For once I’ve done things the right way round. Regular readers will know that I have a habit of visiting cafés with multiple locations in the wrong order, starting with the most recent, before working my way back to the original. With Bath’s Society Café, I’ve managed to do the original on Kingsmead Square first, before I visited second, more recent branch, in The Corridor.
Society Café occupies a corner spot on the southern edge of Bath’s Kingsmead Square, surely the city’s café capital. Everywhere you look, there are cafés, including, on the opposite side of the square, the Boston Tea Party. Like the Tea Party, Society Café has a large outdoor seating area spilling out onto the square. It would make the perfect place to sit sipping your coffee if it weren’t for the fact that whenever I go to Bath, it pours with rain. It’s the Manchester of the South West!
Inside, Society Café sprawls (in a nice way) across multiple rooms and over two levels, with a cracking multiple-space basement. With coffee from local roaster Round Hill, and a selection of sandwiches and cake, it’s the perfect place to spend half an hour or all day!
August 2017: I’ve learnt that Society Café has switched its house roaster to Origin, although Round Hill still features regularly as a guest.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
From the outside, Society Café looks really big, firmly planted in a solid, old building on the corner of Kingsmead Square. However, inside it feels quite small and intimate. Despite this, it really is quite big, spread across three rooms upstairs, with another two (or three, maybe four, depending on how you count them) in the basement.
Occupying an L-shape floorplan, you enter at the bottom corner of the “L”, faced by the generous counter running diagonally across the opposite corner. A couple of small tables are immediately to your right, with a long window-bar on the left-hand wall. However, that’s if for seating here, Society Café having resisted the temptation to cram too much in. There’s a room to your right (a long, padded bench with three four-person tables and a pair of armchairs in the corner) and another ahead of you (another long window-bar and a communal table). The stairs to the basement are here too.
Each space upstairs is large enough not to feel cramped, but small enough to feel intimate, with whitewashed walls decorated with artwork and, in the far room, bikes. There are wooden floorboards, tables and window-bars throughout. Although the windows are quite small, in keeping with the solid, stone walls, it’s nonetheless a bright space, especially on the miserable, a grey day I was there.
The basement has two more spaces, almost mirroring the layout above. The first, at the bottom of the stairs, has two four-person tables, with a bar against the stairs and a lovely little niche with its own table. Beyond this, another space has a pair of sofas around a coffee table on the right and another communal table on the left. Finally, there’s a cosy, round niche in the corner. Although it’s a basement, there’s quite a bit of natural light and the same wooden furniture and whitewashed walls throughout.
Society Café carries a small range of sandwiches and cake, deliberately eschewing a larger food offering so that it doesn’t detract from the main attraction, the coffee. That said, there’s also an impressive selection of loose-leaf tea and soft drinks.
However, back to the coffee. Society Café offers a choice of two espressos and two filter coffees, plus decaf. The house espresso is from nearby Round Hill, while the guest espresso and filters regularly rotate. As was the case during my visit, the guest is often also from Round Hill, with a choice of Guatemala and Kenya on espresso, plus a filter (another Kenyan) from Workshop.
It had been a very caffeinated day, so I had Round Hill’s decaf as espresso. This was very smooth, perhaps a little sour for my palette, but with great body. Other than the (missing) buzz, you wouldn’t know it was decaf. It came with a glass of cascara which was an excellent palette cleanser. I followed this up with the decaf as a flat white, where the coffee showed its versatility, going even better with milk.
I also had a mozzarella and tomato salsa sandwich, eating it before thinking to photograph it (I was distracted by the interplay of the light on my espresso). My sandwich had a generous filling, with lots of mozzarella and salsa, so even though it was fairly small, it was very satisfying.
October 2017: You can also see what I made of Society Café’s most recent branch which opened in the summer of 2017 in Bristol.
|KINGSMEAD SQUARE • BATH • BA1 2AB|
|www.society-cafe.com||+44 (0) 1225 442 433|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:30||Roaster||Round Hill + Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:30||Seating||Tables, Window-bars, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:30||Food||Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:30 – 18:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||Local||Visits||13th October 2014|
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