The Epiphany

The logo of The Epiphany, a speciality coffee shop at the RWA in Bristol.Too often, speciality coffee fills a very specific niche in very specific types of coffee shops. While I’m as guilty as the next (probably more so) in celebrating and promoting this image, in order to thrive, I feel that speciality coffee needs to get beyond its niche and into more mainstream settings. Step forward The Epiphany, a lovely spot in the Royal West of England Academy (RWA), a leading art gallery in Bristol.

Filling the role of gallery coffee shop, The Epiphany is also a speciality coffee shop in its own right, serving local Extract Coffee Roasters on espresso, with regularly-rotating guests on filter, including, while I was there, a Guatemalan from Cornwall’s Yallah Coffee. The filter option changes weekly, with methods including V60, Kalita and Chemex, the particular method chosen to match that week’s coffee. There’s also a decent lunch menu, plus an interesting range of cakes, all prepared in the kitchen behind the counter.

The shop itself is delightful, a long, thin space with amazing, high ceilings. Even better, once you have ordered, you can go upstairs via the RWA’s glorious main staircase, and sit on the landing, or, if the weather’s nice, out on the spacious balcony.

December 2019: The Epiphany has closed, with the owners moving on to new ventures. However, in its place, the RWA cafe continues under new management.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • At the bottom of Whiteladies Road in Bristol stands this magnificent building...
  • ... home to the RWA (Royal West of England Academy). But what's this? Tables?
  • The A-board at the entrance gives the game away: it's also home to The Epiphany.
  • Step inside & wow! What a magnificent entrance. Turn left, I think the A-board said.
  • Indeed it did. All the way to the end of this corridor in fact (this is the view looking back).
  • Then turn left again, through this doorway...
  • And there it is! The Epiphany. A speciality coffee shop in an art gallery.
  • The Epiphany is long and thin, with very high ceilings, counter at the right-hand end.
  • There's some seat here, including this long bar running along the front wall.
  • A panoramic view of the bar, seen from the other end.
  • There are also some tables against the back wall. A four-person one stands by the door...
  • ... while there's a two-person table beyond that. Then comes a doorway...
  • ... leading to a second space at the far left-hand end.
  • This one also has a door to the corridor...
  • ... which, as you can see, is not in use!
  • There's another table on the opposite side against the front wall...
  • Then at the back, there's another small table in the corner against the far wall...
  • ... as well as this two-seater sofa and its coffee table. That's it for the seating in here...
  • ... but if you go all the way back down the corridor...
  • ... to the magnificent entrance foyer, then turn left and head up the stairs...
  • ... and keep going up as the stairs double back around...
  • ... you'll reach a first floor landing at the front of the building.
  • It's nice up here, but don't forget to look up. The photo in no way does it justice.
  • Back to the landing. You're very welcome to sit up here by the windows...
  • ... or head out onto the balcony, where you'll find tables to the left of you...
  • ... and tables to the right. Just order downstairs and your coffee will be brought up.
  • Final option, by the way: tables straight ahead, by the flagpole.
  • Wherever you sit up here, you'll get a pretty decent view!
  • Okay, time to head back inside.
  • Downstairs is a really bright, airy space, helped by these magnificent windows.
  • There are also plenty of lights for the long, winter afternoons.
  • The mirrors help too.
  • There are plants galore downstairs, which help lighten the place in a different way...
  • ... as well as various nick-nacks on the windowsills.
  • I particularly liked the handleless pouring kettle.
  • Talking of which, there's a small shelf with some coffee and coffee-making kit.
  • There's house roaster, local outfit, Extract, plus regular guests (Yallah while I was there).
  • Neat water station.
  • Talking of neat, this caught my eye. I think it used to be a post box.
  • To business. The lovely, wooden counter is to your right as you enter, kitchen behind.
  • There are soft drinks ahead of you in a fridge and on the windowsill...
  • ... while the compact counter holds the remainder of the goodies.
  • There's a selection of cakes, all baked in-house...
  • ... with the drinks menu on the back wall...
  • ... and lunch on the right-hand wall.
  • I was starving so had a goat’s cheese toastie to get me underway.
  • I then returned to check out the coffee menu in detail...
  • ... and also to settle on a choice of cake.
  • My final selection.
  • I had a shot of the espresso, using Extract's Rocket Blend...
  • ... which tasted as good as it looked. I paired this with...
  • ... a banana & chocolate cake with peanut butter & nutmeg frosting, which was awesome.
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The RWA, Bristol’s first art gallery, is a venerable institution, well worth a visit in its own right. Having a top-notch speciality coffee shop just makes it that bit more attractive. Occupying a magnificent building on a roundabout at the bottom of Whiteladies Road (although the address is Queen’s Road) it cuts a striking figure which you really can’t miss, although The Epiphany is slightly less obvious.

Located inside the RWA building, the entrance is through the main foyer. Despite this, you can come in for coffee/lunch without having to visit the gallery itself. To get to The Epiphany, go through the main doors, pausing to admire the foyer (which is gorgeous), then head to your left. This takes you along the back of The Epiphany, which occupies a narrow space at the front of the left-hand side of the building. When you get to the far end, a doorway to your left leads into The Epiphany proper.

If I say that The Epiphany occupies an awkward space, I don’t mean that negatively. The counter is to your right, while the seating stretches away to your left. Three tall, arched windows pierce the walls, providing plenty of light, while the massively high ceiling (easily twice as tall as it is wide) more than offsets any sense of claustrophobia from the narrow space. There’s a lovely atmosphere, with a tiled floor, wooden furniture and whitewashed walls with tiling along the bottom of the walls. It can be very busy at lunchtimes, when there are lots of gallery visitors, but it gets quieter in the afternoon.

A narrow, high bar runs along the front wall, with a four-person and two-person table against the back wall, leaving a narrow space between the two leading a second, smaller space to the left, at the opposite end from the counter. A low square arch in the party wall joins the two spaces.

The second space has, in many ways, the better seating. It’s roughly square with a four-person table against the back wall, partly occupying a closed-off doorway. There’s a two-person square table in the corner at the back, while at the front is another two-person square table, with a two-person sofa against the far wall, looking along the length of The Epiphany.

There’s more seating upstairs, accessed via the grand main staircase in the foyer. Order downstairs, and the staff will bring your coffee and/or food up when it’s ready. You can sit inside at a couple of tables on the landing next to the windows at the front, or outside on the spacious balcony, which is lined with four- and six-person tables.

I was there for lunch, starting off with a goat’s cheese toastie, one of three on offer. Alternatively, there’s salad, quiche or soup. This was lovely, with rich goat’s cheese and crunchy, well-toasted bread.

By the time you read this, The Epiphany will be serving an exclusive single-origin Peruvian espresso from Extract, but while I was there, it was the Rocket Blend. I was tempted by the guest filter from Yallah, but went for an espresso instead, which was beautifully-pulled and served in a classic cup. It was really interesting, incredibly complex on the first sip, but quietening down a little after that. Well-balanced, I suspect it also would go well in milk, but on its own, it had very much a front-of-the-mouth feel to it and a pleasing acidity.

I paired this with a banana and chocolate cake with peanut butter and nutmeg frosting. This was delicious, with a cake base, rather than a sponge, and a strong banana flavour.

December 2018: The Epiphany was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Outdoor Seating Award.

Monday CLOSED Roaster Extract (espresso) + Guests (filter)
Tuesday 09:00 – 17:00 Seating Tables, Bar, Tables (landing, balcony & outside)
Wednesday 09:00 – 17:00 Food Lunch, Cake
Thursday 09:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 09:00 – 16:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free
Sunday 11:00 – 16:30 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 10th November 2017

Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Bristol’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Bristol.

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