes for ages. I wasn't such a fan of my English Breakfast tea being served in an elaborate teapot that appeared to have been inspired by Aladdin's lamp, but mainly because it took up space on the table that should have been filled with another cake. Did I say they do amazing cake? Cake.
I've been a few times now and have loved it. However, the recent menu shows that some of the food I've eaten before isn't vegetarian now (eg the kimchi friend rice), so that's a real shame and definitely limits the menu for me. But if it's super good noodles you're after (and you aren't veggie) then head here, and be sure to end your meal with a salted caramel ice cream bao. They don't accept bookings, and the restaurant is tiny, so arrive before you're starving so you have the willpower to wait for a table (it's worth it I promise).
This beautiful gift and homewares shop is a treasure trove of goodies. They stock small interesting brands, some of which I've never heard of and I'm forever leaving there a little poorer than I arrived. It's a great place to pick up a birthday present but they also have lovely furniture and lighting as well. It's a bit tucked away so look out for the sign that points you in their direction. Oh and they stock some of my greetings cards too so watch out for those!
I don't think I've left Wild Beer sober, and I don't even drink beer. This place is Fun, especially if you're with a group. There's plenty of bar food on offer but I've found in general that it's mostly fried and not very exciting, but DAMN those chips are good. Always service with a smile and my friends who drink beer say that it's a great selection. All I know is that the wine knocks me sideways and the last time I was there a boy told me my hair smelt earthy. I'll be back.
I'm soon off to Box-E (a tiny restaurant with room for only 14 people) for a vegan tasting menu so I'll report back from that for sure.
In the mean time, if you're looking for somewhere special to go in the Bristol area then check out my recent post on The Ethicurean. Here's a little sneak peek of my illustration of the stunning and seasonal food on offer there.
Let me know if you try any of my suggestions above, I'd love to know what you think. And do keep an eye on my blog in the coming months as I travel to London, Bangkok and Hanoi - I'll be illustrating and writing about as much travel, fashion and food as time allows.
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