For the past year, there have been groups of like-minded foodies pounding the pavement in search of edible delights on offer in Bristol. Leading the pack are two passionate gals, Alice and Jo, armed with a wealth of knowledge are opening the eye and appetites of Bristolians and tourists alike. The Bristol Food Tour has been running food tours for the past year, in which time the tours arrange has expanded to include an Original Stokes Croft, Vegan, Sweet Tooth, Cycle the City and South of The River Tours. Involving a range of sweet and savoury dishes and tastings over a three-hour tour, highlighting the special independent producers that Bristol has to offer. I sat down with Alice and Jo to learn more about their business and being tour guides in a wonderful foodie city.
How did you both meet?
We met through our boyfriends actually! it was about 3 years ago. We were at the same University at the same time though but never met.
Have you always had a foodie background?
Jo: I have worked in food in one form or another for about 6 years, more so recently as a cheesemonger and in my current job as the manager of a lovely deli in Bristol.
Alice: I’ve never worked in food until the creation of The Bristol Food Tour (tBFT), my work experience is largely in events and venue management and my current job is the events coordinator of the Old Firestation in Bristol.
Why Bristol for the tours?
It’s the perfect city for a walking food tour! It’s chock full of wonderful independent eateries and hidden gems that we love to share with locals and tourists alike. Bristol is also a fairly small city that’s really walkable and has great historical, cultural and art features in its vibrant streets. The different areas of Bristol all have a very different vibe and food culture so it’s great being able to showcase that!
Had you been to many food tours around the world?
Jo: I have been on a food tour in Madurai in India and on one in Puerto Escondido in Mexico. Both were very different but incredible experiences that open the door to a city’s food culture and I learned so much about ingredients, traditions, and tried so much food I’ve never had before and would never think to try had I been on my own.
Alice: I did a walking food tour in NYC on the last day of my trip a couple of years ago and I was gutted I hadn’t done it at the start. It was the highlight of my holiday and started my love for food tours. The tour guide was so charismatic and even sung us a song at the end to wish us well! I tried to get onto a Berlin food tour whilst visiting lately but they were all booked up so I created my own instead to do whilst we there.
How long did it take to design and set up your tours?
Our tours were about a year in planning, figuring out routes, curating a great line up of independent food venues to visit that we knew were producing some delicious food as both of us have been to all of them (and on numerous occasions!). What we found was that we would email places we were interested in but were deflated to not hear back, but when we actually visited the establishments to give them a gentle nudge and reminder we would find the owner of the business grafting in the kitchen! They were all excited by the idea of a food tour but had simply been too busy with their business to even check their emails!
Weirdest dish someone on your tour has said was their favourite meal at the start icebreaker?
Jo: I always find it odd when people say “potatoes” but I kind of get it… They’re a versatile vegetable! One lady said “pork porridge” that she’d had in Vietnam but when she explained it, all of the tour group was making yummy noises.
Alice: I’ve never had anything too weird, sometimes people are really specific about their favourite foods e.g. a certain type of fish cooked in a certain way which is great and usually follows with a lot of conversation from the group to break the ice, other times everyone says pizza (which is a completely fair shout because I love pizza!).
If you could choose 5 famous people to come on your tour, who would they be and why?
Jo: That’s a tough one… Part of me wants to say five big world leaders as I’d love the challenge of getting them together to ‘break bread’ and share food and show off Bristol…to make them do something super down-to-earth and see what happens! Plus I love the image of walking down Stokes Croft with the likes of Trump and Corbyn following along behind me…
Alice: This is the best question we’ve ever been asked! I like Jo’s answer but I’m going to be fickle and chose 5 people I want to hang out with for the afternoon. I’m going to go for: Beyonce, Mary Berry, Ant & Dec and Philip Schofield. IT WOULD BE SO MUCH FUN!
Favourite dish on one of your tours?
Jo: the dishes we get from The Gallimaufry on our vegan tours are really outstanding. And the Middle Eastern mezze feast Souk Kitchen puts on for us on our South of the River tours is so indulgent and flavoursome!
Alice: For me, it’s got to be the miniature pancakes from Ceres. I love that the topping changes from week to week and they’re always so innovative. If someone told me I’d like caramelised beetroot I would never have believed them but I’ve been proved wrong!
Best meal you’ve had in Bristol?
Jo: So many! I’d say Birch in Southville. Super seasonal and delicious dishes, not too much on the menu and everything was done to perfection. It was simple with interesting flavour combinations and the best Queen of Puddings I’ve ever had!
Alice: That is such a difficult choice, there are so many contenders. I’m going to cheat and say two. The tasting menu at Bullrush I had last year was stunning. I also had an incredible 3-course meal from Pasta Loco which blew me away, their attention to detail is exemplary and I think all restaurants should model their FOH service on them! I’m really excited they’re opening a second restaurant in Bristol, they deserve to do well.
What dish would you love to master to make at home?
Jo: I would love to learn how to make proper Mexican dishes, so things like corn tortillas from scratch and fresh salsas.
Alice: In terms of things that we eat on the tour, I’d LOVE to learn how to make Japanese gyozas with the lovely Guy and Vic and Eatchu. They’re so comforting and delicious it’d be brilliant to be able to whip them up at home.
What do you wish you knew when you started your tours, that you know now a year into running the business?
Talking to people face to face get things done a whole lot quicker than emails and phone calls(!) Bristol is such a personable city that people connect with you and your vision much better if you can portray that passion 1 to 1. We try and do as much as we can in this way now, plus it means we build stronger relationships with all of the businesses we include on our tour which creates a better service and more authentic experience for our customers.
Any advice you would give anyone looking to set up their own food business?
GO FOR IT! Once you’ve established a unique idea then you start having conversations with people and thinking about how to make it happen. Make sure that it is something you are really passionate about and can see yourself running for a long time, because fake enthusiasm will be sniffed out, and it’s exhausting!
What is the future for The Bristol Food Tour?
To get bigger and better! We’d love to create routes that cover all of the different areas of Bristol and run these every weekend and also expand our offering for corporate events or bespoke private tours. We’re so thankful for all of the support we’ve received from both the restaurants/traders/producers and our lovely customers and there are so many options as to what should be our next step… watch this space!
Doesn’t that sound fantastic! If that has peaked your appetite, why not check out their website and book on to attend a tour yourself here.
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