Street Food in Bristol is hot. An unpretentious, creative and inclusive food scene that discards the pomp whilst keeping the flavour; it's easy to see why it resonates so well with Bristolians. But it doesn't stop at a stall here. The strong sense of community in this city loves to see a business rise up from the markets to becoming a permanent fixture. In the first part of a series looking at the street food in Bristol, Abby Sparrow from Bristol Eating examines the evidence on Bristol's love affair with street food.
We have an enviable food scene in Bristol. It’s regularly targeted by smaller London independents and chains as the next place to branch out to from the big smoke. You only have to consider the last year or two with Wahaca, Meatliquor and Polpo opening in quick succession. But if we look on a local level at the success of independent food businesses, it’s clear to see that there's something in the waters of the Bristol Channel. But why is Bristol such a booming hotbed of culinary delights? *Said in a Lloyd Grossman voice a la Through the Keyhole* Let’s examine the evidence.
Exhibit A. I present to you, street food markets. You can bump into a pop-up market with a generous collection of food stalls almost every day of the week. The Tobacco Factory Sunday market is a good place to start the week, then the Thursday food markets at Harbourside and Temple Quay. Not forgetting the Wine Street markets on Wednesdays and Fridays - offering up sushi, paella, doughnuts and hog roasts and much more.
Here indeed is where many people first discovered the now infamous Chilli Daddy stall. Probably the most prolific street food business, it's gone on to have three permanent residences as well as making a variety of appearances at markets. Your first experience of Chilli Daddy can be akin to a religious experience - it’s true what they say about spicy food, it gets under the skin, lingers on the tongue and consumes all food-time thoughts. Not a coincidence that Szechuan pepper has a numbing and tingling effect on the lips that can be pretty addictive. The chicken or beef dan dan hotpot is hard to beat. The crunch of the peanuts and the slurp of the noodles, they’re textures and flavours that have you coming back again and again.
It would be wrong to let Chilli Daddy hog all the limelight however. After all, Bristol favourite Chomp started life as a roving Burger van. Chomp quickly gained a loyal following and those acolytes eagerly awaited the reveal of the locations for following weeks. Chomp opened up their restaurant in St Nicholas street and the rest is burger history. It's the faithfulness of Bristol’s food fanatics, in part, that contributes to the success stories of street food businesses opening up permanent premises here. Smoke and Glaze are on a similar journey themselves, currently residing at the Pipe and Slippers on Cheltenham road, offering some of the best burgers and soul food in Bristol. These guys have so many fans it can’t be long before they make the leap to a home of their own.
Bristol’s great turnaround of street food businesses setting up permanent homes in a fairly short time is something we should be proud of. The food scene in Bristol is thriving and that is partly to do with our fierce support of independents. Eatchu is another one of those success stories. Specialising in Japanese gyoza, these little dumplings can be filled with whatever your imagination can think of - however the most common filling is pork and chive. These can be steamed, fried or both. Eatchu have added to these Gyozas, to make them into a hefty meal. For under a tenner, you can get one of their awesome Shoyu Eggs, a huge portion of rice, 6 gyozas, and as many toppings and sauces as you fancy.
Exhibit B m’lord, Bristol’s brilliant community vibe means word about great new food places, travels fast. Twitter, for example, is jam-packed with helpful Bristolians making sure that you are eating at the best spots. We are a city with dedicated foodies that will travel across the river for a celebrated dish or new restaurant and report back with honesty. With events such as the St Nick’s Night Market offering a smorgasbord of choice, you no longer have to choose one place to eat and can snack til your heart’s content.
Such is the support of Bristol’s food scene, Gopal’s Curry Shack is now crowdfunding to open up a permanent crate at Wapping Wharf. Looking to bring more curry joy to you, they are one of the jewels in the veggie crown of Bristol. After two years touring around the street-food scene and being a regular at festivals Gopal’s is looking to settle down. And who better to be in a committed relationship with than Bristol? After all, joining the ranks of former travellers, pizza royalty Pizzarova and Bertha’s as well as Lovett’s Pies and Wriggle regulars, Bagel Boy, who are all happily wedded to the people Bristol.
With Wapping Wharf offering up a home for smaller food businesses with lower rates than bricks and mortar, it means even more street food stalls can make the leap to a fixed abode. And that can only be a good thing for Bristol. The defence rests.