Small St Espresso, which opened in 2012, was one of Bristol’s first speciality coffee shops and is still one of my favourites, a masterclass on how to run a coffee shop in a small, intimate space. When I visited at the start of 2016, there were rumours of a second Small St, and then, at the very end of the summer, it opened. Going by the name Little Victories and describing itself as a sister venue to Small St, it was a must-visit on my return to Bristol at the end of last year.
Located on the wonderfully-named Spike Island, south of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, Little Victories is part of the Wapping Wharf development, sitting at the bottom (northern) end of Gaol Ferry Steps. Occupying a ground floor corner unit, it’s a big, open space with enormously high ceilings.
Operating as a speciality coffee shop by day, it morphs into a casual bar in the evening (Wednesday to Saturday), bringing craft beer, small plates and coffee-based cocktails to Bristol. All the coffee is from local roasters, Clifton Coffee Roasters, with two options on espresso and two more on available as pour-overs through the Chemex, while bread comes from Hart’s Bakery.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Coming from Southville/Bedminster, just cross the Avon via Gaol Ferry Bridge and head down Gaol Ferry Steps, past lots of other coffee shops, bars and restaurants. You’ll find Little Victories on the bottom on the right. Alternatively, coming from town, head onto Spike Island along Museum Road and turn left onto the Gaol Ferry Steps, where you find Little Victories on the left.
Either way, it’s a lovely location, with plenty of outdoor seating between the store front and the pedestrianised steps (which is, in fact, a slope). A pair of planters offer some separation between passing foot traffic and the tables to the left of the door, while there’s a large (and I do mean large) bench-seat to the right of the door, with views down towards the harbour.
Little Victories is on the ground floor of a modern, warehouse-like building, one of a pair which line the Gaol Ferry Steps. Because of the steep upward slop, Little Victories, at the bottom of the slope, has incredibly high ceilings, while its corner location at the building’s end results in floor-to-ceiling windows along two sides, giving it an immense sense of space. The only downside is that you do sometimes feel like you are sitting in a goldfish bowl!
The door is slightly offset to the right, while the interior has a strange design. The counter’s at the back on the left, while there’s a toilet block at the back to the right. The seating’s arranged in two groups, to the right and left of the door, separated by a set of retail shelves which simultaneously funnels incoming customers towards the counter and provides some protection to the tables immediately to the left of the door.
On the right, there’s a small window-bar/table, with more tables between that and the toilets. An elevated bench-seat with metre-high tables (one two-person and one four-person) occupies the right-hand wall, providing a rather glorious view across the room. To the door’s left, beyond the shelves, is a pair of tables (again, one two-person, one four-person), with another elevated bench against the left-hand wall. Finally, in the corner, with glass on two sides, is a cosy, two/three-person table, ideal for a quiet rendezvous, except that everyone outside can see you…
It felt, to me, simultaneously like and yet unlike Small St Espresso, almost like a grown up version: bigger, more spacious and serving alcohol, but at the same time, retaining the spirit and friendly welcome of Small St. Although a much bigger space, it still feels small/intimate.
While the speciality-coffee-meets-bar model has been successful in London with the likes of Notes and Fernandez & Wells, it’s only slowly catching on outside the capital. However, Little Victories seems to have embraced it: while I was there, it was the transition period, people arriving for some small plates, plus a glass of wine, craft beer or a cocktail.
During the day, it’s much more of a coffee shop, with toast/pastries for breakfast, sandwiches, frittatas and salads for lunch, plus cake all day from the wonderful Hart’s Bakery. Unlike Small St, which is a multi-roaster, Little Victories sticks with Clifton Coffee Roasters. There’s a house-blend on espresso, plus a single-origin, with two more single-origins available through the Chemex. One of these changes each week, so there’s some week-on-week consistency, but return three weeks later and everything except the house-blend will have changed.
After a discussion with my barista, I had the naturally-processed Diima Guji from Ethiopia as a Chemex. It was a fruity, subtle coffee which improved as it cooled and was still fabulous when cold. Perfect, really.
|7 GAOL FERRY STEPS • WAPPING WHARF • BRISTOL • BS1 6WE|
|Monday||07:30 – 16:30||Roaster||Clifton Coffee (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 16:30||Seating||Tables, Tables (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 21:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Small Plates|
|Thursday||07:30 – 21:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 21:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 21:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:30 – 16:30||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Local||Visits||9th December 2016|
If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.
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