I first wrote about Small St Espresso at the start of 2013, at which point it was at the centre of Bristol’s growing speciality coffee scene, which included (the now closed) Wild at Heart and (the yet to be opened) Full Court Press over on Broad Street. These days, the centre has expanded to include the likes of Playground Coffee and the newly-opened Tincan Coffee Co.
This is actually my second update on Small St Espresso, which featured as the first Coffee Spot Update, published in June 2013. One of many excellent things about Small St Espresso is that it’s on Small Street (other street-named coffee shops take note!). It’s just as well that it wasn’t so named because it’s small, since, after the latest changes which prompted the latest update, I might have to start referring to it as not-so-Small Street espresso…
Yes, that’s right, Small St Espresso has had an extension. Although this hasn’t increased the physical space that much, it’s almost doubled the (admittedly limited) seating, but fortunately without changing the essential character of the place which makes Small Street so special. Talking of expansion, Small St has also opened a second branch, the lovely Little Victories.
I first visited Hot Numbers in the summer of 2014. Back then it was the one place that pretty much everyone had recommended to me in Cambridge. Café, single-origin roaster, music venue and, by association, art gallery, it had something for everyone and was pretty much the only speciality coffee place in town. How things have changed!
Now Cambridge boasts the The Espresso Library, Urban Larder and Novi in the centre of town, with Stir on the outskirts. There’s also a second Hot Numbers, a coffee shop which doubles as the roastery on Trumpington Street, which the staff were talking excitedly about during my visit in 2014 and which opened towards the end of that year.
With all that change going on, it was too much to ask that the original Hot Numbers on Gwydir Street would be unaffected. However, I was unprepared on my return earlier this year for just how much had changed! The good news, though, is that the most important thing hasn’t changed: the coffee. Still all roasted in-house, Hot Numbers still only serves single-origins, each carefully matched to how you’re drinking it. This includes options on espresso and pour-over via syphon, Aeropress and Clever Dripper.
Back in the summer of 2016, Joe of Newcastle’s Flat Caps Coffee, decided to launch a Kickstarter to fund a second coffee shop alongside the legendary basement on Ridley Place. Five months (and one successful Kickstarter) later and Flat Caps has not one, but two new coffee shops. Funny how these things work out… Flat Caps Carliol Square is the first of these, while the second, Flat Caps Campus North, is next door.
Eagle-eyed readers will spot something familiar about Flat Caps Carliol Square. Not long after the Kickstarter was successfully funded, the opportunity to take over Bunker Coffee & Kitchen presented itself. However, this isn’t just a re-badging of an existing operation: other than the physical space itself, Flat Caps has pretty much changed everything, creating a new coffee shop just as thoroughly as if a new build had been fitted out…
Those who know Flat Caps Ridley Place will at least find the coffee offering familiar: three coffees, each available as espresso or filter, changing on a regular basis from a limited cast of roasters. Added to that is a much-expanded food offering, taking advantage of the large kitchen space at Carliol Square, plus extended opening hours.
Those folks at Beany Green are at it again! No sooner do I visit/write about a place, than Prue and the team are changing things about! The latest example is the Beany Green at Regent’s Place, or Baby Beany as I think of it, which has undergone something of a facelift/reorganisation since going on the Coffee Spot this time last year.
The offering (healthy and innovative breakfasts, lunches and salads, backed up by Aussie-inspired cakes, all washed down with The Roasting Party espressos/flat whites) hasn’t changed. However, the look-and-feel has. The bench and tables along the left-hand wall has gone, replaced by two far more utilitarian high-tables at right-angles to the wall. Similarly, the counter’s been reorganised, the espresso machine being moved from all the way at the back to right at the front. Fortunately, the most important ingredient of all, the Beany Green goodness, is still available by the bucket-load!
Faculty is now an old hand in Birmingham’s booming speciality coffee scene, having opened at the start of 2014. Located at the southern end of the beautiful Piccadilly Arcade, it’s right outside the New Street entrance of Birmingham’s New Street station and literally just around the corner from the new Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters.
Just like my write-up of Yorks a couple of weeks ago, this was meant to be a simple Coffee Spot Update, but it turned out that there had been sufficient change since my first visit two years ago to warrant writing a new post. Rather than going over old ground, if you want to read about Faculty’s roots and a little of the history of the amazing Piccadilly Arcade, then please take a look at the original write up. Otherwise, keep going…
Faculty’s a true multi-roaster, offering a single-origin on espresso and two more on V60, plus there’s a decaf option. If you don’t like the roaster/options, come back next week and the chances are they will have changed. There are cakes from Sixteen Kitchen, which occupies the unit next to Faculty, from where it serves breakfast, lunch and sandwiches in an interesting space-sharing operation.
This Saturday Supplement is actually a two-for-the-price-of-one deal: it’s a Coffee Spot Update on what used to be my local, the Beany Green branch at Paddington (aka Sheldon Square, aka Little Venice), plus I take a look at Beany Green’s (relatively) new brunch service (available until 3pm, all-day at weekends).
From the summer of 2013, until the end of 2015, when my contract finished, I worked in Sheldon Square, just around the corner from Paddington Station. When Beany Green opened in early 2014, it immediately became my local, coffee trips from the office forming a vital part of my working day. Although it’s only been seven months since I left, Beany Green has made plenty of changes. There’s been an extensive refurbishment, while the opening hours have been extended into the evenings, when Beany Green morphs into a wine bar. Keen to check it out, I returned to my old haunt last weekend for coffee (Friday) and breakfast (Saturday).
Meanwhile, there have also been changes to the menu. Always known for its food, Beany Green has gone one step further with an impressive brunch menu. I tried this out at the end of March over in the Liverpool Street branch.
I visited Yorks Bakery Café on Birmingham’s Stephenson Street in January this year, not long after it had opened, replacing the original on Newhall Street, which is currently closed for a major refurbishment. Even then, changes were afoot at Stephenson Street since the neighbouring unit had become available, giving Yorks the chance to expand. I wrote up my original visit, intending this post to be a short update describing the new space. However, on my return last month, I found the newly-expanded Yorks to be so radically different that I scrapped that plan and decided to start from scratch…
Also worked subtly into the expansion was a name-change from Yorks Bakery Café to Yorks Café & Coffee Roasters, reflecting Yorks move into roasting its own coffee. As well as plenty of additional seating, Yorks has used the extra space to install a very shiny Probat roaster. There’s also a fabulous basement which houses more much-needed seating and a large kitchen. This is now turning out a really impressive (and expanded) breakfast & brunch menu, plus an equally impressive lunch menu. Currently, Yorks just has espresso-based drinks and bulk-brew filter, but expect pour-over to return to the menu at some point.
It’s that time of year again: summer’s on the way (although as I write this, I’ve had the heating on and it poured with rain all day) and the Look Mum No Hands! pop-up has once again appeared under Hungerford Bridge on London’s South Bank. A fixture since 2013, the Look Mum No Hand’s pop-up joins the (sort of) all-year-round options of the Beany Green container and Bean About Town at the Real Food Market. When I last visited, in 2014, Look Mum No Hands! had already expanded considerably since its first year. Unexpectedly finding myself in London last Saturday, I naturally made a bee-line for Queen’s Walk to see what had changed this time around.
I’m pleased to say that this year, Look Mum No Hands! is bigger than ever before, with an expanded seating area under the cover of the bridge and even more food/drink options. There’s the ubiquitous Red Brick on espresso from Square Mile, plus an impressive range of craft beers and cider on tap, backed up with Pimms, prosecco, gin & tonic, vodka & tonic and wine by the glass. There’s cake and pastries, plus, if you’re really hungry, hot dogs, including a vegetarian version.
October 2016: Look Mum No Hands! has gone for another year. Check back in June next year to see what its latest incarnation is like!
To start at the beginning, Exeter’s Exploding Bakery was always one of my favourite places and made a very early appearance on the Coffee Spot, being just the 20th place that I wrote about after I visited in 2012. Back then it was definitely a bakery that served coffee, with a couple of tables and an espresso machine tucked into a busy, thriving bakery, baristas and bakers sharing the space.
When I ran into the guys from the Exploding Bakery at the Caffè Culture Show in 2015, they excitedly told me about all the changes that they had made, leaving me itching for a return. However, Exeter isn’t somewhere that you casually pass by (not if you live in Guildford, anyway), so it wasn’t until January of this year, when I was on my way down to Torquay, that I had the opportunity to pop in and say hello the new-look Exploding Bakery.
I was very taken with Ox Coffee on my first trip to Philadelphia in 2014. Back then it hadn’t long since celebrated its first birthday, but I was struck by its clean, simple looks and its dedication to serving excellent coffee with no frills: Stumptown’s ubiquitous Hair Bender blend on espresso, with two single-origins on bulk-brew filter. The major drawback was Ox’s size: if you wanted to sit in, there was the bench on the street outside, a simple L-shaped bench in the window inside and a narrow bar against the wall opposite the counter, with three bar-stools.
I was, however, given a sneak preview of the back room, which was large enough for another L-shaped bench and a table, but which had yet to open. I was also told of plans to open the garden at the back of the shop, which was enough to entice me back on my first day in Philadelphia on my return in 2016 to see if the plans had come to fruition.