A while ago Lucy and I spotted an event on Facebook and were rather intrigued. A vegan food tour. Neither of us had heard of The Bristol Food Tour before but loved the sound of it. Food = brilliant, Bristol = brilliant. The vegan element was the icing on the dairy-free cake for us. We both became vegetarian a little under a year ago, primarily for environmental reasons. Thankfully, the well concealed facts about the devastating impact of animal agriculture are getting out to people, largely thanks to films such as Cowspiracy and Before the Flood (we urge you to watch both). For me, giving up meat was an absolute breeze and I’ve not looked back. Dairy is much harder. I’m always on the look out for exciting and interesting ways to eat less dairy so a vegan food tour sounded perfect.
The meeting place was Flour and Ash on Cheltenham Road. Arriving I felt a little nervous; would everyone on the tour be scary militant vegans who would judge my half-arsed vegetarian lifestyle? I needn’t have worried, as they were all lovely. We all introduced ourselves and talked about our favourite foods. Jo,the tour leader, told us a little bit about how and why she and Alice set up the company. This was all done whilst we scoffed pizza. Yes VEGAN pizza. I was a non-believer too, but I’m well and truly converted. The idea of pizza with no cheese used to send me into spasms of disbelief but after tasting the offerings at Flour and Ash, my mind has been changed. We had one almond ricotta and tenderstem broccoli pizza and one artichoke, black olive and red onion pizza. The almond ricotta was pretty convincing but I have to say, the pizza with no cheese alternative won for me. The key to this was the pure, delicious sourdough. Made using locally milled flour, salt, water and nothing more. Proved for 72 hours and cooked to perfection in the Gloucestershire made wood fired oven. The oil drizzled over the pizza was packed full of such rich flavor that I didn’t miss the cheese a single bit. Honestly.
We left the restaurant on a high. With such a great start we were full of expectation for the rest of the tour. Our next stop was outside the Polish Church where Jo whipped out some cake and explained that she liked to mix sweet and savory along the tour. Fine by me. Even more fine was the fact that the cake (280 Bakes) was chocolate and peanut butter flavored. And it was delicious. Not only do 280 Bakes create super tasty cakes, they also support Free Cakes for Kids – a charity who provide birthday cakes for children whose families can’t do so. How amazing is that?!
Next stop was The Pipe and Slippers. Honestly I was more than a little alarmed when Jo led us in through the smell of smoking meat. I knew that the food here was provided by Smoke and Glaze who cook Southern America style. To me this means meat on top of meat served with a side of meat. What on earth were they going to serve us that would be vegetarian, let alone vegan? But Jo and Alice know what they’re doing and to my delight we were given the most incredible vegan ‘black pudding’ made from beetroot and pearl barley (on the menu look for Vegan Natty under Po-Boys). It was served with soul fries, chimmicurri dressing and a vegan slaw (with lots of dips!) and the whole thing blew my mind. I will be going back so let me know if you want to come too!
Onwards we wandered to a fairly new café, the Australian inspired Ceres. I thought I had already found my favorite dish of the day in the form of the black pudding, but that number one spot was about to be challenged. Enter: black rice pudding with coconut cream and fresh mango. This isn’t something I’d be likely to choose on a menu as I’m a sucker for smashed avo on sourdough toast, (which we also had, with radishes and micro herbs) but OH MY GOODNESS ME. It was flipping lush. It had that sweet, nourishing, luxurious flavor that is so unique to coconut. Go and try it at your earliest convenience. Seriously. I also had a coffee here and can confirm that this too was top notch.
We wandered a little further and in the Bearpit we stopped for some Zara’s vegan chocolates in the spirit of the savory/sweet mash-up. Zara’s can be found on North Street and they make an array of gorgeous chocolates. These vegan treats were no exception and we gobbled them down with gusto.
Next was another quick stop at Ding Sing’s Oriental Supermarket for vegan black sesame steamed buns. Jo popped in to pick a couple up which we shared between the six of us. If you’ve never had a steam bun it’s basically like eating a delicious warm cloud. It was a chilly day and this was just what we needed.
Then we arrived at our final destination, St Nick’s market, where we were to visit three more eateries! I was beginning to get pretty full by this point but you’ll be impressed to hear that I soldiered on. And I’m glad I did. Eatchu was our first stop, where we sampled tofu, spinach, mushroom and red miso gyoza with dipping sauces. Jo explained how the gyoza was made and it was clear from the numerous steps the chefs at Eatchu follow that they care deeply about their food. From the taste of it is even clearer that they know exactly what they’re doing as these little morsels of perfection were jam packed with flavor and wonderful texture.
Round the corner we stopped at the fragrant smelling Spice Up Your Life (inevitable Spice Girls references were made). The daal and potato curry with pilau rice and poppadums were rich but not heavy and despite the fact that we were all absolutely stuffed by this point, we demolished the food, which is testament to its tastiness. While we were eating the curry and discussing the idea of food tours in other cities and eventual world domination, Jo nipped off to Ahh Toots to grab our final treats of the day – vegan spiced ginger cake and a vegan anzac cookie. We all looked at the solid looking slab of cake doubtfully. We couldn’t possibly eat another thing. Not even a mouthful. Well, maybe just a taste. Oh, go on then. Totally worth it. Big chunks of ginger and a light, moist sponge. The anzac cookie was syrupy and melted in the mouth.
And then we were done. We all said our goodbyes and headed to are respective homes to sleep off all the delicious food.
I cannot praise The Bristol Food Tour highly enough. Jo was a knowledgeable, friendly and expert guide. I love that the tour supports independent businesses and Jo and Alice seem to have built superb relationships with these establishments. Jo was able to give us great information about the chefs, their ethos and their ingredients, which really made the experience that extra bit special and interesting. The other thing that stood out to me is how well thought out the tour was. They had really considered little things, like stopping for small snacks from retailers that we couldn’t get to. I’ve lived in Bristol my whole life and consider myself fairy knowledgeable about the food scene but this tour was a real eye opener and the vegan twist defiantly meant sampling food I might not normally choose. I bought my ticket as I wanted something which would get me excited about choosing vegan and I can wholeheartedly say that it did. I was delighted when Jo told us that the tours are always varied so I’ll definitely be booking on to another one soon to see what else they have up there sleeves.Thank you Jo and Alice and keep up the fantastic work!
The Bristol Food Tour run tours on Saturdays but hurry, they sell out fast! They also do gift vouchers – what a great Christmas present that would make!