Whether you blame Friends, Aussie influence or the wealth of new artisan roasters in the UK, coffee culture continues to boom. And while we have caffeine kicks to rival any city in the land, the best Bristol coffee shops and cafés aren't just about the bean. From a burgeoning tea renaissance and cafés serving restaurant-quality breakfasts and brunches, to peerless patisseries and bakes to make Mary Berry beam, there's a lot to enjoy. So go and do so - anywhere on the list below should be a good start.
Bristol coffee shops and cafés
Tucked away in Bristol’s beautiful old city, Small St. Espresso is the epitome of cosy. Small, but perfectly formed, it’s the sort of place where the windows steam up while you sit at a window seat sipping your chosen brew. Exposed brick, stripped wooden floorboards and uncovered pipes add to the ‘hipness’ of this coffee shop. Small St. Espresso opened in 2012 and, along with a handful of others, was at the forefront of the coffee revolution in Bristol.
Why is it called Playground? Because you can sit on swings while you drink your coffee, obviously! There’s a pretty impressive selection of games to be played, too. In fact, piles of board games are stacked up next to leather Chesterfield sofas on the chequered floor, while old school chairs lend a certain classroom feel. When it comes to the important stuff - the coffee – there are usually two espressos to choose from, both from highly acclaimed Clifton Coffee.
Opened by Bristolian sourdough queen Laura Hart in 2012, Hart’s Bakery is the Temple Quarter’s go-to for cut-above caffeine (courtesy of local roasters Extract Coffee) and breakfast on the go, with a big communal table that works well for more leisurely pit stops. Watch the baking action unfold in the open kitchen – and get first dibs on that new batch of cinnamon buns – as you sample your way through their sourdough toast, breakfast muffins and flaky sausage rolls.
Full Court Press opened in 2012 and, alongside the likes of Small St Espresso, helped usher in Bristol’s coffee revolution. After working for a few larger coffee conglomerates, it was proprietor Mat North’s dream to set up his own independent coffee shop and help people understand just how complex coffee can be.
If you’ve walked through St Nicks Markets’ Glass Arcade, chances are you’ve paused and gushed at the cakes on offer at Ah Toots. They stand tall on the makeshift cart display, glistening with icing that would give a plasterer a run for his money and decorations that make you want to plant your face in them.
Baristas is one of Bristol’s coffee stalwarts, having been in its spot on Victoria Street since 2000 (although it relaunched under new ownership in 2004). Thanks to its location, Baristas buzzes with activity from the minute it opens its doors, providing office workers and creatives with that all-important first caffeine hit of the day. Keep an eye out for guest coffees that come and go to accompany Baristas’ longstanding own blend.
This small but perfectly formed café behind Whiteladies Road brings a slice of the Deep South to BS8. It only opened a few months back (in September 2014), but its light-filled interior is already full most days with a mix of locals, shoppers and foodies on the hunt for the next big thing. Great prices, good coffee and a damned fine chai latte complete a very pleasing picture here.
It’s all about the waffles at this stylish neighbourhood café and foodstore on Easton High Street. And whether you opt for them with crispy bacon or slathered in syrup and seasonal fruit, one thing is certain: you need to get your order in early because they have been known to sell out. To say that BS5 locals have taken this airy corner café with its big windows, whitewashed walls and large communal tables to their hearts is something of an understatement.
The most recent addition to Bristol’s bakery/café scene, Stock Exchange Bakery was born out of a business that started out selling bagels. These proved so popular that proprietor Georgina Turner decided to open up a bakery, complete with coffee shop. And what a place it is.
Source is locally renowned for its independent food hall and hearty lunch offerings, but it’s at breakfast that this place’s commitment to seasonal sourcing really comes into its own. This is a café that knows its – predominately local and available in the adjoining shop – suppliers, and genuinely cares about ingredient quality. And the proof is in the perfectly poached egg on your plate. Coffee (from Extract) is exceptionally good.