On Bath’s High Street, just a few steps from the Cathedral, opposite the Guildhall and with High Street chains Caffé Nero and Patisserie Valerie to one side, Starbucks to the other, this is 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 branches of Society Café. It’s a wonderful location, probably the loveliest setting out of all the coffee spots that I’ve visited in Bath.
During my visit, most of the coffee was from locals, Round Hill Roastery, with two single-origin espressos (Round Hill’s house single-origin Guatemalan, plus a guest) and two single-origin filters, one through the Aeropress, the other through the Clever Dripper. There was also a guest filter, a single-origin Kenyan from Workshop, while Society Café regularly rotates all the coffees, including the house espresso (which is always from Round Hill) and the guests.
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!
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.
Compared to the original Society Café on Kingsmead Square, the branch in the Corridor is tiny, just a single room with a pair of window bars and two small tables by the stairs (plus a solitary bench outside on the High Street). However, what it lacks in space, it makes up for in sheer 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. Looking 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 window facing the High Street is the shorter of the two, its four-person window bar ideal for people watching and admiring the architecture. The longer window, facing into the Corridor itself, has space for six.
Inside, everything is arranged around the edges, leaving the centre a glorious open space, which is just as well since it means that you can admire the stone-flagged floor. This, coupled with high ceilings and the two windows, give it 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.
The main counter, where you study the menus, eye up the cake and order, is at the back, while the right-hand wall contained shelving/a second counter, which has now been replaced by two small wooden tables/booths. This fences off stairs down to a (sadly staff only) basement. 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 EK-43, 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 a couple of grinders, one for the house espresso, the other for the guest.
There’s a very quiet, relaxed atmosphere, and while I was there, it was mostly people working silently on their laptops. My only complaint is that due to the layout, everyone has to sit with their backs either to the counter or the baristas. However, it’s hard to see how else the space could have been laid out.
I had Round Hill’s Ethiopian Kebado Coffee through the Aeropress, primarily because I’d had it that morning through Repack Espresso’s Kees van der Westen espresso machine and I wanted to see how it compared. It was surprisingly fruity and subtle, very different from the flat white and espresso I’d had earlier. I paired this with a blueberry friand (I blame the Candlestick Bakery) which was lovely. It had a fine, moist sponge and was packed with blueberries, and while not quite up to the platinum standard of those at The Wren, it was nonetheless excellent.
December 2015: Society Café won the Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award for 2015.
|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||Cards||Mastercard, Via|
|Saturday||07:30 – 18:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||13th October 2014|
You can see what fellow coffee bloggers, Bean There At, made of Society Cafe on their visit in March 2017.
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