A quiet, relaxed coffee spot by day and a lively, often packed bar at night, I’ve been going to the Bar des Arts since it first opened a couple of years ago. It’s my favourite coffee spot in my home town of Guildford and the one place I’ll make a point of going to just for the sheer pleasure of it. The coffee is very good (and has recently got a lot better), the pastries are excellent and the lunches never fail to delight.
As the name suggests, Bar des Arts has more in common with a European café than your standard coffee shop, which is probably what attracted me to it in the first place. A name such as “Bar des Arts” can be a double-edged sword: it sets a certain level of expectation which, if not met, can be very disappointing, but Bar des Arts has never failed to exceed my expectations, which is why I keep coming back.
The website describes itself as “an oasis of calm” which it most certainly is. A couple of minutes’ walk off the beaten track, Bar des Arts is certainly worth the (very small) extra effort.
October 2015: sadly Bar des Arts closed at the start of the month. I’m not sure what, if anything, will take its place.
November 2021: although a short walk away on Tunsgate, Bar des Arts now has a spiritual successor in Tattam’s, café by day and cocktail bar by night.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
One of the problems with working from home is that I don’t actually get out and about that much in my home town. One result of this is that I spend much more time in coffee spots around the country than I do in Guildford. Trips into town generally involve heading to the station to catch a train or going shopping (one of my least favourite activities), neither of which is conducive to lingering over a coffee.
Bar des Arts is one of the few places that actually drags me out of the house in its own right. Down on the Millmead, opposite the Yvonne Arnaud theatre, it is one of a kind in Guildford; a café by day, serving coffee, pastries and excellent lunches, while in the evening, it turns into a lively bar. Lively bars not really being my scene, you’ll usually find me down here in the afternoon (and occasionally the morning), enjoying the coffee, which now features a brew bar with single-origin beans from Horsham Coffee Roaster and eating the lovely pastries.
Before Bar des Arts opened, I struggled for a go-to coffee spot in Guildford. It’s not that Guildford lacks coffee shops: without even trying I can name you 10 branches of the three main coffee chains and five decent independents, plus there’s now a Harris & Hoole. Although I quite like Glutton & Glee for cake, none of them were really what I was looking for.
Part of the problem is that Guildford’s a fairly compact town and the majority of the coffee shops cater (whether they want to or not) to the shoppers who flood the High Street. This results in very busy and often quite noisy places. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I’m looking for. Bar des Arts, by being all of two minutes’ walk off the beaten track, is a much quieter, more relaxed café, and so is ideal for a solitary coffee, meeting a friend, or, indeed, writing a blog post.
I’ve loved Bar des Arts ever since I walked past about a month after it opened and thought “that looks interesting”. I went inside and I wasn’t disappointed. As a name, “Bar des Arts” sets certain expectations and it more than meets them. It exudes an air of continental sophistication and a lot of thought has gone into the décor, from the iconic photographs to the furniture. The arts part of the name is well catered to, with a grand piano by the window, a double bass in the corner and a constant soundtrack of interesting music. Music in cafés can be a particular bugbear of mine, but I can honestly say that in all my visits, I’ve never found it to be a problem.
There’s also a wide range of seating, with my own favourite, the comfy corner, complete with sofa and comfy chairs. There’s another sofa in the main area, along with ample tables and chairs, bar stools at the bar and, for those prepared to brave the Millmead traffic, there’s even seating outside.
What more can I say? Take that extra two minutes walk and give it a go. But please, don’t all go at once. We wouldn’t want to it too busy, now would we?
|MILLBROOK • GUILDFORD • GU1 3YA|
|www.bardesarts.co.uk||+44 (0) 1483 453227|
|Monday||CLOSED||Roaster||Horsham Coffee Roaster (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||15:00 – 00:00||Seating||Comfy Chairs, Sofas, Tables, Bar, Tables (Outside)|
|Wednesday||15:00 – 00:00||Food||Cake, Lunch|
|Thursday||15:00 – 00:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||15:00 – 01:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 02:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 19th, 28th September 2012|
|Update: 20th July 2013|
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