2017 Awards – Best Physical Space

The writing on the window: Filter + Fox | Cafe - Bar - HideoutNext up today, the 2017 Coffee Spot Award shortlist for “Best Physical Space”, which was won last year by Filter + Fox. One of the most important things for me is how a Coffee Spot looks and feels. This, to me, is just as important as the coffee.

This award celebrates those Coffee Spots in which there’s a pure joy in just sitting there, soaking it all in. It’s not just about physical beauty and elegance. Instead, it’s as much about atmosphere, layout and overall feel. It’s another where I could have made two or three different shortlists, all of whom would be worthy winners. However, I have managed to whittle it down to just a single list for this year’s Award, although I broke my own rules and included 16 Coffee Spots this time around.

You can see the shortlist after the gallery.

  • The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street, spread over two floors with a lovely interior.
  • Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery, glorious old industrial architecture in San Francisco.
  • Small St Espresso, never was the statement 'Small (st) is beautiful' more true.
  • Sextant Coffee Roasters, more glorious old industrial architecture in San Francisco.
  • It was love at first sight when I stepped into The Cran' in Glasgow.
  • The Workshop Coffee, nailing the hipster look in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Established Coffee: I wish all coffee shops could be this well thought out.
  • 200 Degrees, Leicester, an elegant spot lifted even higher by its soaring skylight.
  • Exmouth Market Grind, a great example of the island counter.
  • Lufkin Coffee, another case of love at first sight in a residential part of Cardiff.
  • Garage Coffee at Fruitworks, multiple, connected spaces, each with its own character.
  • Society Cafe, Bristol, continuing Society's habit of turning spaces into beautiful cafes.
  • Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Cafe & Store might have been designed with me in mind!
  • Foundation Coffee House: more multiple spaces, this time cleverly constructed.
  • Soloist Coffee Co., Yangmeizhu, looking beautiful in the winter sun.
  • Kapow Coffee, Thornton's Arcade, another spread over multiple floors, this time in Leeds.
The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street, spread over two floors with a lovely interior.1 Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery, glorious old industrial architecture in San Francisco.2 Small St Espresso, never was the statement 'Small (st) is beautiful' more true.3 Sextant Coffee Roasters, more glorious old industrial architecture in San Francisco.4 It was love at first sight when I stepped into The Cran' in Glasgow.5 The Workshop Coffee, nailing the hipster look in Ho Chi Minh City.6 Established Coffee: I wish all coffee shops could be this well thought out.7 200 Degrees, Leicester, an elegant spot lifted even higher by its soaring skylight.8 Exmouth Market Grind, a great example of the island counter.9 Lufkin Coffee, another case of love at first sight in a residential part of Cardiff.10 Garage Coffee at Fruitworks, multiple, connected spaces, each with its own character.11 Society Cafe, Bristol, continuing Society's habit of turning spaces into beautiful cafes.12 Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Cafe & Store might have been designed with me in mind!13 Foundation Coffee House: more multiple spaces, this time cleverly constructed.14 Soloist Coffee Co., Yangmeizhu, looking beautiful in the winter sun.15 Kapow Coffee, Thornton's Arcade, another spread over multiple floors, this time in Leeds.16
Photo Carousel by WOWSlider.com v4.6

There are 16 Coffee Spots on the shortlist this year, all listed in order of publication.

Detail taken from The Gentlemen Baristas logo drawn on the wall upstairs at Union Street.The Gentlemen Baristas, Union Street

There are many fine things about the original Gentlemen Baristas on Union Street, south of the Thames. Perhaps its best feature is the space itself, from the cosy back room to the wonderful upstairs space. The Gentlemen Baristas has also been shortlisted for this year’s Happiest Staff Award.

Details of the Sightglass logo.Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery

I was definitely in coffee shop heaven in San Francisco with the likes of Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery with its old industrial feel, soaring ceilings and cast iron roaster down on the shop floor. There’s even a mezzanine! Sightglass was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Roaster/Retailer Award.

The lovely La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine, with its custom paint job, at Small St Espresso in Bristol.Small St Espresso

Bristol’s Small St Espresso has been a perennial favourite of mine since I first visited in 2013. It’s a beautiful, compact space that has been slowly and steady expanded over the years without losing any of its wonderful character. Oh, and the colour of that espresso machine… Small St Espresso was also shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

The Sextant Coffee Roasters logo from the sign outside the front of the store on Folsom Street.Sextant Coffee Roasters

Back in San Francisco and I was totally bowled over by the exposed brick and old industrial look of Sextant Coffee Roasters. Maybe it was the low winter sunlight that flooded the place, but whatever it was, Sextant is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve visited this year. Sextant Coffee Roasters was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso and Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

A beautiful flat white from The Cran in Glasgow, served in an equally beautiful china cup.The Cran’

Long, thin and eclectically decorated, it was love at first sight when I visit The Cran’ in Glasgow. High ceilings, an open, uncluttered layout and multiple windows along the front all combine to give The Cran’ a wonderful sense of space. The Cran’ was also shortlisted for the Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot & Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.

My espresso surveys the room in The Workshop Coffee, Ho Chi Minh CityThe Workshop Coffee

Tucked away on the top floor of an old building overlooking the main street of Đồng Khởi, The Workshop Coffee is a glorious place, open to the roof, which soars high above and with windows on three of the four sides. The building’s old, but inside it’s very modern, with a post-industrial look and feel, full of exposed brick, concrete floors & iron window-frames. Also shortlisted for the Best Filter CoffeeCoffee Spot with the Best Lighting Awards.

Detail from the sign outside Established Coffee in Belfast, showing the letters ESTD.Established Coffee

The layout of Belfast’s Established Coffee is an object lesson of making the best of the space you have, with a clear separation between the counter and the seating, with plenty of space to move freely about between the two. I wish all coffee shops could be this well thought out. Established Coffee has also been shortlisted for this year’s Best Breakfast Award.

The famous 200 Degrees neon fireplace, seen here in the back room of 200 Degrees Leicester200 Degrees, Leicester

200 Degrees has a reputation for designing beautiful coffee shops and the Leicester branch is no exception. All the usual features are there, but this one stands out due to the amazing rear of the store, where it opens out, soaring up to the skylight, from which two massive lights are suspended. 200 Degrees, Leicester was also shortlisted for this year’s Coffee Spot with the Best Lighting Award.

The right-hand side of Exmouth Market Grind, looking out onto Exmouth Market, it's doors flung open in the warm, May weather.Exmouth Market Grind

I am a sucker for island counters and Exmouth Market Grind has a lovely example, with coffee on one side and alcohol on the other. The rest of the store has the usual elegance one associates with Grind, with a particularly nice area at the back, plus there are tables outside spilling out across the pavement. Exmouth Market Grind was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Espresso Award.

Detail from the top of the sign outside Lufkin Coffee.Lufkin Coffee

Tucked away in a residential part of CardiffLufkin Coffee was another example of love at first sight, whether it was the neat counter area with the roaster, or the sunlit room off to one side. Lufkin Coffee was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Neighbourhood Coffee Spot and Best Roaster/Retailer Awards.

The Garage Coffee logo from the cafe inside the Fruitworks Coworking space in Canterbury.Garage Coffee

While I have a soft spot for small Coffee Spots, I also have an appreciation for large ones. Garage Coffee in Canterbury occupies the ground floor of Fruitworks Coworking, occupying multiple, connected spaces, each with its own character. Whether you want a cosy spot, a large table to spread out to work at or something in between, Garage Coffee has a space for you. It’s also shortlisted for the Coffee Spot Special Award.

The main entrance to Society Cafe in Bristol, a pair of glass double-doors opening out onto Farr's Lane, with the counter directly ahead.Society Café, Bristol

From its origins on Kingsmead Square in Bath, Society Café has always occupied elegant places and its new branch in Bristol is no exception. Occupying three distinct, interconnected spaces down by the docks, each has its own character, plus there’s outside seating. My personal favourite is the space off to the left of the counter, but there’s something for everyone there.

An Ethiopian Aramo, made through the Chemex, served in one of Ue Coffee Roasters' excellent cups.Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store

The Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store in Witney could have been designed with me in mind, given its exposed brick and wood. Sit at the window if you want some sun, at the back if you want a table or, best of all, at the counter, watching the coffee being made. Ue Coffee was also shortlisted for this year’s Best Filter Coffee Award.

"Coffee is Everything", written inside the outline of a takeaway coffee cup: detail from a sign inside The Foundation Coffee House in Manchester's Northern Quarter.Foundation Coffee House

Manchester’s Northern Quarter isn’t short of excellent coffee shops, but Foundation Coffee House is easily the biggest of them all. Located on the ground floor of the magnificent Sevendale House, a brick-built edifice taking up the entire block, clever use of partitions break up what could be a very large, austere coffee shop into multiple, connected spaces.

My filter coffee in an espresso cup in the sun at Beijing's Soloist Coffee Co. on Yangmeizhu Alley.Soloist Coffee Co., Yangmeizhu

Beijing’s Soloist Coffee Co. is another love at first sight story, particularly with the winter sun streaming in through the windows. It’s also another that could have been designed with me in mind, and while I loved the exposed brick and wood downstairs, the upstairs probably just edged it, particularly with the wonderful balcony out front and its views over the street below.

Kapow! The neon sign from Kapow Coffee's second branch in Leeds' Thornton's Arcade.Kapow Coffee, Thornton’s Arcade

The second Kapow Coffee in Leeds, it benefits from the setting of the awesome Thornton’s Arcade, but it’s also a wonderful space in itself, spread over three floors. I really enjoyed sitting downstairs by the counter, but each of the other two floors has something to offer, and each has a very different character.


A special mention also needs to go to the following:

Cartel Coffee Lab, Tempe: more multiple, connected spaces, this time in Arizona
London Grind: another elegant offering from Grind
Allpress Dalston: more old industrial architecture and more multiple spaces in Dalston
Coffeewerk + Press: another lovely spot spread over many floors in Galway
Four Barrel Coffee, Valencia: San Francisco brick and cast iron strikes again!
La Colombe, Wicker Park: an almost island counter in Chicago
St Martin’s: a glorious space spread over two floors in Leicester
Saint Frank Coffee: more from San Francisco and another mezzanine
Seesaw 433: that courtyard! There’s a pretty nifty interior too
Root & Branch: challenging Small St Espresso in the “small is beautiful” stakes
Canopy Coffee: kudos for even fitting a coffee shop into that space!
Porter: a coffee shop in a disused railway station. I was sold.
Vermillion Café: perhaps the most perfect setting for any coffee shop anywhere
Nem Coffee & Espresso: elegant Japanese design at its best
200 Degrees, Cardiff: more elegance from 200 Degrees


And the winner is Society Café, Bristol
Runners-up: Small St Espresso and Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store

Don’t forget to check out the other 19 Coffee Spot Awards for 2017.


If you liked this post, please let me know by clicking the “Like” button. If you have a WordPress account and you don’t mind everyone knowing that you liked this post, you can use the “Like this” button right at the bottom instead.


Don’t forget that you can share this post with your friends using the buttons below.

3 thoughts on “2017 Awards – Best Physical Space

  1. Pingback: Small St Espresso Update | Brian's Coffee Spot

  2. Pingback: Ue Coffee Roasters True Artisan Café & Store | Brian's Coffee Spot

  3. Pingback: Society Café, Bristol | Brian's Coffee Spot

Please let me know what you think. Guidelines for comments are in the "Posts" drop-down menu.