Catchy headline, right?
I write about what I know, and I know this small stretch of North Street on the Bedminster-Southville border of south Bristol pretty damn well, as I live there.
Over the past 18 months – this half-mile stretch between bustling East Street and the charming, well-established far end of North Street has started to come alive, and I’m very excited.
It’s about time. Although home to some really lovely gems like Toyville, Jasper’s Jamaican Diner and The Spotted Cow, and community stalwarts like my Dad’s old local (and a star of Upfest), The Masonic, this stretch of high street had still been dominated by empty shopfronts and uninspiring offices.
We’re now seeing a flurry of ultra-cool indie businesses opening up on North Street, right between the Luckwell Road and Dean Lane/Cannon Street roundabouts.
So we (tried) to find out more
I say tried, because Alex Schumann and I really should have done some googling before we left because on that cloudy Tuesday morning we chose to explore – a lot of spots on our ultra-cool hit list were closed. Dang.
We did get to visit quite a few of our favourite shops and cafes though, so here’s a rundown of these awesome indie businesses on North Street.
Ok, I do write about Mon Pote all the time. I love it. This little gem is owned by Anna and Natalie, and held it’s position just next to the Luckwell Road roundabout for over a year now.
Mon Pote sells homewares, gifts, jewellery and everything a small child could dream of. With a carefully curated collection, Anna and Natalie have created a brand identity through the products they sell, their decor and their warm and friendly customer service.
Mon Pote is an absolute go-to for any occasion – my favourite being ‘because I’m walking past’. Before become Mon Pote, this little shop unit had been empty for 13 years – lunkily, local Anna fell in love and had the vision to create this incredible emporium.
Independent Design Collective (IDC)
I have to be totally honest here, I was heartbroken when IDC opened, because they’re in my dream shop unit. I’d been admiring the bay-fronted 76 North Street for months, maybe even years, and always thought that one day it would be mine.
I got over it pretty quickly though, after visiting the shop on the weekend it opened and seeing what an excellent job Chitra Tarling had made of the renovation.
IDC has a rolling collection of products from local makers, designers and artists. This approach to procurement is a great idea, as it keeps the brand and ethos consistent but allows Chitra to move stock with trends and seasons.
The decor again is spot-on for the neighbourhood, and neutral enough to leave the focus on the products. It’s also laid out brilliantly, allowing IDC to create zones for each designer.
I was dying to finally meet the owners behind Albatross Cafe, a new Berlin style coffee-and-cocktail solution that is an Instagrammer’s dream.
But it’s closed on Tuesdays, and I really should have looked that up first. We couldn’t find much out about this young brand either, except that owners also own a vintage clothes shop in Berlin. And of course, a cafe on North St is the natural next step in world domination.
I’m no food critic, I just love to write about brands in Bristol, and Albatross have nailed a consistent, fresh identity that totally complements and enhances their product offering. And, by having a beautiful premises, they’re fully primed for social sharing through visual media.
I will say though, that their tasty food and fresh coffees have managed to tempt my close friends from around the city – and I personally recommend any of their fig dishes!
North Street Standard
I might be a little biased here as this bar and restaurant is right at the end of my road, so I generally end up here at least once a week. They also offer bargain Sunday roasts via Wriggle if you get there quick enough.
North Street Standard is the little sister of Urban Standard on Bristol’s most famous high street, Gloucester Road. The standard family is growing too, with Society Standard in Cardiff, and the soon arriving South Street Standard in Exeter.
North Street Standard is a great complement to the community. The urban-style renovation sits perfectly with the young, cool families nearby – and they’ve very smartly restricted the number of tables making it easy to navigate and host pushchairs.
This is a brand that has totally nailed it’s physical presence, catering perfectly to the location and target audience.
Oh, and their sharing dish ‘All of the Meat’ is the tits.
Margot May may not be modern in appearance, but it most certainly is in their business approach. For a couple of decades, we saw many businesses come and go that tried to cater to everyone – mirroring the mass consumerism and domination of generic brands from the nineties and noughties.
Aren’t you glad we’re seeing such a rejection of that culture? It was all a bit gross.
Margot May is a stunning tearoom with a product offering that has been designed with quality, local suppliers and uniqueness in mind.
Situated almost directly opposite North Street Standard, Margot May also makes the most of the young family community but it a very different manner. With a more intimate setting, every visit to the gorgeous cafe feels like a treat – making it the perfect venue for ‘grown-up’ celebrations.
That’s why every time you walk past, you’ll see afternoon birthday teas, baby showers, very classy hen dos and social groups soaking in the warm atmosphere.
Schumann and I fully intended on having a chat with the business owners, but ended up just eating scones and eggs. They were delicious.
Another indie business not open mid-morning on a Tuesday. Hangfire is probably the coolest of the ultra-cool. This urban art gallery is a tribute to the artists it features, with regular exhibitions, events and exciting projects.
North Street is the home of Upfest, one of the world’s largest street art festivals, so where could be better for this centre of urban art?
Again, this brand is executed brilliantly across every millimetre of their shop unit, with a minimal but industrial design that allows their products to take centre stage.
…and so many more
You might be surprised by how many more lovely indie businesses are on this short stretch of road that we haven’t managed to write about in detail. The Old Butchers, like The Old Bookshop, is a bar born of love for beer and BS3.
Vegan bakery and cafe, Earthcake, is quickly becoming a go-to for even the biggest meat lovers. There’s also Friendly Records (currently moving a few doors up the road), Hennessey’s Coffee Lounge, Level Cuts, Rhubarb Jumble, and of course, Trika Yoga.
What does this mean for North Street, between the Luckwell Road and Dean Lane/Cannon Street roundabouts?
It’s a great place to be. Local high streets like North Street, East Street, Gloucester Road, Chruch Road, Cotham Hill, Whiteladies Road and beyond are built on the collective strength of the individual small businesses.
With so many exciting indie brand moving into this stretch, it’s quickly establishing itself as a destination for shopping, leisure and culture – all within a half-mile stretch in South Bristol.
What’s more, there’s plenty of beautiful units still available that are considerably cheaper that some Bristol alternatives. Perfect for the next creative entrepreneur looking for a physical location with character, accessibility and a thriving small business community.
A word of warning: Recreo
Oh Recreo, I wish I’d spent more time with you. Recreo was a great menswear store, situated right in the heart of BS3.
Unfortunately, this lovely indie business closed in 2017, after around a year of trading. We don’t know the circumstances of the closure, and like others in the owner are always sad to see great new brands shut down so soon.
Business is a risky business, and most do fail. However, we believe the right entrepreneurs with the right attitude (and great products too) would be right at home on North Street – between the Luckwell Road and Dean Lane/Cannon Street roundabouts.