Review: Bowl of Plenty at Bristol Folk House
Updated: Jun 20, 2019
It seems as if a shiny new restaurant or cafe opens in the city every week, so it can be easy to forget about those venues which have been serving good, wholesome food to customers for a very long time. The Folk House is a real Bristol institution, a 99 year old creative venue hidden behind bustling Park Street. The organic cafe has been run by Liz Haughton's The Cooking Company Ltd for 13 of those years, and she is now running it under the Bowl of Plenty trading name, in line with other successful cafes at Colston Hall and Spike Island.
I visited on a busy Thursday lunchtime, with not a spare table in sight when I entered the dining room at 1pm. However, the friendly staff seemed totally unflustered, showing me to my (luckily reserved) table and explaining the menu to me. I really like Bowl of Plenty's food ethos - creating hearty, nutritious, and delicious food using only the best ingredients - those that are local and organic, and choosing to work with companies that are ethical and sustainable.
The Bowl of Plenty menu changes with the seasons but the hot bowl foods are always soups, chillis, stews, tagines, curries or pasta, with counter food varying from tarts, tortilla, toasties and pizzas, along with cakes, cookies and bar snacks. Most dishes are vegetarian or vegan, with well-sourced meat being served only occasionally and mainly for catered events.
On the day I visited, I struggled to choose just one lunch dish from the many delicious sounding options available. There was a choice of super green fritatta, butternut squash, apple, ginger and kaffir lime soup, korean style salad plate, two hot bowls, and two different toasties. However, I eventually settled on a hot bowl of red bean chilli, served with brown rice and tortilla chips, topped with yogurt and spring onions. Service was quick and efficient, and before long I was tucking into a generous and flavoursome bowl of chilli. There were plenty of visible jalapenos which I enjoyed as they provided some heat to the dish, but it was also nice to have the yogurt there to cool it down if needed. There was a generous portion of rice too, which I didn't manage to finish, but it was perfectly cooked and not at all stodgy.
My lunch companion chose the other hot bowl of thai-potato, spinach & peanut curry, served with rice and toasted soy seeds. She said it was delicious too, and having tried a spoonful, I definitely agreed with her! There was a generous amount of well-cooked vegetables in the curry and the sauce was sweet and tasty. We washed all the food down with some sparkling vegan soft drinks, including a new flavour of blood orange and turmeric.
By the time we had finished, the lunch crowd had quickly thinned out, but we were reluctant to leave the warm and relaxed atmosphere inside the Folk House. The current cafe decor is bright and quirky, but is being re-painted and replaced with Bowl of Plenty branding soon. Stomachs completely full, we eventually made our way back outside into the rain, and the hustle and bustle of Park Street, vowing to return as soon as we can to this hidden gem serving wholesome food in the heart of the city.
Bowl of Plenty, Bristol Folk House is at 40a Park Street, BS1 5JG.
Mon-Thu 9am-8.30pm. Fri-Sat 9am-4pm.
Disclaimer: I was offered a complimentary lunch for two, in return for an honest review.
All thoughts and photos are my own.