On a small street in Bristol, aptly named Small Street, you will find the equally aptly-named Small St Espresso. It’s a tiny espresso bar, over-flowing with love for good coffee. There’s a couple of seating areas either side of the door and another at the back, but much of the space is taken up by the tiled bar and the beautiful espresso machine. I know I shouldn’t be swayed by such superficial things, but I am.
It helps, of course, that the coffee is as beautiful as everything else in Small St Espresso. It would be a real shame if, after all that care and attention to the layout and the décor, the coffee had turned out to be rubbish. But fortunately, Chris, the head barista and joint-owner, has put as much love, if not more, into making his coffee as he has into making his coffee shop.
So, whether you are looking for a quick takeaway coffee or a sit down with a slice of cake, give Small St Espresso a try and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
June 2013: this is an updated version of the original post I made in January 2013. You can see what has changed in my Coffee Spot Update piece.
April 2017: I made a further update to the Small St Espresso post. You can find a full write-up here.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Small St Espresso is one of a cluster of coffee spots that has sprung up in the centre of Bristol. It’s on Small Street, one over from the excellent Wild At Heart (opened two months before Small St, but now sadly closed), which itself is three doors down from Full Court Press which opened in May 2013! Between them, they are making this the part of Bristol to come for excellent coffee.
I initially visited Small St Espresso on its fifth day in business in December, returning to check it out again at the end of April when it had been open for just over four months.
Small St Espresso is the embodiment of the phrase “small is beautiful”. Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for small espresso places: London’s Wild & Wood and Edinburgh’s Wellington Coffee spring to mind, along with the likes of Manchester’s Caffeine & Co and New York’s I Am Coffee. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever come across anywhere as beautifully formed as Small St Espresso.
It’s laid out in wood, glass and tiles and, despite the small size, it doesn’t feel at all cramped, even when busy. You come in through a recessed glass door and on either side are two niches, both laid out with benches around the windows and little tables, all made of wood. Opposite you is the magnificent tiled counter, which holds a modest range of cakes from the excellent Exploding Bakery in Exeter, which have been added to by pastries and sandwiches from the incomparable Hart’s Bakery. However, the main feature is Small St’s pride and joy, the espresso machine, which has been sprayed to exactly match the blue of the cups. The corner opposite the counter is taken up with a final set of wooden benches; in all it might seat ten at a push.
If you only ever look at one of my picture galleries, then look at this one because I know that my written description is not doing Small St justice. Even better, go and see it yourself.
So, onto the coffee. Chris told me that he had been bombarded with samples from a wide range of roasters, but in the end he went with two local roasters, Clifton Coffee (the E6 blend) and Round Hill Roastery in Bath. At the moment, Small Street is only serving espresso drinks but Chris is looking into offering guest beans on an aeropress and is considering filter coffee as a takeaway option in the morning.
The cakes, as I’ve said, are from The Exploding Bakery, so it goes without saying that they were excellent. Sadly I’ve yet to try the sandwiches, but I know from elsewhere that Hart’s pastries are divine. My espresso was also top-notch, and, in a welcome change from the various subtle espressos I’d been drinking the week before my first visit, was delightfully to the point. I had a repeat experience on my return in April.
It’s fair to say that I was totally bowled over by Chris, co-owner John, and everything they’ve achieved with Small St Espresso. Rarely have I seen such unity in both design and execution and I look forward to seeing Small St Espresso going from strength-to-strength.
|23 SMALL STREET • BRISTOL • BS1 1DW|
|smallstreetespresso.co.uk||+44 (0) 7928 098827|
|Monday||07:30 – 16:30||Roaster||Clifton Coffee + Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 16:30||Seating||Benches, Bench Outside|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 16:30||Food||Cake, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||07:30 – 16:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 16:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:30 – 16:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 19th December 2012|
|Updates: 30th April 2013, 30th March 2017|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.