I’d describe The Barista’s in Chester (the apostrophe leaving me asking “the Barista’s what?”) as an old-fashioned coffee shop (“old-fashioned” meaning a mere 10 years ago!). Set in the bottom of an old building on Chester’s historic Watergate Street, it’s a lovely, relaxing place, with bare stone and brick walls belying the age of building (it dates from the 17th century, if not earlier).
As a venue, it’s worth it just for the experience, especially if, like me, you appreciate old buildings. There are also a couple of tables outside on the pavement; on a sunny day, I can see sitting outside being a great option, the pedestrianised Watergate Street making a very pleasant backdrop.
The Barista’s serves Has Bean, so you know that the coffee’s going to be more than just run-of-the-mill. In fact, The Barista’s achieved the unique distinction of serving me a Has Bean espresso which I drank without pulling a face! There is, as they say, a first time for everything!
Add to that a fairly typical coffee shop range of cake, sandwiches, Panini, soup and a less-than-typical selection of flatbreads and you have a credible alternative to the coffee chains in the heart of Chester.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Barista’s is somewhere that had caught my eye on twitter long before I visited in person, which is just as well. From the street it has the look and feel of a fairly generic coffee shop and, if I didn’t know better, I might have walked past without venturing in. However, not to be deterred, I gave it ago.
Stepping inside, a few steps lead down into the body of the shop, which runs back from the fairly narrow shop front. I immediately warmed to the bare walls, a combination of rough stone blocks and old bricks. It has the feel of a well-aged, lived-in building that’s evolved down the centuries. Coming down the steps, there’s a little bar in front of you, with the shop stretching away to your left, starting with the counter. Opposite that are a few round tables, but the bulk of the seating is at the back, beyond the counter.
Comfort is provided by a couple of nice sofas, one to the left, the other tucked away in a little corner at the back. The rest of the seating is a mixture of small round or square tables, each seating three or four people. In all, you could get fifty people seated in comfort, although while I was there it was never close to being full, despite it being Friday lunchtime. Gentle pop and easy-listening classics played in the background.
The Barista’s sticks to a fairly unadventurous espresso-based menu, offering its house blend and a guest, both from Has Bean. The guest, a Kenya Karani, had tasting notes which described it as “think peaches having a fight with a lemon!”. This was enough to have me scurrying for the house blend (50% Sumatra, 25% Ethiopia and 25% El Salvador) which I had as a single espresso.
I was rewarded with the first ever Has Bean that I could drink as a straight espresso without pulling a face! It was still a little too fruity and sharp for my palette, but I was pleasantly surprised. I could easily drink this on a daily basis and not be unhappy. However, I was glad that I went for a single rather than a double since it was a touch on the watery side and I suspect that a double would have been far too long for me.
I followed this by venturing to try the guest as a flat white. This was (far) too hot when it first arrived, but improved with cooling. As a combination, the guest blend and the milk didn’t quite reach the heights of other Has Beans that I’ve tried (for example, the Jailbreak as a noisette from Ten Belles, which still ranks as one of the best I’ve had). However, it was very fine, the milk taking the edge off the warring peach and lemon. If I have one criticism, the milk quickly lost its body; by the end I was drinking a milky coffee rather than a flat white.
Since it was lunch time, and not many places offer flatbreads, I tried one, a very tasty, toasted offering, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. The fillings were well-selected: goat’s cheese giving it some punch, with caramelised onion adding a sweetness that was the perfect compliment.
|9 WATERGATE STREET • CHESTER • CH1 2LB|
|www.thebaristas.co.uk||+44 (0) 1244 400045|
|Monday||08:30 – 17:00||Roaster||Has Bean (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 17:00||Seating||Tables, Sofas, Bar; Tables (Outside|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 17:00||Food||Panini, Sandwiches, Soup, Cake|
|Thursday||08:30 – 17:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||08:30 – 17:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Power||A few|
|Chain||Local||Visits||20th September 2013|
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