Haymarket and the Bearpit next door to it are one of the most changed areas in Bristol in the past 18 months – it’s gone from dreary concrete and a row of shuttered buildings to one of central Bristol’s quirkier food hotspots, with Sky Kong Kong serving their own ecelctic selection of Asian dishes, Bearpit Social supplying some excellent coffee & treats for the lunchtime crowd, and let’s not forget Mayflower – often cited as the best dim sum in town.
Among these neighbours, Mathilda’s sits coolly and confidently – this ‘friendly neighbourhood chilli bar’ with its gleaming tiles, minimal decor and black & white colour scheme, reminds me of one of those ’70s monochrome music videos filmed in Brooklyn or Berlin. When I seat myself at one of their tables, I feel like I’m about to act out that Tom Waits scene from Cigarettes & Alcohol.
Prices are the big draw here – the 3 bean chilli will set you back £6.95, with the Texan beef brisket option costing £8.95, or a half-and-half for £7.95, all served with a bowl of rice, a portion of fresh guacamole & sour cream, and jalapenos.
All sides are generous portions and come in at either £2 for their corn on the cob or poppyseed coleslaw, or £3.50 for the deep fried pickles or massive onion rings. Everything tastes fresh, flavoursome and surprisingly light for such hearty fare. You can eat well here for under a tenner – an incresing rarity in this city.
The menu is reassuringly basic, yet still caters for vegetarians and vegans, as well as the spice fans, obviously. There are giant bottles of Tabasco dotted around the bar, as well as a selection of other hot sauces; they even have a selection of spicy spirits if you want a cocktail with a kick!
Whether it’s the decor, the location, the prices or the lush food that draws you in, I guarantee that once you’ve paid Mathilda’s a visit, you’ll be returning again before long, and bringing a friend.
Open Wed-Sat, 5pm-10pm
8A Haymarket Walk, BS1 3LN