There’s a particular vibe that’s unique to Bristol. It’s hard to define, but it continues to draw people to the city in their droves.
There’s something in its relaxed nature, independence of spirit and a Bristolian love for all things quirky that makes it so attractive – and this provides a perfect backdrop for a huge variety of different food outlets who want to make their mark on the city.
Eateries are capitalising on our seemingly unquenchable thirst, or perhaps appetite, for an original and exciting eating experience and Bristol has all the ingredients for this.
Central to Bristol’s flourishing food scene is the wealth of choice it offers to customers, in terms of the types of food and the spaces they occupy, and the city is using all its assets to best effect.
We are lucky in that we have beautiful historical buildings, great views, a fantastic waterfront and quirky spaces that are all being used creatively by the food industry. We’ve seen some really interesting spaces popping up in the last year or so.
These include Cargo at Wapping Wharf with its independent shops and eateries based out of converted shipping containers, Bambalan opening up in a former bus ticket office in Colston Tower and Casamia which is in a building that is full of character at the former General Hospital near Bathurst Basin. These are all great examples of how Bristol is really good at reinventing spaces and being creative in how they are used.
The city also has a long history of successful independent food enterprises which acts as a brilliant springboard for newcomers. Gloucester Road has long been known for its independent high street and we are seeing confidence grow and spread into other parts which has meant places, like North Street and Cotham Hill, are becoming food centres in their own right.
It’s interesting to see Whiteladies Road also benefiting – an area that was hit hard during the recession but is now enjoying something of a renaissance driven by its growing restaurant scene and its funky new cinema which is attracting different customers to the area. Stokes Croft’s more quirky eating scene will continue to appeal to trendy brands, pop-ups and street food traders.
Bristol’s affluence is of course a big part of the story. The success of restaurants here relies in no small part on the city’s growing population of young professionals with plenty of disposable income. With its strong economy and lifestyle advantages, this demographic is unlikely to change any time soon which will continue to fuel the confidence of operators. Coupled with Bristol’s relatively low rents, compared with the likes of London and other major cities, the stage is set for Bristol’s food scene to continue its success.
We expect the focus on ‘independents’ to become even more popular in the coming years, but eateries will need to work hard to make sure they stand out from the competition.
Generally, Bristol’s restaurants are really good at recognising the need for a striking brand and a brilliant interior, and perhaps this is partly because of its thriving design community. In fact, the growing number of creative types in Bristol are adding momentum to the food scene with their demand for a high quality food offer.
Of course, great design has to be served with superb food and a top location. But the city’s eateries must continue to evolve, whether that be through re-fitting their space, refreshing their brand or re-thinking their menus.
Bristolians are becoming an increasingly discerning diner and eateries that stagnate will suffer. For those that continue to up their game, the future is bright. And Bristol diners will be able to enjoy more of that quirky, independence that they seem to love so much.
Will Duckworth works in JLL’s retail team, which advises on some of the city’s most prominent retail and leisure destinations.