On 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 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|
|www.smallstreetespresso.co.uk||+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)|
|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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