Bristol Sweetmart: mouthwatering
The Gloucester Road, my home turf in Bristol, is a good place to shop for food with the caveat that its all frightfully white middle class. So, needing some okra for a recipe, I thought I'd head off in the direction of the rather more multicultural Stapleton Road and I stumbled (if stumbling is possible on a bicycle) across this place, which is one of the most inviting food shops I've ever visited. Its basically a large Asian supermarket with a huge selection of spices &c (six types of mango chutney!), exotic vegetables and fruit, a counter selling their own indian sweets such as barfi and a great carrot halwa and another devoted to a selection of savories: pakora and the like. And on Fridays they boast an authentic triple-layered biryani. What is truly remarkable in this kind of store is that there is a European-style deli counter, cheeses and olives and the like
What to buy: As the man said when offered the menu....'I see nothing here to object to'. But it's the sweetmeats and the Indian deli stuff that make it worth a special trip: the extravagance can be partly justified by picking up some very cheap canned pulses or the like.
My only complaint is that there's nowhere to sit down and eat any of the great food immediately....
What to pay: Depends on how greedy you are feeling.
Sainsbury's: On the subject of supermarkets
So here we are, bottom of Gloucester Road, allegedly containing the longest run of independant shops in the UK. Half a mile down the road, the proposed opening of a Tesco in Stokes Croft caused riots. Meanwhile J. Sainsbury have opened a shop in the old Art Deco Burtons formerly occupied by one of the big bankrupt off-license chains.
Interesting how the different supermarkets have a completely different function. This one is all overpriced tidbits for aspirant foodies: risotto kits containing a handful of arborio rice and a sachet of dried Italian mushrooms as oposed to the Pot Noodles you'd be buying at the Tesco's up the road, which devotes 10% of it's shelving to crisps. I do not exaggerate. Well, not much.
This tip is only here to get in another gorilla picture: this one is in the strip of the Pirates, aka Bristol Rovers aka The Gas: their ground is up the road.
What to buy: Jamie Oliver Totally Pukka organic cranberry and goats cheese dips, or something similar. But at least they open at a sensible time on Sundays, and their own-brand Jaffa cakes are far superior to the co-ops.
(TBA): The shirt to put on it
This is a newcomer to the Gloucester road, and is one of the many shops selling beautiful and interesting things. Taken two small fronts previously occupied by a shop selling supplies for home brewers and winemakers.
It's basically a bijou haberdashery.A small but perfect range of printed cottons, including 50's retro, exuberant mexicana (as I write El Dia de los Difuntos is coming up.) and Liberty designs. A basic range of threads, braids &c. Thats' one room.
And shirtmaker. In the middle of the the other half is a table with a sewing machine on it: They'll do you a short-sleeved shirt for £65 from any of their fabrics: I think that's good value, all things considered. They do have some ready to wear.
They also have other bits and bobs made using the fabrics on offer: cushion covers & so on.
What to buy: Would you believe, a shirt.
Cabot Circus: Words nearly fail me
Late September 2008 was probably not the best of times to be opening a swanky mall or retail development or whatever you care to call this shoddily detailed architecturally illiterate confection of escalators capped by the kind of curved glass and steel roof that we have CAD to blame for, all providing an experience that is creepily like being in an AutoCAD-generated walkthrough. So I'm not going to be nasty. And I can't improve on the graffito spotted near Stokes Croft:
' I Love Cabot Circus......
....Pity about the shops'
All there is to say about this place is....if you don't need it, you'll find it here.
Bakos Boutique of Bristol: Beautiful Boutique
This is a beautiful boutique that sells a range of special occasion dresses from mother of the bride groom, prom dresses and bridesmaids.This shop has fantastic customer service and made me and my mum feel comfortable and welcome during every visit to collect our outfits. Not only did my mum find her perfect outfit but she also found the shoes, bag and jewellery to match. After months of looking around lots of shops we managed to find everything we was looking for under one roof and i could not be happier.
What to buy: Bakos Boutique sells bridesmaids dresses, flower girls dresses, prom dresses, mother of the bride/ groom outfits, jewellery, bags, shoes, hats, fasctinators and much more.
What to pay: Bakos Boutique have reasonable prices for the fantastic standard you recieve.
St Nicholas Market: For its Street Markets
St Nicholas Market is located in the Exchange in the Old City. The market also hosts the Bristol Farmers' Market, the Nails Market and the Slow Food Market. These markets are held on the Corn Street in front of the Exchange. It is renowned to be one of the top UK markets with an abundance of independent retailers.
St Nicholas Market is opened Monday to Saturday at 9.30 am to 5.00 pm and also opened every 1st Sunday of every month at 11.00 am to 5.00 pm.
What to buy: Specialist Markets:
Corn Street, Bristol Open Monday – Saturday 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Bristol Farmers Market - Every Wednesday, Corn Street. 09.30 am - 2.30 pm
Nails Market - Every Friday & Saturday, Corn Street. 09.30- 5.00 pm
Book Market (Wine Street) - First Sunday of the month, 10.00 am - 4.00 pm
Art Market (Glass Arcade) - First Sunday of the month, 11.00 am - 5.00 pm
Slow Food Market (Corn Street and Wine Street) - First Sunday of the month, 10.00 am - 3.00 pm
What to pay: Varies
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- Historical Travel
Istanbul Mini-Market: Smoke and Rice
There are so many specialist food shops in Gloucester Road that running a small open-all-hours- general store must be a hard business, and I'm very glad to see that the Istanbul Mini-Mart, is seemingly keeping afloat, because I like small businesses and I like the gentlemen who run it, my sympathy increased by the fact that they are a pair of Kurds, a nation who really have got the prickly end of history's pineapple.
What to buy: Rahat lokoum (Turkish Delight), of course. They have a truly astonishing selection of different types of rice, including Baldo, which I have not seen elsewhere, and some of the spices theysell are also hard to find: they have mastic, for example. And they also have a selection of shisha pipes and the apropriate tobaccos and other shisha accessories for sale.
Beast Clothes: Made in Brizzle
Beast Clothes are responsible for a huge range of joke Bristol t-shirts, widely available in Bristol. I'm particularly fond of the 'Severn Beach ' one. You probably do need to have visted Severn Beach in order to understand its utter lack of palm trees, but if you suffer from insatiable curiosity follow the link
On examining the photograph I'm amused to note that the 'Cheers Drive' tee is also available in
What to buy? Small? Medium? Large? Who am I to judge, whether you are buying a T-shirt or a pair of smartie-patterbed wellies. Polish....
What to pay: Tees are a reasonable £9.99
Tesco's, Cheltenham Road: Don't go there
Opened in the spring of 2011 despite a lengthy and vociferous campaign against it (Yet again Bristol City Council show what they thin of the people who pay their wages) Tescos is now open for business. Generally people seem to be voting with their feet and on every occasion I've passed the security and staff comfortably ounumber any customers, so it will be interesting to see how long this lasts. If it's anything like the Tescos in the Gloucester Road, which is OK for crisps amd readymade pizzas and suchlike but doesn't really sell that much in the way of food to cook, it really doesn't deserve to be in business. There's nowhere to park, if driving a car in bristol is your thing, either.
Fred Bakers Bicyles Cheltenham Road: Cycle Repair, puncture
Fred Baker Bicycle Shop. DONT GO THERE.
Rude disinterested staff. Refused to re-do puncture repair when same tyre went flat straight after leaving the shop!!!
Use bicycle cooperative Colston Street, about a mile away instead. They are interested, friendly and helpful.
Ironically sign outside bakers says 'Bristol's best bicycle shop'! It isnt. Dont go there.
The Bishopston Breadstore: Beware of the doughnuts
I'm not sure that the Breadstore isn't better than Herberts. Whatever, it says a lot for Bristol that there is a choice of excellent bakers. I live much closer to the Breadstore: any difference is not worth the ride. Like Herberts, they bake on the premises and, also like Herberts, there is often a long queue outside. Worth it.
What to buy: My usual choice is a small city bread with poppy seeds, but it's all very good, from the special olive or sun-dried tomato loaves to the various cakes and buns. I'm also a fan of the Pain Rustique, an overnight-proved bread that lasts a bit better. You never know what shape the loaf will be, very rustique. Unlike the City bread, which is a regular' bloomer 'or 'twist'. The doughnuts? These are strictly to be eaten in the privacy of your own home, with ready access to a washbasin and probably a change of clothing. Jam everywhere, not a pretty sight.
Now the co-op: Queue to the Musak
I have to admit I'm warming to the Gloucester Road branch of the co-op. I am under a moral obligation to buy some stuff here because the shop has both a front and a back exit and therefore provides a most useful shortcut through to the Gloucester Road, and I do feel that I should usually buy something as I pass through. Even lthough the queues vary from long to ludicrous (those for the tills at the front of the shop can stretch to the back of the shop, snaking alongside the queue for the till at the back, which stretches all the way to the front....)
But I do have to say that the staff are a cheery bunch. And they have a bin to shove your unwanted plastic bags into for recycling. And the canned music is most unusual: Talking Heads, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Massive Attack......have they been at my CD collection?
Really, all supermarkets are ghastly, but I can tolerate this one.
The photo? just thought it was an interesting paint job, just happens to be in the loading bay by the back entrance.
What to buy: Milk, the Guardian, some toilet paper. And actually they seem to sell better bananas than the nearby greengrocers.
C & T Licata & son: The heart of Picton Street
Licata's is a family-run Italian - or strictly speaking Sicilian - grocers shop. Pasta, olives, salami, that sort of stuff. A general grocers shop, please. This is not, heaven forfend, a deli. There is no vast and baffling array of esoteric sausages and such: simply a very good basic selection (but including such items as proper Italian salted lard). There is, natch, a lot of pasta to choose from, including the top-quality Barilla stuff: their own-brand canned tomatos (including canned cherry tomatos) but this is emphatically somewher simply to buy day to day groceries, albeit one perhaps acceptable to someone who doesn't suffer the gastronomic handicap of being English. The family are properly bilingual in Italian and Bristolian and the shop has been there ages, well before Picton Street became fashionable and started sprouting retro clothes shops.
What to buy: Coffee, pasta, (Fusilli today), a couple of cans of tomatoes, a bunch of coriander, some mushrooms, a lemon, and a packet of Garibaldi biscuits... Licatas don't have a huge range of English biscuits, concentrating more on amaretti & so on, but charmingly does sell Happy Shopper brand Garibaldi biscuits* And their home-made tiramisu is pretty damn fine.
*Named after the famous Italian patriot Guiseppi Biscuit.
What to pay: Well, I get through a lot of coffee and the kilo bags of beans are an absolute steal. Otherwise Licata's is neither cheap nor expensive. But it does give good value.
Shrinking Violet: Fantastic Fashion!
Let me make this clear. I'm not the sort of chap who is usually attracted to ladies dresses...at least not in the way you're thinking. However, I know good design when I see it and this Bristol shop is chock full of interesting stuff. They dedicate themselves to those who've ever had to endure being picked last for a sports team. Frankly that includes me, and although I don't intend to don one of their delightful creations I do appreciate their sympathy.
Too respectful to run and snap the customers and the clothing range within, I decided to grab some so-so shop window pics but I still think they give you a pretty good idea about what's available. Belt buckles, migraine inducing stockings (but in a good way), Mexican Day of the Dead dresses, 50s Monster prints etc etc- so at last one can slink in skeletons and wear werewolf. In truth they also stock menswear. So in 2008 I will try my best endeavour to venture within and perhaps pick out a new waistcoat!
What to buy: Don't ask for leather brogues. Although you know, they might just have 'em...
What to pay: Probably too much but I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
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Fresh and Wild: Stuffing the saintly way!
Ah, Fresh and Wild. That was my nickname when I was a lad. Or was it the dog's? But I digress...
You would hardly know it to look at me but I am a person of considerable depth and emotional complexity. In fact I have measured my considerable depth and it is at least four and three quarter inches. Did you know for example, that beneath this monocled exterior there lurks an organic stormtrooper! For over 20 years I have been an organic food fetishist and - to the horror of my American chums - bade farewell to car ownership at about the same time. So with an easy conscience (and a holiday hire car) I made my way to Bristol's real food HQ.
I must say I was very impressed by the selection of goods on offer. Not everything sold is organic but if it isn't, it's normally produced from a more environmentally friendly and ethical standpoint. They get extra brownie points for having two particular items on my long time searchlist. Organic lager (never seen it before and a blessing for drinking chums during the BBQ season) and organic cherry juice (haven't come across any since a trip to Budapest but a much yearned for teetotal tipple of mine). The selection of organic breads and cheeses was most impressive and there was also a decent choice of meat. Nice to see, as organic produce is sometimes curiously wedded to vegetarianism. No objection myself but I am partial to the occasional plateful of sausage, egg and chips!
There is also a café within the store. The coffee was pretty good and the cake selection also decent. Customer profiles were generally predictable (and remember I'm part of the movement). Arty types, plenty of wayward hair, frighteningly earnest women...and me in my bowtie. Actually there was more. Whilst we were there an elderly gentlemen came in - obviously a regular - sporting a fine white linen suit and a rather dashing panama hat. Full marks!
Monday–Friday 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Buses: 8, 8a, 9, 9a, 43, 55, 54, 99, 624
What to buy: A white linen suit, a panama hat, and some cherry juice.
What to pay: It's not cheap but it is good.
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