A relative newcomer to Bath’s rapidly-expanding coffee scene, the Forum Coffee House had only been open for a month when I visited it in October as part of my Caffeine Magazine trip. In a city which can boast the coffee legend that is Colonna & Small’s as well as some outstanding physical spaces, any newcomer needs something special about it in order to carve out its own niche.
Part of The Forum, Bath’s largest convert venue and an old Art Deco cinema, the Coffee House takes its lead from its surroundings, being a beautifully-appointed and fairly unique space. Its island counter is the focus of the coffee house, while simultaneously dividing it into a series of smaller, more intimate spaces.
However, the Forum Coffee House doesn’t rest on its laurels, backing this up with a strong coffee-offering from Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Company. A concise espresso-based menu (offering the house espresso-blend and a decaf) is supplemented by the Forum’s signature, a choice of two single-origin beans through the Chemex. While I was there, the options were Indonesian or Brazilian.
There’s also a decent range of tea, bottled beers, wine and soft drinks, plus a small range of bread-based snacks and cake.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The Forum Coffee House occupies a long and reasonable wide space on St James Parade near Bath station. It’s quite an awkward space for a coffee shop, but the fairly unique layout turns it into a real gem. From the outside, it looks like it occupies two units knocked together, each with its own recessed door between a pair of bay windows. Inside, by the way, it appears to be one harmonious whole.
Entering through the left-hand door, you’re immediately faced by the counter running away to your right. There’s a two-person window-bar behind you to your left, with two three-person window bars, one to each bay window, to your right, opposite the counter. The layout automatically creates a flow, leading you past the cake to the till, the menus conveniently hanging behind the counter. From there, you move past the espresso machine to the end of the counter. If you’re not sitting in, you can wait here for your coffee without getting in anyone’s way (if the Forum wanted to be really clever, you could leave via the second door without having to go back past the counter/people sitting at the window-bars).
If you’re staying, the rest of the seating starts here. There’s a pair of armchairs in the corner in place of a fourth window-bar, while there’s a sofa at the end of the counter, with a pair of armchairs around a coffee table. A curved, padded bench runs along the far wall and about half of the back wall, punctuated with five tables.
In most coffee shops, behind the counter is dead-space as far as customers are concerned, but in the Forum, the counter is effectively a squared-off horseshoe, acting as an island counter. This means that there’s a whole other space behind it, beyond the end of the padded bench, with a large, eight-person communal table with benches for seating.
The rear of the counter is a brew bar, complete with four bar-stools. This makes it the perfect place to perch and watch both brew bar and La Marzocco espresso machine, which has its business end facing you from the opposite side of the counter.
The more I think about it, the more impressed I am by this layout since it creates several distinct spaces, each small enough to be intimate, but large enough that the Forum can accommodate a lot of customers without being crowded or too noisy. It’s also a bright space, with wooden floor, counter and tables, plus whitewashed walls and ceilings.
So, to the coffee. I went with the Chemex, choosing the Indonesian beans. This came in a cup rather than the more traditional carafe and was a full-bodied, strong coffee, not as delicate or subtle as some. However it’s dark, bold flavours came through strongly. If I was being critical, the lack of tasting notes was a drawback, but the staff, who were very new, seemed genuinely interested in the coffee and eager to learn.
I also took up the challenge laid down by the cake selection which claimed to be in possession of the “best carrot cake ever!!”. It was indeed excellent, a rich cake with crunchy chunks of carrot and dried fruit, topped by sweet (but not sickly) buttercream icing. Best ever? I’ll need to think about that!
|1A FORUM BUILDINGS • ST JAMES PARADE • BATH • BA1 1UG|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:30||Roaster||Clifton Coffee Company (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:30||Seating||Tables, armchairs, sofas, window bar|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:30||Food||Cake, Bread & Jam|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:30||Service||Order at counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:30||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||13th October 2014|
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