Across the stylish Pero’s Bridge, having skirted the Watershed, a place I have eaten at frequently since it opened in 1980, but which charges excess for a simple château irregular, unfortunately. Food is good but not so much choice as before. Has ‘movies’ and is therefore unspeakably vulgar, which is a good thing. Popular and often crowded, but with many tables.
Long ago at the Watershed (the ’90s) dance music was played continually, from worn out and stretched cassette tapes (please explain to younger readers) and although I personally did not overly object many other diners opted to eat elsewhere, at that time. The staff still appear to be influenced by narcotics, on occasion, although that can be hard to discern from their general demeanour.
Pero’s bridge, being rather too narrow for the traffic offers the quiet traveller a chance to observe the pedestrians cheerfully interacting with energetic cyclists, the latter clearly late for some meaningless appointment; serious violence rarely ensues. Or greet the beggars and buskers, many of whom are quite charming. Some loose change may help. Further along from the Watershed on Canon’ Marsh are outdoor cafe tables fronting several indistinguishable and quite large establishments.
I will turn briefly left to sample the street food available around the Fountains (formerly St Augustine’s Parade); falafel, crepes and much more on high days and holidays. Yummy and friendly. I was offered a swig from a can just the other day, whilst sitting on Neptune’s Steps waiting for the ferry home. Amazing what you can catch in Bristol.
Just opposite the Watershed floats Under The Stars, a converted boat, one of the better places and quite easy to run up a decent bill – although the menu prices are reasonable – which may have something to do with the delightful cocktails, and the 1920s theme. Good place to meet and eat as it is so central, and a little under-rated. Then along to the YHA cafe, which is the first to open in the morning and is friendly, has good coffee, and a wonderful selection of bemused tourists to provide entertainment if the scene at Pero’s Bridge has paled. The best site for people-watching, or people-chatting to. Sometimes hosts meetings in the evening.
It is possible to eat and drink in the Arnolfini – formally an art gallery until it lost it’s government grant by forgetting to ask for it – and it can be an enjoyable experience. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. Just nearby on the Prince Street bridge is the Crepe Coffee Cabin with a Big Issue pitch and some outside seats. Cheaper than the Arnolfini and with an ever unfolding drama of colliding passers-by, a few of whom cannot afford earphones, poor things. Various beggars, tourists, plank riders and other wheeled citizens enliven the melee. The Metro Bus now passes nearby, . I awaited the long delayed roll-out of the Metro Bus with excitement as it passes a few metres from my dwelling, where the bus shelter lights stayed on for many months before the launch, in joyful anticipation.
Across the road is El Puerto, good for tapas and more substantial Spanish fare. And close by the Arnolfini the Shakespeare, a pub for the homeward commuter.
Turning left after the swing bridge then crossing the Bathurst Basin footbridge brings the footsore pleasure seeker to The Ostrich Inn which seems to have fallen from favour somewhat, judging by the online reviews and comments. I can’t really say, having not eaten there for nearly a year and only had a snack, which took an age to arrive. One of the most attractive sites on the Harbourside so no excuses, it seems that the Cottage Inn syndrome may be spreading.
Strolling past the new apartments on the old General Hospital site one may find the Velindra, named for a steamer of old, which might be described as quirky. May or may not be open, as it appears to inhabit the same parallel dimension as the Myrtle Tree and is under new ownership as I write. Fine views of the Avon and Bedminster Bridge, across to the ASDA car park. Permanent traffic congestion (and one of the world’s smaller bus lanes at just 50 metres,) may reduce the air quality below the level which will sustain life, so carry oxygen. Said to be dog friendly, but the mutts are at floor level aren’t they, so hoovering up the carbon monoxide. The new flats next door start at around £260k, but only penthouses are still available new, at £825k upwards.
The Louisiana, just along to the west over the Commercial Road bridge, is one of the city’s best music venues, many famous names play here, so check out their web site (which has a list of past as well as upcoming acts) and visit.
We are now back on the mystery wrapped in an enigma (to many Bristolians) that is Spike Island, and we may drop in at the M Shed museum or a number of cafes. Pork eaters may enjoy the Pigsty, (I have only sampled the coffee, which was cool). Far more interesting is the famous Olive Shed which is lovely and lively, tucked behind a big red shed. Top food overall on the Harbourside, booking is necessary especially on the busier days, although weekdays lunch is usually ok. It has some outdoor tables. Opens at 11am.
Having enjoyed the best you may happen upon the inexplicably popular Brunel’s Buttery, a shed next to the water with some outdoor tables. The bacon butty is popular, my coffee was surprisingly cool and unpleasant, and so little of it. Staff stay cheerful in the face of relentless touristic optimism. Strictly for meat eaters with no discernible interest in food.
My culinary journey is entering the final phase, as I am now just a few hundred metres from home, among the more up-market flats, more up-market than mine at least. Next to the Great Britain – the ship – is the Greenshank, a floating cafe and catering service which is part of the Bristol Packet enterprise. Nautical, tourist, good, and often quite peaceful.
Heading inland – necessary to avoid falling in the dry and wet docks – one may happen upon The Orchard Inn and again find free music, jazz at least one night a week, and quite a lot of different ciders, some of them mildly alcoholic. It even has wine. Described as ‘unreconstructed’ by google, it will have snacks around lunchtime and early evening. Intimate. A chance to meet the locals and drink what they drink.
Coffee and culture may be got during the day by calling into the Spike Island arts complex on Cumberland Road, with the Vauxhall footbridge across the Avon opening new vistas to the south. On the M2 Metro Bus route.
Should you cross over the 200 year old New Cut, brave mortal, the spicy pleasures of the Coronation Curry House await. Bookings not required, very popular with the locals. The Avon Packet loiters nearby, described by CAMRA as fascinating, for reasons known only to real ale aficionados. It could be the collection of toy buses.
That completes my brief culinary tour of Harbourside west, I may venture further south to the spas of Southville, or east up the river at another time.