The Idealist

Idealist City Guide: Bristol

For a city, an absurd amount of culture and history can be found within Bristol’s forty square miles. On the one hand, the city has always been a terribly industrious place – think Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Clifton Suspension Bridge that he designed, the Floating Harbour and city’s railway and nautical heritage. That said, injected deep into Bristol’s DNA is the city’s punkish and youthful edge. The city has become a cathedral to the youthful, creative and artistic through its array of live music venues, cafes, collectives and street art. It’s somewhat unsurprising, therefore, that Bristol is home to perhaps one of the nation’s most notorious and elusive sons- the graffiti artist-cum-political activist, Banksy. With Bristol positively bristling with so much character, history, and a vibrant arts scene, it would be absurd not to consider it as an option a cool option for your next city break. Certainly, with the city’s many art galleries, boutiques and antiques dealers, you might find yourself bringing a fair bit of Bristol back into your home.

Shopping

Dig Haüshizzle is the brainchild of Cassandra and Edward Nicholas. Since opening its doors in 2010, the boutique has been the word in the way vintage furniture, reimagined with a dark and fiercely modern edge. In Cassandra and Edward’s own words, ‘We buy what we love … that is our main buying criteria.’ Consequently, their Coulson Street store, located in the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter of the city centre, is jam-packed with furniture, prints, lighting, taxidermy and all manner of wildcard curiosities that simply beam with an effortlessly cool, punkish rawness. If you’re looking for that special something to administer a healthy of character to your home, you’ll be certain to find it here.

Neptune’s mission statement is rather simple. They believe in beautiful furniture and accessories for the home, constructed in a manner that brings the best out of the materials used whilst honouring traditional craftsmanship- it’s something they’ve been doing, with great success, for over twenty years. Their store, housed in a Georgian building with a double-height gallery space displays Neptune’s wares with beautifully, bringing out the best in the products. For styles of furniture ranging form contemporary-modern to classically influenced pieces, much can be found here.

Found at No.11 St. Nicholas Street, Rag & Bone was founded in 2012 by impassioned antiques collectors, Arthur and Mollie. Their indie shop offers an eclectic mix of pieces from a variety of styles including antique furniture, old school mid-century pieces and all manner of curiosities. They often work with film and television companies, and are can also lend their expertise and taste in the way of a full interior design service. With an inventory that includes everything from art, to mirrors, furniture and garden pieces, we’re confident that something you’ll fall in love with can be found here.

Bristol Handmade Glass continues the city’s proud glass heritage and produces glassware from paperweights to decanters, to their signature stain glass. Their gallery, found at the top of Christmas Steps, next to the city’s Royal Infirmary, stocks everything from mirrors, lamps, lighting to bespoke blown glass pieces by the likes of Peter Leyton, Peter St. Clair and English Antique Glass, to name a few artists and companies. If you’ve an got idea in mind, Bristol Handmade Glass also create bespoke designs in conjunction with you to bring them to life.

Let’s Eat

Bristol is certainly a city that looks out to the world- and certainly- one of the places where this is best observed is through the cultural diversity in the city’s many restaurants. Whether it is something Mediterranean, Far Eastern, American style diner grub or modern British cooking, a little something from all the globe’s four corners can be found here.

In the way of refined British cuisine, Casamia is at the cutting edge. The brainchild of brothers Peter and Jonray Sanchez-Iglesias, Casamia has been awarded a Michelin star for the artfully composed dishes that adorn their tasting menus. Though the food is certainly highbrow, the flavours complex and a tremendous display of modern cooking techniques, in the words of celebrity critic Jay Rayner, food at Casamia ‘never loses sight of feeding people well’.  Their dishes are inspired by the energy, multicultural soul and creative spirit of Bristol. To avoid disappointment, it is imperative that a reservation is placed prior to visiting.

Bravas is a modern Spanish restaurant with a old soul. The owners often travel to Spain and are always amazed by the fresh, unpretentious and inexpensive offerings they find in the country’s many local tapas bars. Breavas follows in that vein. Bravas’ relaxed, warm interior captures the spirit of the Spanish tapas bar- a social space where you can unwind with friends. The open kitchen introduces a sense of drama to the space, offering diners a front row seat where they can see, hear and smell the action in the kitchen. In creating a genuine tapas experience, Bravas’ menu relies on fresh produce, often changing to make the best of seasonal produce.

Aquila brings traditional cuisine from Italy’s many regions to the heart of Bristol. Their large selection of Pane, Risotto, Pizza, Pasta, Dolci, Antipasti and salad dishes are all creations of head chef Daniele Pellicane and team and are hinged on fresh, authentic ingredients to most optimally bring out similarly authentic flavours. Aquila’s sommeliers have curated a list of wines that gorgeously pair with and complement the dishes on the menu to round off your dining experience.

Getting Here & Hotels

Bristol is a hub, and very much a beast in its own right when it comes to connections with other British cities. With London, it couldn’t be easier getting there. If you don’t fancy the drive, regular services from Paddington Station will get you there within or around the two-hour mark.  However, though this may tempt the day-trip, it is vital you look beyond it if you plan on making the most of the city. Fortunately, Bristol is no slouch when it comes to some quality, boutique hotels. We’ve listed three of our favourite below.

For lovers of all things urban, the Paintworks Apartment might just be the perfect place to stay. Paintworks is comprised of five apartments situated in a converted paint factory. The five apartments each have their own theme, each bristling with cool music memorabilia and artefacts that beautifully complement Paintwork’s overall urban, minimalist-industrial, and at times, Scandi look. The apartments come fully equipped with all the things you would come to expect from a residential one, including: cooking facilities, Wi-Fi, fridge-freezers and television. It’s a perfect pad from which Bristol can be explored on your own terms.

Perhaps you’re after something a little more quaint and traditional, for both instances which few things can top a nice bed and breakfast. The Greenhouse is certainly that and so much more. The hotel is typical of the architecture found in Southville, the sleepy Bristol suburb in which it is based. Interior spaces are light, breezy and contemporary. However, by the way the hotel operates, it is wholly green. It’s hot water and electricity are powered by solar panels and its lights are driven by enormously efficient LED systems. It’s six rooms all sport warm colours, a patchwork of off-whites and light browns. As you’d imagine, Breakfast is included in the price and Wi-Fi and parking are complementary. The Greenhouse is just a stone’s throw away from many of the city’s historical attractions.

The Bristol Harbour Hotel is pretty much as boutique as it comes. Luxurious, unapologetically bold and situated slap-bang in the city’s heart, The Bristol Harbour Hotel used to be two city banks in a former life with one being the former headquarters of Lloyd’s. The facades of the building’s exterior are simply breath taking, designed in the 1840’s based off the Liberty St. Mark’s in Venice. The hotel features the stunning Sansovino Hall, which formerly a bank hall, is now used for events. The rooms flaunt understated tones compositionally, and each feature an eclectic but elegant set of furniture and decanter of gin and sherry as standard. It is a wholly relaxing space. Large windows flood the rooms with light where features such as a Sleepeazee mattresses and Egyptian cotton sheets. The bathrooms sport Italian marble and come ready with White company products. Wi-Fi comes complementary during your stay.

Bristol Calling

For a city steeped in so much history, and for one bursting with so much culture and personality, Bristol is criminally undersold. Certainly, if you’re in the mood to switching gears from London just for the while, the city is hugely refreshing- it’s certainly the perfect place to find those special pieces pieces that inspire new life into your home.

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All photos courtesy of respective locations.

  • Nigel is a writer and journalist living in London. He loves music, literature and architecture. Since moving to London to study, he’s yet to kick his honeymoon phase with the city, and when not working, can consequently be found making the most of what London has to offer. He maintains that Billy Joel is one of the greatest and most critically misunderstood singer-songwriters of our time. So far, he has found 3 other people that agree with him.

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