I have two true loves in this world; this absolute beaut of a city which I call home, and my stunning Temple Cycles bicycle. So imagine my excitement when I found out that the lovely folks behind the Bristol Food Tour were teaming up with Cycle the City to offer a cycling food tour of Bristol! My heart near much exploded, my tummy started rumbling, and I had never been this ready for something in my entire life.
In case you’re unaware, The Bristol Food Tour have been running walking tours of the city for a whole year now (having recently celebrated their first anniversary) and offer up a slice of the best culinary delights from joints far and wide, peppered with a spot of history about the area. You can catch them walking the harbourside, dipping into South Bristol, or even on one of their speciality vegan tours.
Cycle the City are also major history nerds, taking folks on a cycling tour of Bristol and chatting their way through hundreds of years of Bristol’s past along the way. I’m particularly interested in their women of Bristol tour, that sounds like a reet good un!
Back to the task at hand, which had now been dubbed ‘The Great Bristol Food Tour’. First stop was inevitably No 1 Harbourside (the home of Cycle the City) for a glass of bubbles and a bit of a nibble to set us up for a long evening of cycling.
DAT HOUMOUS THO. Oh myyy lawd. As any decent middle class hipster should, I adore houmous, but often am not a huge fan of beetroot houmous as it tends to be on the sweet side. This was absolutely delicious, and served with big wedges of smoky, charred, oil-soaked bread to dip into it. Heaven.
Hopping on to our fancy-pants Temple bikes and setting off along the harbour, we were soon at our first destination – The Bristol Cheesemonger! Settled in a new home in Cargo 2 on Wapping Wharf, Rosie the cheesemonger has got a beautiful little cavern of cheese which was like stepping into a beautiful cold cave on this muggy, damp evening. We sampled three cheeses and got a bit of info about each one, my favourite of which being a super creamy goat’s cheese.
It was a mere skip and a jump to the next stop right next door – Oliver’s Ice Cream! These guys are worth visiting for their snazzy rotating gelato fridge alone, but there’s plenty to keep you coming back, such as Thatcher’s Gold sorbet (yup) and free-pouring chocolate which they coat their cones in. I have to be completely honest at this point, though – my loyalty completely lies with the undisputed gelato kings of Bristol; there is just something missing from the heart of Oliver’s at the moment, but I’m sure once they are settled in a bit I’ll start to see things a bit differently.
Cycle the City have only recently upgraded to Temple Cycles, having previously used every hipster’s first bicycle, Pashley. Having owned and cycled on both, I can wholeheartedly relay the merits of Temple – they are infinitely lighter, meaning they feel zippy and are easy to ride, and the Shimano gears mine was using make all them Bristol hills a doddle. Plus they are a Bristol business, something which has been of growing importance to me of late. I’d much rather keep my pennies in the city.
Time for a wee pie break with delish pies from Lovett Pies and a chat about another true Bristolian institution – the Thekla. By this point I have to admit I was feeling MEGA full, what with all the houmous and cheese and gelato, but I managed half my rarebit pie (INSANELY GOOD) and tucked the rest in my backpack for an unorthodox breakfast the next day.
The next leg of the journey was a long meander towards the cycle path towards the back of Temple Meads, and a jaunt through Easton before stopping at what can only be described as the biggest undiscovered Bristol gem of my entire life – ZAM ZAM BAKERY.
I’m not really sure how to describe Zam Zam to you, to be perfectly honest. I don’t even have a picture to illustrate my point because I was too hurriedly stuffing it into my gob to take one. From the outside it just looks like an unassuming plain old pizza shop, offering up 4 toppings for a mere fiver. But Zam Zam specialist in lahmajons too – kind of like a cross between a pizza and a kebab, a big round flatbread filled with minced meat and loads of different toppings and sauce. I had the veggie alternative, which was spinach and feta in a flatbread pasty type thing and believe me when I say it was one of the best things I’d ever eaten. The best part is that it’s £1.50. ONE FIFTY. ONE POUND AND FIFTY PENCE (sung like this). I’m plotting an escape to Easton again soon to get another. Ohh man, if I haven’t dreamt of that flatbread every damn day since then.
When I found out our next pitstop destination, I couldn’t help but let out a little squeal of delight. I adore Bristol Spirit, not just because it’s run by the bloody lovely Sam, not just because they have a resident sausage dog (Shecky the nervous Hell’s Angel) and not just because they blend their own flavoured spirits. Their cocktails are some of the most creative and the best that I’ve tried. It was an Espensen Spirit cocktail that got me trying and liking gin (!), and in honour of that I indulged myself in another – it’s pretty much a blueberry cheesecake in a glass! YUM.
Despite being stuffed to the absolute gills, we had to try some bits off Bristol Spirit’s new menu, and boy did they knock it out of the park. Arancini with a BRIE CENTRE and luscious basil drizzle, and li’l chorizo breads with black olive tapenade, plus little cheesecakey bites with strawberries on top. I was giddy with delight (and possibly a wee bit tipsy by this point).
After our last stop we began a slow meander back into town, with just enough time to stop in Queen’s Square for some final sweet treats from the Sweet Mart and Zara’s Chocolate’s.
Well cripes! If that wasn’t everything I had dreamed of and more. I cannot urge you enough to book a tour for yourself; they are perfect for friends and family visiting Bristol, or if you’re just looking for a few new gems to frequent. Pay tBFT a visit on Facebook, Twitter or have a look at upcoming tour dates on their website.
I was invited along for the purpose of this review, but all words and opinions are my own. I really truly love the guys who run the Bristol Food Tour, they do a cracking job!