On Bath’s High Street, close to the Cathedral/ Baths, opposite the Guildhall and with High Street chains Caffé Nero to one side, Starbucks to the other, it’s an unlikely, but welcome, location for an independent speciality coffee shop. This prime spot, at the eastern end of The Corridor, Bath’s Georgian shopping arcade, is home to the second of Bath’s two Society Cafés. A wonderful location, it’s probably the loveliest setting of all the Coffee Spots that I’ve visited in Bath.
I visited twice, first in 2014, and again five years later in 2019. Originally, Society used locals, Round Hill Roastery, as the house coffee, with a pair of single-origins, one on espresso, the other on filter, with a guest roaster also supplying a pair of single-origins for espresso/filter. However, in 2017, Society switched to Origin, again with a guest option (often Round Hill), with one filter made using theAeropress, the other on batch brew (replacing the original second option, the Clever Dripper).
If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s always a selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate from old friends Kokoa Collection, as well as Willie’s Cacao. Add to that sandwiches and a great selection of cakes and you’re spoilt for choice!
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Compared to the original Society Café on Kingsmead Square, The Corridor is fairly small, just a single room with a similarly-sized basement. Upstairs, there’s a pair of window-bars, a third interior bar by the stairs, plus a solitary bench outside on the High Street. Downstairs has five two-person tables, three armchairs and a two-person bar.
What Society Café lacks in space, it makes up for in beauty. Much like Manchester’s Pot Kettle Black in the Barton Arcade, Society Café takes its lead from The Corridor itself. Regular readers will know of my love for Victorian shopping arcades. Well, The Corridor goes one better: built in 1825, this Georgian structure was one of the first covered shopping arcades outside London.
Society Café occupies a prime spot at the Corridor’s eastern end. Viewed from across the High Street, it’s on the right-hand side, with windows on two sides and a recessed door in the corner. The shorter side faces the High Street, its four-person window-bar ideal for people watching and admiring the architecture. The longer side, facing into the Corridor itself, seats six. Opposite this is another bar, this time facing the enclosed staircase to the basement.
Upstairs, everything is arranged around the edges, leaving the centre a glorious open space, allowing you to admire the stone-flagged floor. This, coupled with high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, provide a wonderful sense of space for somewhere so small. There’s also plenty of light, with lights in both windows and above the counter at the back to supplement the daylight. There are stone walls at front, which give way to white-washed brick and a plain white-washed wall at the back, all topped by a white-washed ceiling, the light colours all enhancing the brightness of the place, although these days, the clean lines are softened by various pictures on the walls.
The counter, where you study the menus, eye up the cake and order, is at the back. Society Café makes clever use of the space, with the corners taken up by the coffee-making equipment. To the left, in full view of anyone passing along the Corridor, is some cold-brew apparatus and, clustered around an EK43, the brew bar, with built-in hot water tap. On the other side, in the awkward space above the stairs, is the La Marzocco espresso machine and two grinders, one for the house espresso, the other for the guest.
Downstairs, the basement is even cosier. The enclosed staircase starts at the front of Society, running along the right-hand wall, depositing you at the back of the small basement, which feels slightly shorter than the corresponding space upstairs. It’s a wonderful, cosy spot, with an L-shaped, padded bench running along the back and left-hand walls, complete with five two-person tables (two at the back, three down the left-hand side). Opposite this is a two-person bar against the wall of the stairs, while tucked away under the stairs at the front are three comfortable armchairs, each with a small, half-circle coffee table.
The décor downstairs matches that upstairs, with multiple pictures on the walls, including a wonderful mural on the wall above the two-person bar. There’s a set of bookcases in the corner under the stairs and, in another nice touch, two long mirrors run along the left-hand wall above the tables, which help give the basement an exaggerated sense of space, just like upstairs.
On both my visits, I had an Aeropress, each time using Round Hill’s coffee, while on my return, I was joined by Amanda, who had a flat white using the house espresso from Origin. You can find details of my first Aeropress in the original write-up, while the Coffee Spot Update lets you know what we made of our coffee on my return.
December 2015: Society Café won the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award for 2015.
December 2019: Society Café, The Corridor has won the 2019 Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
|THE CORRIDOR • 19 HIGH STREET • BATH • BA1 5AJ|
|www.society-cafe.com||+44 (0) 1225 442 433|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:30||Roaster||Origin + Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:30||Seating||Window Bars, Bench (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:30||Food||Sandwiches, Cakes|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:30||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||07:30 – 18:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||Original: 13th October 2014
Update: 25th November 2019
You can see what fellow coffee bloggers, Bean There At, made of Society Cafe on their visit in March 2017.
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