A great place to start or finish an evening. Lovely big selection of cocktails and good selection of beers so a win-win. Always a fab atmosphere, there’s often live music. It’s just a pretty cool place – a speakeasy bar but without a pretentious doorbell. The owner is usually around and happy to have a chat: pull up a stool and sit at the bar – it’ll make you think you’re in New York.
233 Cheltenham Rd BS6 5QP, www.thebristolbootlegger.co.uk
From coffee in the morning through to live music and DJs at night, The Gallimaufry covers all bases. At least two cask Bristol Beers on offer at any time plus local and international craft brews, plus a healthy list of ciders and wines. The ‘Galli plates’, brunches and Sunday roasts saw the place scoop Best Newcomer in the Bristol Good Food Awards not long after the place opened. Music ranges across folk, jazz, blues and alternative, while the weekly open-mic nights are always worth a look.
26-28 The Promenade, Gloucester Rd BS7 8AL, thegallimaufry.co.uk
There are six Lounges across Bristol now – not to mention those in Keynsham, Portishead, Bath or the dozens elsewhere in the country. It all began, though, in 2002, with The Lounge on North Street in Southville, which pretty much set the pattern for what is now a hugely successful independent chain: relaxed atmosphere, good food and drink served all day, quirksome photographs on the wall. Find the nearest Lounge to you on the website and check out what’s become a Bristol institution.
The Old Bookshop
Quirky and unique (it has a time machine), The Old Bookshop hosts an ever-changing menu served by Bristol’s best pop-up food outlets along with a soundtrack provided by prestigious live music talent. By night its own cocktail bar produces some of the best in Bristol and by day it’s an extremely laidback place to grab a coffee and cake. Remedy your Monday blues by sampling their stonking Sunday roast but be sure to book … it’s a Bedminster staple.
65 North St BS3 1ES, www.theoldbookshop.co.uk
Technically speaking, the proper name of this downtown haven is La Taverna Dell’Artista, but nobody in Bristol ever calls it that: this place will forever simply be Renato’s. The array of signed photographs and playbills on the walls attests to its long and intimate connection with the city’s theatrical world and the bar remains a favourite with both local and visiting thespians (and musicians, artists, writers etc for that matter too), thanks in part to its close proximity to Bristol Old Vic. The pizzas are the stuff of legend, but it’s the wholly unique atmosphere that makes Renato’s an absolute must. Indeed, if you don’t spend at least one night-out here during your student career, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to graduate.
33 King St BS1 4DZ, renatosbristol.wordpress.com
A craft beer just down the road from Renato’s and, when the weather’s decent, a nice spot to sit outside watching the world go by. Twenty-five taps pouring beers produced across the South West and beyond ensure there’s a fantastic range to work through – served in two-thirds of a pint measures at decent prices. The burgers are immense and they serve macaroni cheese in a Spiderman mug. The bar itself isn’t actually that small either: the name refers to the scale of the artisan breweries whose products they purvey and to its determinedly independent ethos.
31 King St BS1 4DZ, www.smallbarbristol.com
Tobacco Factory Café-bar
A cornerstone of south Bristol nightlife, the Tobacco Factory’s large contemporary café-bar is the one of the main outlets for the Bristol Beer Factory, whose excellent range of quality beers are brewed just down the road behind the – you guessed it – Brewery Theatre. Plenty else behind the bar choose from too, of course, while food tends towards the European/Mediterranean end of the spectrum. Exhibitions by local artists adorn the walls and there’s a Green Room off to the side for a slightly quieter experience. Courtyard outside for the puffers and sun-worshippers. Regular live music and, of course, there’s the Tob Fac theatre upstairs (which also now opens up its café in the daytime).
Raleigh Rd BS3 1TF, www.tobaccofactory.com
Under the Stars
Possibly the best place to sit outside in the centre of town on a sunny day, Under the Stars is oddly enough a boat. Bristol loves bars and clubs on boats. With tasty tapas, lethal cocktails and a great range of beer served by cheery staff who know their stuff, Under the Stars is a fine, fine bar. They also host film, open mic and acoustic nights.
Narrow Quay, Harbourside BS1 4QA, www.underthestarsbar.co.uk
Urban Standard & North St Standard
A fine pair of independent bar-kitchens serving quality food and drink all day and into the night. The Urban Standard on the north side of the river only opened last year, but it’s already established itself as a popular hang-out, both for those in search of quality ales and cocktails and for those with a hunger for anything from brunch to Sunday roast. You’ll find a similarly laid-back and stripped-back industrial chic at the Urban’s southside sister. The North Street Standard focuses, too, on locally sourced food and drink, from coffee through to three-course meals.
35 Gloucester Rd BS7 8AD, www.theurbanstandard.co.uk & 11-13 North St BS3 1EN, www.northststandard.co.uk
As well as being a cinema, media and digital creativity centre, Watershed also boasts a vibrant café-bar that’s a popular choice for coffee, lunch or a night-out – and not just with cinema-goers, but with Bristol’s mediarati and cultural types as well. The well-stocked bar’s complemented by an equally well-stocked menu from a kitchen that’s big on ethical sourcing and sustainability.
Canon’s Rd, Harbourside BS1 5TX, www.watershed.co.uk
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