I know the suspense was killing you to find out about the rest of our Bristol trip so the wait is over!
Welcome back to the second instalment of our Bristol antics and this half is even cooler than the first. Keep reading to find out about some of the best vegan junk food to grace our pallets, an underground journey to the beginning of civilisation and some of the best damn graffiti you’ll find around the world. See, we told you it was pretty cool 😉
Day 3 – VEGAN FOOD and lots of rain!
(apologies for the lack of photos, it was really wet)
The rain gods were extremely angry on the Sunday morning so our day began with some indoor climbing. Also we knew we had a day of serious vegan feasting ahead of us so we went to work up an appetite at Undercover Rock.
The climbs were moreish, our sweat was dripping and before we knew it it was 2 pm and definitely time to munch. Search online ‘best vegan food Bristol’ and you’re sure to hear about a vegan junk food mecca called VX. We’ve eaten vegan food all over the world but vegan junk food is something that rarely crosses our path. It’s not that we don’t want it to, we love it crossing our path, it just seems to be healthier or international vegan joints that we stumble across. So, when we saw a highly recommended junk food joint we jumped at it.
VX had a seriously cool, proudly vegan feel to it. It’s wasn’t big, seating only 20-30 people on some incredibly comfortable chairs but had a really relaxed feel. The walls were covered with pro vegan and Bristol memorabilia and in in the corner they had a mini-vegan-market with a crazy variety of vegan food products. The kind of ‘holy shit, you can get vegan steaks now?’ products.
On the hand written menu were burritos, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, mac n cheese, monster shakes and mindblowing cakes – It was a vegan stoners wet dream.
You’ve got to see their monster shakes to believe it, click here to take a peak!
With big appetites to fill we ordered a classic nachos, a burrito and a VX salad with ground beef. The nachos were enough for a meal on their own, served with guac, refried beans, salsa, melted cheese and jalepenos. I tucked into a hefty burrito filled with melted cheese, Mexican sauce, refried beans, mushrooms, ground beef and obviously I went for extra guac. Sarah’s salad bowl was a colourful feast of salad, red cabbage, tomato, cucumber, plain tortilla chips, garlic sauce, ground beef and you guessed it, more guac!
It was just the meal we needed to repair us from our 3 hour climbing session and our peddling in the rain. The people next to us ordered a monster shake and I genuinely couldn’t stop perving. On top of all the junk the people that worked there were awesome and gave us loads of tips for what to see and do for the rest of our Bristol trip.
Want to find out about another one of our epic vegan junk food adventures in Sheffield? Click here!
Because of the heavy rain we decided against properly venturing to Harbourside and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Instead we went to explore The Christmas Steps – famed for it’s historic streets and independent traders. This hugely atmospheric area is centred around a steep cobbled lane that runs along a dark and narrow passageway. Walking through definitely reminded you of Diagon Alley or Jack the Ripper times.
Just next door seemed like the perfect solution to a rainy day: a board game cafe! That’s right, a whole cafe just for board games, with booze and food. Chance and Counters was super cool-looking but it seemed as though everyone in Bristol had had the same idea. It was full to the brim and understanding that you can’t just rush a game of Monopoly we went back outside into the rain.
It definitely felt like a hipster area with lots of niche independent shops and a proudly retro VHS rental place that was swarming with trendy locals. At the bottom of the steps was the Christmas Steps pub which would be the perfect setting for a ghost movie. Lots of black painted walls, rickety old staircases, dark corners and flickering candles!
On the first day of our Bristol trip we tried to go to Koocha Meze Bar, a popular 100% plant based Persian restaurant but missed their lunch by 15 minutes. As the first day was Sarah’s birthday and we had already decided what we wanted on the menu we were pretty devastated. This time round we weren’t taking no for an answer!
It was a eager wait for the food. We weren’t even that hungry but the food sounded delicious and it was hard not to stare at other tables’ feasts. As the waiter brought our food to the table it felt like someone had just delivered our first baby. Tears in the eyes and complete and utter jubilation.
*Note* My mother’s side are Iranian so I’m a tough critic to please. Two of their dishes; gormeh sabzi (a herby stew) and ash e reshte (a traditional noodle soup) are my favourites foods in the world, both of which I regularly make at home. Basically, they had big shoes to fill.
This was our feast;
Deep fried rice balls with Persian spices, cinnamon and turmeric – delicately spiced but mouth watering and perfectly fried.
Spiced cauliflower and saffron yogurt – cooked with turmeric and topped with pomegranate, all went beautifully with the yogurt.
Tzatziki – hit the nail on the head, creamy, fresh and cooling.
Chickpeas and spinach – served in a deliciously rich tomato sauce and the chickpeas cooked until soft and buttery.
Rissoles – tasty but didn’t feel like it went with the rest of the dishes. The only thing we weren’t amazingly impressed with.
Roast aubergine dip – man this dip seriously rocked. An oniony minty taste and oh so smooth.
and last but definitely not least…
Ash a reshte – I said I would be a harsh critique but they did everything right. It was delicious, I loved it, Sarah loved it and my Iranian great-grandmother who is famous for her cooking would have loved it. If you haven’t tried ash e reshte before then get to Koocha as soon as possible and give it a try. Normally I’d put vinegar on top but that’s a family preference so I can’t fault them for not doing that!
Everything about the meal was spot on and I think our two day wait made it all the more amazing. Would highly recommend, well priced and served with a smile. We even splashed out and got a vegan raspberry cheesecake that they brought out with a birthday candle for Sarah. As you may have guessed that was delicious too.
Day 4 – Underground Exploration in the land of cheese
Up nice and early we got on a 20 minute train to Yatton with our bikes to cycle the Strawberry Line to Cheddar Gorge. This famous 10 mile cycle route was immersed in nature and really therapeutic as there was nobody else around. Despite the name we didn’t come across any strawberries but there were an unprecedented amount of blackberries and we even passed through the Thatchers cider apple orchard.
Along this route you’ll also come across a series of old tunnels and bridges, one which was so dark I almost fell of my bike.
Cheddar, as the name suggests, is home to the world famous cheese and they definitely haven’t let the sales opportunity slip. This small town is is filled with shops claiming to be the ‘only place to buy original cheddar cheese’. We figured it was a lost cause asking for vegan alternatives but we did try a lot of chutney, crackers and some amazingly spiced hot mulled cider.
Besides being famous for it’s cheese Cheddar pulls in 50,000 visitors each year to marvel over Cheddar Gorge and the caves in the area. The gorge is actually the largest in the UK and was carved out during the Ice Age. Visitors can see spectacular limestone cliffs and elaborate cave systems which take you to deep underground cave systems and million-year-old rock formations.
It seems like the people of Cheddar are pretty shrewd and this natural wonder is now pretty pricey to fully experience. Although you can hike along the cliff sides for free it costs a whopping £19.95 to fully experience the caves and museums.
Normally we shy away from high ticket prices like this but both Sarah and I really like caves. There’s such a prehistoric feel to them and they’re one of the few places in the world that are still relatively untouched by humankind. On top of that the caves were home to the oldest complete skeleton found in the UK so it was mesmerising to think of the past inhabitants as we walked around.
The star of the show was definitely Gough’s Cave. This 500,000 year old underground cave network was first discovered by the Gough brothers in the early 19th Century. It’s more than 2 miles long and contains the longest underground river network in the UK.
10 metres into the cavern and all natural light has gone and you’re guided by atmospheric lighting. The temperature drops and you can hear the water trickling from the walls and bats above you. It was like another world and you can explore the natural underground lakes, marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites and see some of the cheese which is still traditionally stored underground to improve it’s taste. Apparently.
The whole underground journey was guided by a headset, which at first I thought may be cheesy but definitely was not. It wasn’t a continuous audio loop so you weren’t in a rush, instead you scanned a barcode at points of interest and it would start the audio for that section. It kept the caves almost silent as people intently listened on their headphones and meant you could go as fast or as slow as you wanted to go. We were in awe the whole time we spent underground, the lighting was mesmerising and the audio was genuinely fascinating.
Cox’s cave slightly down the road was home to an impressive multimedia display right through the heart of the cave network. Impressive projectors and LED lights guide you deeper into the cave and tell the story of early humankind. Again we thought this might be a bit cheesy, or just aimed at children but it was awesome. Extremely atmospheric and the quality of the multimedia was so good you really did feel as though you were standing in a cave with cavemen hunting for their next meal.
Outside of Gough’s cave was the small but tasteful Museum of Prehistory and a beautiful cinematic experience showing the gorge through the years. All in all this took us about 4 hours and although £19.95 was a lot of money for us it was definitely worth it, if you like caves.
If you don’t fancy spending the money then the natural wonders outside are spectacular and free. There are hikes that lead you up to the valley top with beautiful vistas for miles around. You can get away from the crowds and hike for hours and it is absolutely stunning. Download an app like Maps.Me which shows you all of the hiking routes in the area to make the most of it.
Our hike brought us back down into the valley where you can walk along the meandering roadside. Despite it being a roadside this was probably the most impressive aspect of the whole area. This is scenery you don’t expect to see in England, completely jaw-dropping, but remember you’re walking along a road! I was so getting so distracted I was having to dodge oncoming cyclists and cars last minute.
As an icing on the cake, Cheddar Gorge is also a famous rock climbing area. We didn’t have any of our gear with us but it was still the perfect finish to the day, sitting and watching the climbers scale the massive cliff faces before the cycle home.
When we got back we finally made the most of our log burner!
Day 5 – Do we have to go home?
With a train leaving at 3 pm we were determined to make the most of our last precious hours. Our campsite was right next to Boiling Wells, a super secret inner city natural haven with apple orchards, alotments and overgrowing vegetation. Most impressively was all of the graffiti in the area. It’s much more than just Banksy – Bristol is home to pieces from street art pioneers from all over the world. Everywhere we went urban areas were brightened and uplifted by flashes of colour and creativity. It made every underpass and tunnel an exciting experience, and although we didn’t have time to explore properly the graffiti we saw on our Bristol trip was world class.
Our Bristol trip was brought to a close with yet more vegan food. Better Foods prides itself on being ‘organic, local and ethical’ but besides that they had one of the best soups I’ve ever had. This haricot and kale soup was hearty and creamy and the whole shop was haven for the ethical eater.
Vegan Junk Food, Underground Exploration and World Class Graffiti – a Trip to Bristol and Somerset pt. 2
To say our Bristol trip was awesome would be an understatement. It was one of those places you come away from and immediately plan your return trip or explore the possibility of moving there. Bristol has this incredibly urban, yet creative and welcoming atmosphere. There were so many vegan options we didn’t even know where to start and all the food we ate was top class.
The residents of Bristol are lucky to have so much natural beauty on their doorstep or a short cycle away. We decided on Bath and Cheddar Gorge but there were literally hundreds of options for day trips. I would recommend this part of the UK to all travellers but particularly those who want to enjoy real British culture and get into the outdoors. Bristol is the perfect base to go and explore the surrounding beauties and still have a wicked city to come back to.
It’s safe to say Sarah’s surprise Bristol trip was a success!
Did you love your Bristol trip or are you planning a trip in the future? Tell us in the comments box!