Small St Espresso (Original)

The exterior view of Small St Espresso on a rainy December day in BristolOn 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.


April 2017: I’ve updated my piece on Small St Espresso. This is the original write-up, published in January 2013. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated entry, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

This is the second time I’ve updated this particular post: you can see what I made of Small St Espresso at the time of my first update in June 2013, and see what’s changed in my initial Coffee Spot Update.


You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Small St Espresso, looking very welcoming on a rainy December afternoon.
  • Inside you are greeted by wood and tiles and this delightful bar.
  • The espresso machine is worth a second look: it's been sprayed to match the cups.
  • Actually, it's worth a third look. Here it is with its three grinders (also colour-coordinated).
  • All around it has been done out in wood. This is one of the window seating areas. We were in the other one, on the other side of the door.
  • I like the clever use of space: this was an old window, now a set of shelves.
  • It's full of useful things, such as a Coffee Map of London, in case we get lost in, errr... Bristol!
  • Now, to business. My espresso. One of the best I've had in a long while.
  • My espresso casts its eye over the bar.
  • There's also an excellent range of excellent cake from the excellent Exploding Bakery.
  • I went for the chocolate brownie, which was almost as good as my espresso.
Small St Espresso, looking very welcoming on a rainy December afternoon.1 Inside you are greeted by wood and tiles and this delightful bar.2 The espresso machine is worth a second look: it's been sprayed to match the cups.3 Actually, it's worth a third look. Here it is with its three grinders (also colour-coordinated).4 All around it has been done out in wood. This is one of the window seating areas. We were in the other one, on the other side of the door.5 I like the clever use of space: this was an old window, now a set of shelves.6 It's full of useful things, such as a Coffee Map of London, in case we get lost in, errr... Bristol!7 Now, to business. My espresso. One of the best I've had in a long while.8 My espresso casts its eye over the bar.9 There's also an excellent range of excellent cake from the excellent Exploding Bakery.10 I went for the chocolate brownie, which was almost as good as my espresso.11
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Small St Espresso is one of a cluster of coffee spots that has/is springing up in the centre of Bristol. It’s on Small Street, one over from the excellent Wild At Heart (opened two month earlier), itself three doors down from Full Court Press which opened in May 2013! Between them, they could easily make this little bit of Bristol the place to come for excellent coffee.

I visited Small St Espresso on its fifth day in business. One of the perils about writing about a place that has only just opened is that by the time you read this, quite a lot of things will have changed.

So, let’s start with the things that probably won’t have changed. 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: Wild & Wood in London and Wellington Coffee in Edinburgh spring to mind. 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. 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 bar, which holds a modest range of cakes from the excellent Exploding Bakery in Exeter and 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 bar 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 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 when things settle down 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. My espresso was also top-notch, and, in a welcome change from the various subtle espressos I’d been drinking the previous week, was delightfully to the point. I had a long chat with Chris before I left and the love and care that had gone into both the shop and the coffee was very evident in everything that he said.

It’s fair to say that I was totally bowled over by Chris and Small St Espresso. Rarely have I seen such unity in both design and execution and I look forward to visiting Bristol again in a few months time to see what else Chris has done with Small St Espresso.

23 SMALL STREET • BRISTOL • BS1 1DW
smallstreetespresso.co.uk +44 (0) 7928 098827
Monday 07:30 – 16:30 Roaster Clifton Coffee + Round Hill (espresso only)
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)
Sunday CLOSED Power No
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.


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