Last year, The Sunday Times proclaimed that Bristol was the best place to live in Britain, praising the city for being “cool, classy and supremely creative”.
Renowned for its rich heritage and artistic flair, a key part of the city’s lure is its fiercely independent spirit. As well as having its own currency, it is said to have the longest stretch of independent shops in the UK.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to where to explore first, but they would be best to start at the M Shed, the city’s social history museum, and Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, where prodigal son Banksy once exhibited.
A selection of freshly-made deli rolls, salads, sausage rolls, frittatas and quiches is served across both cafés at M Shed and Bristol Museum, operated by Levy Leisure, as well as a full bakery range and hot food offers.
The Gallery has a food retail capacity of 100 covers and up to 400 for events, while M Shed has a food retail capacity of 80 seats inside, an additional 80 seats outside and up to 480 for events across three different spaces.
A counter service with food delivered to the table is provided to “create a relaxed, informal feel within the cafes,” says Rak Kalidas, strategic director at Levy Leisure. This was decided upon after “listening to guest feedback and looking at different service styles to really think about how to optimise the guest journey when visiting each of our cafes.”
Making food on-site means the venue is able to cater for a range of dietary requirements.
“As our food is freshly prepared on-site each day, we can cater for all dietary needs such as vegan, gluten- or dairy-free dishes,” he explains. “One of our favourite fresh hot dishes includes gluten-free battered Marine Stewardship Council-certified fish and chips.”
Free for the public to enter, guests can also enjoy the award-winning amenities available at both – the team recently achieved Silver accreditation from the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here award.
The award is a widely respected scheme which is striving to raise the standards of food quality, provenance and sustainability in public and private sector catering across the UK.
Both cafes were recognised for their commitment to enhancing their food offer by meeting ethical standards on nutrition, freshness, sustainability and animal welfare. Quite rightly, the team are proud.
“Gaining the Soil Association award means a lot to us, it helps us have a better understanding of where our food comes from and helps us make the right choices,” says Kalidas. “The process of gaining Silver accreditation is rigorous and this shows you how important the quality of our food is.”
At the time, Zak Mensah, head of transformation for the culture team at Bristol City Council, said: “I’m delighted that our cafes have been recognised for their commitment to supporting local businesses and serving ethical food. As consumers, we are more aware than ever of how our dietary decisions can impact the planet, so I’m proud that Bristol’s biggest museums are championing sustainable, honest food.”
Kalidas goes on to describe the process involved with achieving accreditation and the Soil Association certainly doesn’t make it a walk in the (Greville Smyth) park: for the venues to be accredited, they had to prove that 75% of the dishes are freshly prepared, demonstrate that they prepare meals using at least 5% organic ingredients and use a selection of ingredients produced locally or in the UK. They also had to show they are making healthy eating the easy option.
“Other examples of standards that we meet include meat served is from farms which satisfy UK welfare standards, menus are seasonal, specific training is provided for all catering staff, and no GM ingredients are used,” Kalidas adds.
Levy champions the use of regional ingredients and try to source from local producers as much as possible. Some examples that feature across both cafés include John Sheppard Butchers; House Hobbs Bread, a Bristolian bakery house; Harvey & Brockless, a local and organic cheese supplier; ice cream sourced from Marshfield Farm; and Clifton coffee.
Bristol’s fiercely independent spirit means that it is difficult for mainstream chains to do well in the city, as locals prefer to support individual businesses – this has led to quite the foodie culture and residents tastes have become markedly more discerning. With such high expectations from high street outlets, Levy knew the food offering at the Museum and M Shed had to be up to par.
Kalidas adds: “We understand the role F&B plays during a visitor day out and how standards on the high street set our customers’ expectations. This understanding plays an important part in our considered approach – it’s something we look at when creating a concept and when we review what food and drink we’re thinking of serving.”
What is the Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here award?
The Soil Association’s Food for Life Served Here award is an independent award scheme that means caterers can guarantee that the food on menus meets certain standards. The award is inspected annually, during a visit from a member of the inspection team.
The award is regularly cited as a requirement in procurement specifications and has helped many caterers to retain and win new contracts.
SAMPLE MENU AT BRISTOL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY CAFE
Tea and bacon sandwich with Hobbs House bread and farm assured bacon
Danish pastry or freshly baked croissant with a cup of Clifton coffee
Homemade organic beef burger with cheese, tomato, mixed leaves and fries
Savoury bake of the day with mixed leaves and choice of two salads
Homemade soup and deli sandwich
AFTERNOON (from 3pm)
Freshly-made scone, clotted cream, homemade berry jam and a pot of tea
Meat-free Mondays – veg out on Mondays and enjoy homemade vegetarian dishes
Free fruit Fridays – one piece of fruit free with any purchase on a Friday
SAMPLE MENU AT M SHED’S M CAFE
Organic Wharfburger, Hobbs House bun, grilled cheese, smoked bacon, relish and chips
Gluten-free battered sustainable fish, fat chips, crushed peas and caper tartare
Chickpea and coriander, Hobbs House bun, baby spinach, mint, organic yoghurt and chips (V)
House smoked ham hock hash, hen’s egg and crushed mint peas
Little portion of all adult meals (burger, fish & chips, veg burger)
Bangers with mash and peas
Seasonal veg pasta of the day
M SHED GRILL SHACK
Slow-cooked pork shoulder, homemade BBQ sauce and beetroot slaw
Merguez lamb burger, baby gem, cucumber, red onion and spiced yoghurt
Chargrilled summer veg, English feta and hazelnut dukkha
IMAGES COPYRIGHT BOB PITCHFORD