Forum Coffee House

The Forum Coffee House logo, with a drawing of a Chemex coffee brewer between the words "Coffee" and "House".A relative newcomer to Bath’s rapidly-expanding coffee scene, the Forum Coffee House had only been open for a month when I visited it in October as part of my Caffeine Magazine trip. In a city which can boast the coffee legend that is Colonna & Small’s as well as some outstanding physical spaces, any newcomer needs something special about it in order to carve out its own niche.

Part of The Forum, Bath’s largest convert venue and an old Art Deco cinema, the Coffee House takes its lead from its surroundings, being a beautifully-appointed and fairly unique space. Its island counter is the focus of the coffee house, while simultaneously dividing it into a series of smaller, more intimate spaces.

However, the Forum Coffee House doesn’t rest on its laurels, backing this up with a strong coffee-offering from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Company. A concise espresso-based menu (offering the house espresso-blend and a decaf) is supplemented by the Forum’s signature, a choice of two single-origin beans through the Chemex. While I was there, the options were Indonesian or Brazilian.

There’s also a decent range of tea, bottled beers, wine and soft drinks, plus a small range of bread-based snacks and cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The Forum Coffee House in Bath, recently opened in The Forum building.
  • A somewhat soggy sign welcomes you in.
  • Meanwhile, the sign on the door, with the Chemex as part of the logo, promises much!
  • The view from just inside the door.
  • A slightly different view from inside the door.
  • Immediately to your left as you come in is this window bar...
  • ... meanwhile to the right, there are two more window bars.
  • A view from the end of the counter, looking back towards the door.
  • There's more seating down here, past the counter.
  • This sofa and pair of armchairs, for example.
  • There's another pair of armchairs in the corner by the window bar.
  • This padded bench runs around a couple of walls...
  • ... and ends in this curvy bit just beyond the counter.
  • Beyond it, behind the counter, is this communal table.
  • The view from by the table, looking back at the Forum Coffee House.
  • The back of the counter, as seen from my seat at the table. You can also sit at the counter.
  • Another view of the counter, with its neat row of Chemexes (if that's the plural of Chemex).
  • Chemex and espresso machine wait in anticipation.
  • This is what they were waiting for: the staff, hard at work.
  • Another view of the Chemex, with dedicated grinder (I've decided Chemex is its own plural).
  • Arty shot.
  • Since I'm around the back of the counter: the business end of the espresso machine...
  • ... and the business end of the grinders.
  • The more typical view of the (very shiny) La Marzocco...
  • ... and the view from another angle.
  • The two grinders: espresso blend and decaf.
  • There's also tea for those of that persuasion.
  • There's this neat shelving unit opposite you as you come in the door.
  • Nice collection.
  • Some more books are needed, but it's a pretty good start.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot.
  • And another one. These are over the table at the back.
  • The menus hang up behind the counter. Concise and to the point.
  • There's also a decent set of alternatives to the traditional coffee shop offerings.
  • See what I mean?
  • There's also a very limited food menu: bread with things :-)
  • That'll be the bread then!
  • There is, of course, cake.
  • That's a claim which may have to be put to the test!
  • Okay, to business. A view down the counter.
  • Something from the espresso machine, perhaps?
  • No, I think it would be a shame not to try the filter coffee.
  • Here it is, slightly out of focus. Fortunately it was better made than it was photographed!
  • As promised, I got my hands on the last slice of carrot cake. How was it? Read the post!
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The Forum Coffee House occupies a long and reasonable wide space on St James Parade near Bath station. It’s quite an awkward space for a coffee shop, but the fairly unique layout turns it into a real gem. From the outside, it looks like it occupies two units knocked together, each with its own recessed door between a pair of bay windows. Inside, by the way, it appears to be one harmonious whole.

Entering through the left-hand door, you’re immediately faced by the counter running away to your right.  There’s a two-person window-bar behind you to your left, with two three-person window bars, one to each bay window, to your right, opposite the counter. The layout automatically creates a flow, leading you past the cake to the till, the menus conveniently hanging behind the counter. From there, you move past the espresso machine to the end of the counter. If you’re not sitting in, you can wait here for your coffee without getting in anyone’s way (if the Forum wanted to be really clever, you could leave via the second door without having to go back past the counter/people sitting at the window-bars).

If you’re staying, the rest of the seating starts here. There’s a pair of armchairs in the corner in place of a fourth window-bar, while there’s a sofa at the end of the counter, with a pair of armchairs around a coffee table. A curved, padded bench runs along the far wall and about half of the back wall, punctuated with five tables.

In most coffee shops, behind the counter is dead-space as far as customers are concerned, but in the Forum, the counter is effectively a squared-off horseshoe, acting as an island counter. This means that there’s a whole other space behind it, beyond the end of the padded bench, with a large, eight-person communal table with benches for seating.

The rear of the counter is a brew bar, complete with four bar-stools. This makes it the perfect place to perch and watch both brew bar and La Marzocco espresso machine, which has its business end facing you from the opposite side of the counter.

The more I think about it, the more impressed I am by this layout since it creates several distinct spaces, each small enough to be intimate, but large enough that the Forum can accommodate a lot of customers without being crowded or too noisy. It’s also a bright space, with wooden floor, counter and tables, plus whitewashed walls and ceilings.

So, to the coffee. I went with the Chemex, choosing the Indonesian beans. This came in a cup rather than the more traditional carafe and was a full-bodied, strong coffee, not as delicate or subtle as some. However it’s dark, bold flavours came through strongly. If I was being critical, the lack of tasting notes was a drawback, but the staff, who were very new, seemed genuinely interested in the coffee and eager to learn.

I also took up the challenge laid down by the cake selection which claimed to be in possession of the “best carrot cake ever!!”. It was indeed excellent, a rich cake with crunchy chunks of carrot and dried fruit, topped by sweet (but not sickly) buttercream icing. Best ever? I’ll need to think about that!

1A FORUM BUILDINGS • ST JAMES PARADE • BATH • BA1 1UG
www.bathforum.co.uk
Monday 08:00 – 18:30 Roaster Clifton Coffee Company (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:30 Seating Tables, armchairs, sofas, window bar
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:30 Food Cake, Bread & Jam
Thursday 08:00 – 18:30 Service Order at counter
Friday 08:00 – 18:30 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 08:00 – 18:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 13th October 2014

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3 thoughts on “Forum Coffee House

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