Llangollen, nestling on the banks of the River Dee in North Wales, is a beautiful town and one which I’ve visited many, many times over the years. However, until last summer, it had never registered on the Coffee Spot radar. Then, I visited Bold Street Coffee in Liverpool, where one of the baristas told me that Bold Street’s founder, the legendary Sam Towil, was now living in Llangollen, where he runs Sam’s Coffee. And, just like that, I started planning my visit.
Sam’s Coffee is inside Gales of Llangollen, a family-run wine bar, restaurant and 15-room hotel, all housed in a Georgian townhouse which feels, to me, like an old coaching inn. Sam’s Coffee is officially open from nine in the morning until two in the afternoon, offering a contemporary brunch menu, plus coffee from Has Bean, after which Gales takes over until late in the evening with a lunch/dinner (dunch? linner?) menu, plus beer, cider, spirits and, of course, wine. However, that doesn’t mean the coffee stops at two: as long as Sam is there, he’ll make you coffee. Although the menu is espresso-based, I spotted a kettle, Chemex and Kalita Wave, so I’m sure if you ask nicely…
January 2023: Sam’s last day serving coffee was on New Year’s Eve. Gales is still going strong, but Sam’s is no more. I wish Sam well in whatever adventure he embarks on next.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Gales of Llangollen is on the south side of Bridge Street, just east of the 16th/17th century Llangollen Bridge. Occupying a pair of buildings that date to at least the 17th Century, Gales Wine Shop is on the right, while Gales Wine Bar is on the left, a covered passageway between the two leading to a courtyard.
Sam’s Coffee is inside the Wine Bar, which you enter via a recessed door on the left, flanked by two large windows. This brings you into the first of several rooms that make up Gales, with a table in each window at the front and two more tables at the back. A couple of steps lead up and through an opening in the wood-panelled wall on the right to a second room with another four tables, ranging in size from two- to seven-people. Finally (in this part of Gales), an opening in the back wall leads to a cosy, wood-panelled, windowless snug with a pair of massive black sofas.
Returning to the first room, the well-stocked bar, which is the heart of both Gales and Sam’s Coffee, is straight ahead. Running down the left-hand side of a corridor-like space, the espresso machine is at the back. This is side-on to the bar, so you can watch it in action, particularly if you take a seat at one of the two narrow, high tables which project from the right-hand wall opposite the bar. Beyond this, a pair of steps leads up to another space at the back of Gales, with three tables on the left and a larger one at the back. It can get busy here though, a door in the back wall leading to the kitchen.
If you think that’s all Gales has to offer, think again. At the top of the steps behind the bar is another door on the right. This leads past a flight of stairs (to the upstairs guest rooms) and then out into the courtyard, home to Gales Wine Garden. Served by a mobile wine bar in a horsebox (Gales Wine Box), the espresso machine used to be out here too, but it returned inside when the indoor seating re-opened (Sam is considering getting a second machine for the courtyard though).
The Wine Garden has plenty of seating, most of it added last summer as Gales adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are three, separate, covered seating areas, each with its own character, plus a row of three two/three-person tables in the courtyard and a pair of three-person tables at the entrance. To the left, up a couple of steps, is a row of five induvial booths, each seating four, while at the back, a 10-person communal table takes centre-stage. Meanwhile, the third area on the right has a mix of two- and four-person tables.
You’re welcome to sit in any of the rooms/seating areas, although you should probably announce yourself at the bar/Wine Box, and someone will come to take your order. I can only really comment on the coffee side of the operation, having called in twice, once late on Thursday afternoon (17:30), when I caught Sam at the espresso machine for a flat white, and again the following morning, when I had an espresso. In an ideal world, I would have had breakfast/brunch on my second visit, but I’d already eaten a huge breakfast at Riverbanc which was still going down.
Sam uses Has Bean, with the Finca Licho, a fruity, yellow honey processed coffee from Costa Rica in the hopper during my visit. Each coffee lasts as long as it takes Sam to get through it, which is partly a factor of how much Sam gets in. I really enjoyed the Finca Licho, which went realty well with the milk (from Peckforton Farm in Cheshire) in my flat white, while as an espresso, which served as my farewell to Llangollen, I appreciated the coffee’s fruity notes.
September 2021: I returned to Llangollen while showing Amanda (and my coffee) the sights of North Wales and fulfilled my promise to Sam to try the brunch menu. It was amazing (as I thought it would be), while Sam made us a Chemex for two (plus a flat white).
December 2021: Sam’s Coffee has won the 2021 Most Passionate About Coffee Award.
|18 BRIDGE STREET • LLANGOLLEN • LL20 8PF|
|www.facebook.com/samscoffeellangollen||+44 (0) 1978 860089|
|Monday||09:00 – 14:00||Roaster||Has Bean (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 14:00||Seating||Tables, Sofas; Tables, Booths (outside)|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 14:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Thursday||09:00 – 14:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||09:00 – 14:00||Payment||Card + Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 14:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 14:00||Power||Yes|
|Chain||No||Visits||27th, 28th May 2021|
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