Archive | November, 2011

Bristol independents: the no-Tesco challenge

29 Nov

Stokes Croft Tesco has been back in the news in the last week, owing to a petition calling for an inquiry into police handling of disturbances around the shop when it opened in April. This prompted me to get round to writing this post, which I’d been intending to do for ages.


I followed the No Tesco saga in the national news prior to moving to Bristol. I agree with protestors that Express-style supermarket franchises tend to be cash-vampires of the worst kind, flogging price-inflated branded goods and fruit/veg in individual eco-hating “plastic prisons” (© Tom James).

And yes, 40 outlets in one city smacks of a greedy monopoly. It’s encouraging that passing by the shop gives the impression residents are indeed voting with their wallets: it always looks pretty empty.

From the tone of some of the rhetoric at the time, though, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Stokes Croft is hiving with independent food marts, waiting to be cut down in their prime by the unwelcome agent of capitalism.

Not so (at least not at the moment*) – a quick walk from town to the junction of Ashley Road reveals plenty for those seeking pubs, cafes and massage parlours, and a few small outlets selling some groceries, but nowhere to buy a weekly shop.

Viable alternatives

After taking a flat in St Pauls – a stone’s throw from Stokes Croft – I wondered where, if you were working longish hours, on a moderate budget (£35 per week for two people in my case), and without a car, you could shop while avoiding a journey by bus or bike to a larger store such as the Tesco at Eastville.

Anti-supermarket diatribes frequently duck the issue of whether most people have the time or money to make using the alternatives viable (to be fair, the No Tesco blog did conduct a price comparison, but this only listed a few basics).

But after a couple of months here, I reckon all the shops on the list below are well worthy of support – if you’re reading this then I’d be interested to hear other recommendations, especially if you live elsewhere in the city.

I may be stating the bleeding obvious to longer-term residents of Bristol, but a visit to most of them is possible in a similar time – and at an equivalent cost – as a trip to a large supermarket.

  • Gardners Patch, 159 Gloucester Road: Ace greengrocers stocking well-priced, mostly UK produce including harder-to-find ingredients such as artichokes and pak choi.
  • Bristanbul, 137 Gloucester Road: Turkish bakery and patisserie selling gigantic flatbreads that you can live off for days – at 79p a pop.
  • The Breadstore, 45 Gloucester Road: Delicious English loaves at little more than supermarket prices.
  • Licata & Son, 36 Picton Street: When I saw this Italian deli and importers, I said something sneery about it looking like a nice place to shop if you’re minted. Then I went inside and realised you could get most of your canned and dry goods – plus cheese and cured meats – at megastore-comparable prices.
  • Grosvenor Supermarket, 102-104 Grosvenor Road: My local convenience store, stocking a decent range of fresh and store-cupboard food. Worth a visit just for the range of hot pepper sauces.
  • Malik’s, 24 Stapleton Road: A strong range of exotic (and not so exotic) veg, fresh herbs, pulses and spices. Open late and friendly staff – and thanks to their second business selling beauty products, you can now browse their products online.

*This situation could well be set to change in the near future, if the planned Stokes Croft People’s Supermarket manages to get off the ground. I’m aiming to be writing more on this some time soon.

Grosvenor Supermarket stocks a dangerously wide range of hot sauce

Day of the Dead at 40 Alfred Place

2 Nov

You need feeding, you've got no colour in your cheeks...


I’ve always been drawn to the Mexican Day of the Dead, both as a positive celebration of loved ones who’ve died, and because of the fantastically ornate, skull-based imagery associated with the festival: so much better-looking than Halloween.

So when I hear about a Mexican Cantina night in honour of Dia de los Muertos at permanent pop-up joint 40 Alfred Place, located up in Kingsdown’s Dickensian splendour, I’m on it faster than a slamming coffin lid.

Smile, the tequila is free.


At £19.50 for three courses it’s a more expensive affair than most of what gets featured on this blog – but doesn’t come up short in the value for money stakes.

Free shots of gold tequila are followed by a two-part starter: plump, spicy fried chicken wings that pose a serious grease-threat to skull makeup, and a simple platter of nachos with cheese, salsa and exceptional guacamole, served tapas-style from little enamel dishes. A bottle of decent Spanish red costs £12.50.

Showing off over the starters.


It might be argued that the main course of chilli pursues a slightly unimaginative tack, but the rich, seemingly chipotle-packed dish of slow-cooked, chunky beef bears little resemblance to yer standard con carne.

Puds of vanilla ice-cream with chilli-chocolate sauce, fried bananas in tequila (a combo that bizarrely, but deliciously, winds up tasting like rhubarb) and more complementary tequila ensure there are a couple of happily bloated corpses rolling out the door.

Props to hosts Polly and Kate and their chefs for the night – this is straightforward food, but done with unarguable flair. Keep an eye on Twitter for what’s up next.

Why fried bananas in tequila should taste of rhubarb is anyone's guess...