Coffee culture is on a high in the UK – and whether it’s ‘Friends’, Australian expats or a wealth of excellent British roasters we should be thanking, that basically means it’s never been easier to get your caffeine kick. Which in our opinion is very good. And it doesn’t stop at flat whites and macchiatos: the absolute best cafés in Bristol are about more than just the bean. From kitsch tea houses to cafés serving restaurant-quality breakfast and brunch, there’s all sorts of first-rate food and drink to tuck into here. Check out the below and you’ll go away mighty satisfied.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Bristol
Best coffee shops and cafés in Bristol
Tucked away in Bristol’s beautiful old city, Small Street 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 make this one Insta-friendly hidey-hole. Small Street Espresso opened in 2012 and was at the forefront of Bristol’s third-wave coffee revolution.
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 Clifton Coffee.
Full Court Press opened in 2012 and, alongside the likes of Small Street Espresso, helped usher in Bristol’s third-wave coffee revolution. After working for a few larger coffee conglomerates, it was Mat North’s dream to set up his own independent café and help people understand just how complex coffee can be.
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.
If you’ve walked through St. Nicks market’s Glass Arcade, chances are you’ve paused and gushed at the cakes on offer at Ahh 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, 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.
A more 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 owner Georgina Turner decided to open a bakery, complete with coffee shop. And what a place it is.
It’s all about the waffles at this stylish neighbourhood café on Easton High Street. And whether you go for toppings of crispy bacon or syrup and seasonal fruit, one thing’s certain: you need to get your order in early because they’ve been known to sell out. To say BS5 locals have grown fond of this airy corner café with big windows, whitewashed walls and large communal tables is something of an understatement.
Enticing from the outside, Papadeli’s windows glisten with treats and give you a real taste of what you can expect within. This place was founded in 2002 by Simon MacDonnell as a deli, but soon made the move to becoming a café, and has been offering delish homemade food and coffee ever since. For breakfast, you really can’t go wrong with one of their cracking bacon butties.
Source is renowned for its independent food hall and hearty lunch offerings, but it’s at breakfast that its commitment to seasonal sourcing really comes into its own. This is a café that knows its suppliers, and genuinely cares about quality. And the proof is in the perfectly poached egg on your plate. Coffee (from Extract) is exceptionally good.
Kieran and Imogen Waite’s Cotham Hill tapas joint Bravas finds itself at the top of many a Bristolian foodie’s hit list, so it came as no surprise that their coffee shop also became an instant hit when it opened on Gloucester Road in early 2014. Breakfast and brunch is superb, but the coffee – from Extract – is perhaps even better.
The first Spicer+Cole opened on Queen’s Avenue in the city centre and filled a gap in the market in that part of town for decent coffee and affordable wholesome food. At this second opening, beans come from legendary Bristol roaster Extract, and make the perfect pairing for their rich, homemade cakes – the peanut butter brownie is a particular favourite. Keep an eye out for their guest coffees too.
Bakeries don’t do things by halves in Bristol. The best ones have found demand so high, an adjoining coffee shop or café has become an essential. Mark’s Bread is a case in point. Here you can sit in and enjoy toast with homemade jam for breakfast, or devour homemade soup with sourdough for lunch. Coffee comes from Extract (them again), and if you know of this roaster, you’ll know exactly what that means.