@the Well

Three delightfully-sized pancakes at @theWell, along with a generous helping of maple syrup.@the Well is an intriguing concept: a laundrette, café and internet café all-in-one. I can’t comment on the laundrette part, but as a café, I love it. It seems a genius idea though: why not have a coffee or surf the net while you wait for your washing? @the Well is a family affair, run by three sisters, who confessed to starting it mainly as a café. Now, however, it’s used just as much as a laundrette.

Set back off Bristol’s busy Cheltenham Road, @the Well faces east, catching the morning sun. It’s got a small courtyard out front with a small table, although given the traffic, I’m not sure I’d want to sit outside. However, it does provide some shelter. Inside, it is bright, airy and welcoming, one of the nicest spaces I’ve been to in a long time.

@the Well has a limited menu and similarly limited range of coffee, so it might not be for everyone. Fortunately for me, it caters exactly to my tastes, with cafetieres of coffee and American-style pancakes. It’s also very laptop friendly, with free wifi and plenty of power outlets. On my visit, everyone was using either a laptop or a tablet!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • @the Well on Cheltenham Road, standing out in yellow despite being set back from the road.
  • Even the A-board matches the yellow theme :-)
  • I like the flower boxes, adding more splashes of colour.
  • Inside: the view looking out from the central aisle between the seats.
  • Another view of the courtyard from inside.
  • As you come in on your left there's this small seating/play area for little ones. There's a ful sized sofa at the other end of the room for bigger people...
  • My favourite bit of seating. I loved the wooden bench.
  • The table opposite. Lots of power outlets here.
  • A better view of the table itself, cunningly masking the power sockets!
  • The last of the seating, a nice round table and a neat little bar by the counter.
  • This arch, to the right of the round table, leads into the internet cafe part of @the Well.
  • It's a cosy little place, with a couple of computers.
  • There's also a pretty hefty-looking printer, making @the Well a decent option as an office!
  • So to the counter. Have I mentioned yet that I love the counter? It's great.
  • It helps that there's cake! Cake always helps.
  • The counter is full of little bits and pieces like these shelves with their little coffee grinder.
  • Or this display of vintage crockery.
  • Opposite the counter is @the Well's third function, the laundrette.
  • Laundrette options. You can wash your clothes yourself or there are service-wash options.
  • The laundry theme is continued with this mangle. And the line of drying socks... I last time I saw a mangle was at my grandmother's (where it was still in use) over 30 years ago.
  • Another mangle! This one appears to be used for coffee beans... The latest grinder?
  • I originally thought that this was a stack of laundry baskets, but now I realise it's a stack of old suitcases with a laundry basket on top.
  • Breakfast, lunch & coffee menus. I see pancakes, toast & cafetiere. There, that was easy!
  • My pancakes were perfect and not too big either.
  • Toast. I need say no more.
  • My cafetiere, waiting to be plunged. Notice the little egg timer? I didn't, at least not until a couple of minutes had gone by...
  • Plunged and poured. Milk surplus to requirements.
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I’ve got to be honest, @the Well’s biggest challenge was getting me through the door. On Cheltenham Road, across from a well-loved branch of the Boston Tea Party, down the street from Café Kino and around the corner from the legendary Bristolian, I felt a bit of a traitor just for going in. I’d been aware of @the Well since it opened in July 2012, but was on my way to the Boston Tea Party, when, on a whim, I crossed the road in the spring sunshine and found myself @the Well.

It’s in the basement of an old townhouse, but at the street level. The small courtyard sits between two flights of steps up to the house and gives access to a large pair of windows and a recessed door. From the moment I stepped inside, I was sold: it’s not huge, but big enough not to feel crowded, while small enough to be cosy. It’s painted in white and light tones, while the big windows, coupled with very generous lighting, make it a wonderfully bright space.

The seating is to the left and right, with a clear path through the middle to the counter, which is opposite a bank of washing machines (I did mention it was a laundrette, didn’t I?). An exposed, rough stone arch behind the seating on the right leads to a small area with the computers (I did mention it was an internet café, didn’t I?). The seating is an interesting mix with a long table with attached benches and a round four-person table on the right and four two-person tables on the left, with a carved wooden bench-seat against the wall. Beyond that there’s a very comfy-looking sofa, while the counter has a small bar.
It’s got a bit of a retro feel: according to an informative guide on the tables this was the site of Bristol’s first self-service launderette in the 1950s. In part it harks back to this era with a pile of old suitcases in a recess in the wall, while black-and-white photos decorate the walls.

@the Well serves breakfast all day, with lunch from noon. Breakfast is American-style pancakes, bacon sandwiches, eggs or muesli, while lunch is soup or a small choice of sandwiches. The ubiquitous espresso machine has been eschewed in favour of the humble cafetiere and there’s tea and hot chocolate. As a fan of the cafetiere, I can only approve.

I had pancakes, toast and coffee for breakfast. Having recently returned from North America, my expectations were high and I wasn’t disappointed. The pancakes were light and fluffy, the perfect base for the accompanying (and generous) bowl of maple syrup. Best of all, the pancakes were quite small: those looking for American-sized portions will be disappointed, but for me, it’s perfect. Three American-sized pancakes is too much first thing in the morning. The toast was excellent too.

My cafetiere came with a neat egg-timer to ensure that it brews for the correct time, but being me, I only noticed this after it had been standing for a couple of minutes. The resulting coffee seemed very weak but it turned out that for the bean (a Peruvian from Extract), it was the perfect strength. The resulting brew was light, smooth and far too nice to put milk into.

Monday 11:00 – 19:00 Roaster Extract (cafetiere only)
Tuesday 08:30 – 21:30 Seating Benches, tables, sofa, bar, tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 21:30 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 19:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday CLOSED Cards Mastercard, Visa (£5 minimum)
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 30th April 2013

You can see what fellow-blogger Grace made of @the Well in her blog A Girl in Bristol.

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.

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