The Fed Up & Drunk team spill the beans on where they take their parents to eat when they’re in town…
Bristol and Bath – two gems in the South West and two neighbouring cities with strikingly different personalities. Bristol’s young, urban vibe thrives on live music, street art, outdoor lidos and funky eateries while Bath plays host to traditional spas, museums and tasteful tea.
Both have an excellent dining out scenes to match, whether you want fine dining, casual cafés, pubs or high street favourites. So you’d think that it would be breeze to find somewhere to take the ‘rents when they pop down for a weekend. Yet even here at Fed Up & Drunk HQ, we often find ourselves in a bit of panic trying to find the perfect spot to take our parents. Part of the problem is the sheer number of meals you eat out when you have visitors, and part of it is that it’s hard to please everyone – is that café you normally do brunch at a bit too casual for Dad? Is that watering hole a bit too lively for Mum? So we’ve done what we do best and come up with a collaborative approach to the problem, providing you with a bevy of fab ideas and our top spots for parents in these two great cities.
Pleasing Goldilocks in Bristol
Finding places to take my parents to is always difficult; there has to be a great atmosphere but it absolutely cannot be too loud, the food has to be excellent but can’t be pretentious and the drink selection has to include nice wine for Mum as well as broad choice of draught beer and ale for Dad. It often feels like I’m planning to dine with Goldilocks. Imagine my happiness, then, when I discovered The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer (locally known as The Volley).
The Volley ticks all the boxes. It’s a cosy gastropub that serves sophisticated, traditional food that goes above and beyond standard pub grub. The menu changes seasonally to showcase the best ingredients, and the meat served is sourced within seven miles of the pub – the steaks are excellent. With a friendly atmosphere, regular live music and great food, The Volley is sure to be a hit. Then there are the drinks: beer and cider boards adorn the walls, showing a remarkably broad selection of top-notch independent brews to choose from alongside a varied wine list. If your parents are pub people, The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer is a perfect shout.
Meat free in Bath
If you want to impress your parents with just how amazing meatless dishes can be, you have to take them to Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen in Bath. My parents are pretty fussy and have only recently started reducing meat from their diet and eating more consciously, so I love treating them to a place like Acorn. Even the pickiest of eaters get excited by the menu. The level of skill and detail in every dish always provides a good talking point. Seasons dictate the menu at Acorn – you’ll see the likes of herbed steamed beetroots and demi-glace mushrooms – and they offer wild beer and fragrant, floral cocktails. In the evening the restaurant is softly lit and super cosy and the staff are always friendly and willing to chat about the dishes (a plus when your parents like to ask questions). My mum thinks it’s the kind of place you’d see Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – you know, if you were to bump into him in Bath! We can but dream.
Read a review of Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen
The Sunday roast in Bristol
My parents usually visit on Sunday, so whenever they are in town I book us in for a hearty roast lunch. One of my favourite Sunday roast spots is The Lansdown in Clifton – it’s perfect if your parents are traditionalists who love nothing more than a classic, wholesome, freshly cooked meal. Although tucked away from the main hubbub of Clifton Village, there’s rarely a table spare at this popular spot when the Sunday lunches are being served. Luckily, there’s a heated, covered outside eating area to spill out into when the inside tables are booked up, which is particularly lovely in the summer.
Plates arrive piled high with succulent roast meat (usually a choice of chicken, beef, lamb shank or pork loin) chunky roast potatoes, sweet oven-roasted carrots, Savoy cabbage, mashed swede and braised red cabbage. I recommend a side order of gloriously creamy cauliflower cheese too. After munching my way through it all I always attempt to say no to dessert, but I’m usually easily persuaded otherwise by the selection on offer – The Lansdown’s homemade sticky toffee pudding is up there with the best I’ve ever eaten.
Read a review of The Lansdown
French cuisine in Bath
Raphael Restaurant is round the corner from Bath’s Theatre Royal and is somewhere I love to take my parents, whether we’re seeing a show or not. It’s got a real French-bistro atmosphere; is chic yet understated and serves gorgeous food together with a wine list to impress your mum and dad (they have their own cellars). After strolling around the streets of Bath, frequenting book shops and probably popping into a museum or two, there’s nothing better than an early evening meal over a glass or two of French wine. Raphael’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes it a fail-safe venue for catching up but it’s just the right kind of stylish to feel like it’s a special occasion. I confess I’m a sucker for the desserts – and there’s a whole menu packed full of the sugary stuff from crème brulees and pannacottas to chocolate fondants and cheesecakes, and my dad always raves over the cheeseboard. I’d advise booking ahead if you can as it is a popular spot, but the staff are so friendly and welcoming it’s worth trying your luck if you do pass it on a day out.
Read a review of Raphael Restaurant
Dine and swim in Bristol
When my parents come to stay, I like to take them to places that show them the best of Bristol in all its quirky wonderfulness; places they would never think to visit under their own steam, but that I know they will love. The Lido is such a venue, and its two-course dine and swim package, which combines the two things that make this must-visit Clifton destination an institution, provides the perfect opportunity to catch up, do something different and feast on the best in West Country cuisine. These fab packages must be pre-booked – the dinner package costs £40 per person, so it’s a great option if you’re getting together to celebrate something special. You all get the chance to work up an appetite swimming lengths, relax in the sauna and have a natter in the Jacuzzi, taking in the ‘30s-esque poolside changing rooms, complete with striped curtains, the contemporary bar and the flower-filled terrace – every aspect of this once abandoned lido has had new life breathed into it.
Once you’ve made the most of the hour and a half you get to experience the facilities, and spruced yourself up, it’s time to head to the sleek glass-fronted restaurant which overlooks the pool. If your ‘rents have adventurous palates, the Moorish meets Mediterranean menu is perfect for your family. Wood-roast scallops with sweet herbs and garlic butter would have my dad murmuring appreciatively, while the wood-roast chicken, mashed turnips, jamon and spinach would get my mum’s vote. Here you get to do more than just sit around a table. The Lido offers a dining day out in Bristol like no other.
Read a review of the Lido
Saturday night burgers in Bristol
When my parents come to visit, Saturday evening is always dedicated to eating out. Although I’m usually one for planning ahead, we usually end up just seeing where we fancy going on the day, but, when you live in the centre of Bristol, this approach can sometimes leave you caught short. That’s why I’ve already picked where we’re going when they next come to stay: The Burger Joint on Whiteladies Road. Last time, we made the mistake of popping by at 8pm on a weekend evening without a booking (foolish), but I’ll make sure to book well in advance. Their patties are amongst the best in Bristol – which it’s why it’s a favourite haunt of mine – and there’s a really relaxed, sociable feel. It’s just a really nice place to spend an evening, and the food is consistently delicious.
Read a review of The Burger Grill
Comfort food in Bath
Hall & Woodhouse in Bath is a great place to take the parents to as it can mould so easily to the desired mood. Want to meet them for a drink before going your separate ways? Check – pull up a stool and let your dad mull over the ales. Fancy a light bite? Check – go and relax on one of the large Chesterfield sofas and select from the tapas-style small plates. In need of a full meal? Check – head up the twilit stairs and set yourself up for some excellent gastropub-style dining.
My parents in particular find Hall & Woodhouse a great place for eating out because they take comfort in the food they know. I’m not saying they’re unadventurous, but it’s rare to find somewhere that can allow me to explore foodie trends whilst they enjoy the classics. Hall & Woodhouse successfully bridges that gap, whilst embracing modernity across all menu offerings that many restaurants, and not just pubs alone, could learn from.
Read a review of Hall & Woodhouse
Getting cosy in Bristol
A small stroll from the main shopping centre, the Cosy Club is a lovely restaurant, housed in an amazing neo-Palladian style building. The ceiling is domed, the floors are marble and the walls are adorned with beautiful pieces of art, including a replica of the Bristol coat of arms. I’m something of a regular at Cosy Club – their tapas is delectable and makes a great sit-down meal, their cocktail menu is varied and a perfect way to welcome the weekend, and we even popped in on Shrove Tuesday for some scrumptious bacon and maple syrup pancakes.
Although everyone is loath to admit they’re like their parents, I’m good friends with mine and our taste is very similar for a lot of things. Serving delicious British fare, in a grand setting – but without all the pomp and ceremony – I’m sure my parents would love the Cosy Club too.
Read a review of Cosy Club
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