Small St Espresso

The exterior view of Small St Espresso on a rainy December day in BristolOn a small street in Bristol, aptly named Small Street, you will find the equally aptly-named Small St Espresso. It’s part of a growing speciality coffee hub right in the heart of the city which includes Full Court Press, Playground Coffee and the newly-opened Tincan Coffee Co.

Small St Espresso itself is a suitably small space, over-flowing with love for good coffee. You can sit outside on a bench or inside on some lovely, bespoke wooden furniture. At the back is a tiled counter and a beautiful La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine with a custom paint job. I know I shouldn’t be swayed by such superficial things, but I am.

It helps, of course, that the coffee is as beautiful as everything else in Small St Espresso. It would be a real shame if, after all that care and attention to the layout and the décor, the coffee had turned out to be rubbish. But fortunately, as much love, if not more, is put into making coffee than has been put into the shop. There’s a house-blend from Clifton Coffee Roasters, with regularly-rotating guests on espresso and filter. If you’re hungry, there’s an excellent range of cakes and toasted sandwiches.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Small St Espresso, looking very welcoming on a rainy December afternoon back in 2012.
  • It looked ever better on a sunny day in April 2013. Note the cash point to the right.
  • Inside you are greeted by wood, tiles and this delightful counter seen here in 2012...
  • ... and looking very similar in 2017! Some things never change!
  • The La Marzocco espresso machine is worth a look: its custom paint job matches the cups.
  • If you want some water, there's a neat water tap tucked away by the side of the machine.
  • However, some things have changed. The original Mahlkonig K30s grinders have gone...
  • ... to be replaced by these Victoria Arduino Mythos 1s. Also, take a look to the right...
  • If you remember the original Small St, that hole in the wall wasn't there! Click on the picture if you want to learn more about how the hole came to be...
  • These days, through the hole in the wall, is a cosy little alcove.
  • There's lots more seating in here, including this two-person table at the back...
  • ... and, at the front, a four-person table, plus a window where the cash machine used to be.
  • The alcove also has a beautiful, brick-vaulted ceiling.
  • There's more seating in the main part of Small St, such as the windows flanking the door.
  • I love these clever wooden tables and benches, custom-built for Small St Espresso.
  • There's a similar one to the left of the door (which also has a table; this was taken in 2012).
  • I also like the clever use of space: this window in the left-hand wall houses a set of shelves.
  • It's full of coffee and coffee-related kit, all of which is for sale.
  • It also has this goregous light-bulb.
  • In fact, Small St Espresso is full of awesome light-bulbs...
  • ... and some lovely light-fittings, although some of them are quite low!
  • Not to be left out, this one is in the alcove.
  • Small St uses Clifton for its house-blend and various guests (from my visit in March 2017).
  • The hall of fame: the house-roaster & some of Small St Espresso's regular guests.
  • However, Small St casts its net much wider. For example, Cornwall's Yallah is coming soon!
  • If you're hungry, Small St Espresso is has a range of cake and toasted sandwiches...
  • These are some of the selection from 2013, made with bread from Hart's Bakery.
  • More of the excellent cake and sandwich selection from my most recent visit in March 2017.
  • Over the years, I've had a lot of coffee at Small St, although this espresso was my first...
  • ... which I paired with an excellent chocolate brownie back in December 2012.
  • I had this filter coffee, an Aeropress of a Costa Rican roasted by Clifton, in January 2016.
  • I'll leave you with an awesome slice of banana bread (toasted) from my most recent visit.
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Small St Espresso has been part of Bristol’s growing speciality coffee scene since it opened in December 2012, when it joined (the now sadly-departed) Wild At Heart, which opened two months earlier. I initially visited Small St on its fifth day in business, returning at regular intervals over the years, with my most recent visit being at the end of March 2017.

Small St is the embodiment of the phrase “small is beautiful”. Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for small spots: London’s Wild & Wood, Edinburgh’s Wellington Coffee, Manchester’s Pavé Coffee, York’s Stanley & Ramona and New York’s I Am Coffee all spring to mind. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across anywhere as beautifully-formed as Small St Espresso.

Laid out in wood, glass and tiles, despite the small size, Small St doesn’t feel at all cramped, even when busy. You entry via a recessed glass door, flanked by two niches, laid out with benches around the windows and little tables, all made of wood. There’s also a bench at the back on the left.

A hole in the exposed bricks of the right-hand wall leads to a small alcove, with a gorgeous brick-vaulted ceiling, a central ceiling beam running from left-to-right separating two shallow arches. The alcove shares the same wooden floorboards as the main space, but is a little bit higher, accessible via a small step. The seating is similar, with a bench running along the length of the right-hand wall. There’s a two-person table at the back and a larger, four-person table in the window at the front, both with their own benches against the party wall.

Pride of place goes to the magnificent tiled counter, which is at the back on the right. This holds a range of cakes from the excellent Exploding Bakery in Exeter, as well as pastries and sandwiches from the incomparable Hart’s Bakery. However, the main feature is Small St’s pride and joy, the espresso machine, which has been sprayed to exactly match the blue of the cups.

Talking of coffee, Small St uses a house-blend from the local Clifton Coffee Roasters, which it’s used from the start. These days, there is a second grinder, serving guest espressos from a variety of roasters, plus decaf (also from Clifton), all of which are joined by another guest, this time a filter available through the Aeropress.

I’ve had some excellent coffee over the years from Small St, including my first ever espresso there (which was made using Clifton’s seasonal espresso blend, version E6, I believe). This, I described as top-notch and “delightfully to the point”. I also started my Small St experience with an amazing chocolate brownie from The Exploding Bakery. I sampled the filter back in January 2016, when I had a lovely Costa Rican from Clifton through the Aeropress and, on my latest visit, I tried the chocolate and banana bread (toasted, of course), which was also excellent.

It’s fair to say that I was (and continued to be) totally bowled over by Chris, co-owner John and everything they’ve achieved with Small St Espresso. These days you’re more likely to find them in Little Victories, Small St’s new big sister. By all means, pay them a visit, but don’t forget to pop into Small St too.

April 2017: this is an updated version of the original post which was published in January 2013. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update piece. There was an earlier update in June 2013 and, if you’re interested, you can also see what I thought of Small St Espresso back then.

December 2017: Small St Espresso was a runner-up for the 2017 Best Physical Space Award.

23 SMALL STREET • BRISTOL • BS1 1DW +44 (0) 7928 098827
Monday 07:30 – 16:30 Roaster Clifton Coffee + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 16:30 Seating Benches, Bench Outside
Wednesday 07:30 – 16:30 Food Cake, Sandwiches
Thursday 07:30 – 16:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 16:30 Cards Amex, Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:30 – 16:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday CLOSED Power Yes
Chain Local Visits Original: 19th December 2012
Updates: 30th April 2013, 30th March 2017

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.

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27 thoughts on “Small St Espresso

  1. I dropped in to the Small Street Espresso and had a flat white made by Chris himself. I thought the place was fantastic – friendly, beautifully decorated, and most important of all the coffee was superb. Better than any of the big chains.

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  7. I went in early March and had a very tasty Americano. I don’t remember being driven out for having milk in it 🙂 It did however get cold rather quickly, but since I was sitting by the door and the weather was extremely cold I don’t think that’s their fault.
    The brownie I had was excellent, I hadn’t registered at the time that it was from The Exploding Bakery, I think I presumed it was Hart’s.
    I’m enjoying seeing inside the Bristol coffee places I haven’t managed to visit yet and it’s definitely encouraged me to give Wild At Heart a try.

    • You should definitely try Wild at Heart, although now Kit has left (he’s working part-time at Full Court Press) I’d be interested to know what the coffee is like.

      Talking of which, you should definitely visit Full Court Press. Tell Mat about your liking Americano with milk and he’ll sort you out 🙂

  8. Happy Birthday!
    What a wonderful year it’s been for you! Congrats Brian!

    I clearly have a lot of new coffee places to visit – as I have only visited one that you mention here! Which was Small St Espresso in Bristol, I think actually after your recommendation! So thanks, it was great!

    I recently visited the Ludo Lounge in Southbourne which was rather jolly good if you fancy some beach action before the summer’s gone!

    I also visited a place in West Bay near Lime Regis and can’t remember the name but AMAZING coffee.. best I’ve had since Melbourne :D) something ‘yard’… great anyway.

    That’s all my tips for now, look forward to seeing the next coffee inspired year Brian

    All the best
    Angie @dishesundressed

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