Garden Social Coffee House

The front of Garden Social Coffee House on the corner of Catherine and Charlotte Streets, the open door showing no favouritism to either!Today’s Coffee Spot, Garden Social Coffee House, continues the exploration of Chester’s speciality coffee scene and how it’s expanding beyond the historic (and compact) city centre, which started with Monday’s Coffee Spot, Ginger Monkey Number 31. This time we’re northwest of the centre, heading in the direction of Blacon/Sealand, where I stumbled upon Garden Social, tucked away in the dense network of residential streets, lined with tightly-packed terrace houses, between the River Dee and the canal. As the name suggests, Garden Social has an outside seating area at the back, along with some well-spaced seating in the bright and airy interior.

Occupying what was an old-fashioned corner shop, there’s nothing old-fashioned about Garden Social, sporting a brand-new Eagle One espresso machine and its twin Mythos One grinders, serving up a house-blend (Jailbreak) and a regularly-changing single-origin. There’s also a filter option, available through AeroPress, Kalita Wave or Chemex (for two), grinding provided by the ubiquitous EK43, all the coffee coming from Has Bean. This is backed up by a selection of tea, hot chocolate and various iced drinks. If you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cakes, plus a concise toast-based breakfast menu, along with a handful of toasties and sandwiches.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Wandering around the southern end of the Elsemere Port branch of the canal...
  • ... I stumbled upon an interesting sign. Suitably intrigued, I decided to pay a visit.
  • I crossed over the lock (this is the view looking back towards the sign)...
  • ... went down some steps, and came out through this doorway in the wall.
  • Straight ahead, running away from me, was Catherine Street. You can just see...
  • ... Garden Social, which is halfway down on the left, on the corner of Charlotte Street.
  • There's one window on the Charlotte Street side...
  • ... and one on Catherine Street. And what's that, stencilled on the window?
  • Why, it's a Kalita Wave filter! Looks like we've struck gold!
  • The door, by the way, shows no favouritism, standing at 45° to both streets. Let's go in!
  • There's a four-person window-bar on the right, looking out onto Catherine Street...
  • ... while the window onto Charlotte Street has a solitary four-person table.
  • Finally, directly opposite the door, is this nine-person table, and that's it for the front part.
  • A view of the front of Garden Social from the back on the left-hand side...
  • ... middle...
  • ... and right-hand side. I suspect there will be more seating in due course.
  • Turning around, the back part of Garden Social is the realm of the counter...
  • ... although opposite this, to the right, is a pair of armchairs.
  • A view of the counter from the armchairs. However, that's not all. Past the counter...
  • ... at the back, on the right-hand side, an open doorway leads to a short corridor...
  • ... which opens onto the sunny backyard.
  • There are three square tables out here...
  • ... partial shade provided by a sail-like covering.
  • There is a gate out onto Charlotte Street, but for now it's exit only.
  • Alternatively, returning to the interior, this is the view from the end of the corridor.
  • Although there's a lot of brick and chipboard, Garden Social has plenty of plants too.
  • There's also this neat mural on the wall to the left of the counter.
  • The mural in more detail, name-dropping some more of Chester's coffee shops.
  • There's also a small retail shelf to the left of the mural...
  • ... and a larger one at the back on the right. This is the decaf and house-blend...
  • ... while this is the current filter offering.
  • Talking of filter options...
  • Obligatory light fitting shot.
  • To business. You order at the counter...
  • ... where the cakes lie in wait for you. Sadly I'd already eaten more than enough...
  • ... sweet things that day, otherwise this raspberry bakewell would have tempted me!
  • You'll find the drinks menu on the boarded up chimney to the right of the counter...
  • ... with details of the house-blend and single-origin espresso on the side.
  • Meanwhile, the food menu is on the tables.
  • Returning to espresso, say hello to a very new and very shiny Eagle One...
  • ... although this is the more interesting view, which you get from the till.
  • I, however, decided to have the filter option, a Kalita Wave pour-over...
  • ... served in a carafe with a cup on the side, which is where I'll leave you.
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Garden Social Coffee House was a chance discovery while exploring the Shropshire Union Canal and its Elsmere Port branch, which heads north just before the main canal drops down a flight of locks into the River Dee. Wandering around the appropriately-named Williams Moorings, I spotted a sign for the coffee shop, which I’d not heard of before. Since it was only a street away, I decided to take a look. Knowing nothing about it, I wasn’t expecting anything special, but on seeing a Kalita Wave filter stencilled on the window, I knew I’d struck gold.

Like Ginger Monkey Number 31, Garden Social Coffee House is a new addition to Chester’s speciality coffee scene, having only opened in March this year, which (I like to think) explains my ignorance. The brainchild of Ewan (ex-teacher) and Holly (one-time occupational therapist), Garden Social Coffee House is something they’ve poured their combined hearts and souls into. Previously a corner shop, the space had stood empty for several years when Ewan and Holly, who live nearby, decided it would be the perfect location for their coffee shop.

Garden Social is on the corner of Catherine and Charlotte Streets, with the door, at 45°, showing no favouritism. There are two large, multi-paned windows (with centre panes which can be folded open in the warm weather), one for each street, looking onto a roughly square seating area. During my visit, the seating was limited by COVID-19 requirements, with just two tables and a window-bar. Starting to the right of the door, a four-person window-bar overlooks Catherine Street, while the Charlotte Street window has a four-person table, which is to the left of the door. Finally, there’s a nine-person table with a bench seat against the right-hand wall.

What would have been the back wall of the shop has been knocked through, leaving two thin, brick stubs to support an RSJ which holds up the ceiling, joining the front of Garden Social with another square space at the back. Once the living room for the owner of the corner shop, this is now the domain of the counter, a handsome, tiled affair which occupies the bulk of the space on the left, enclosing an open kitchen. The cakes are to the fore, next to the till where you order, and where you’ll also find eggs, milk and bread for sale. Meanwhile, down right-hand side, side-on to the till, is the coffee part of the operation, including the Eagle One and the three grinders.

Opposite the counter, against the right-hand wall, is the last of the interior seating, a cosy pair of armchairs, followed by a boxed-in fireplace which acts as a floor-to-ceiling drinks menu. However, that’s not all. Right at the back, a doorway leads to a broad corridor which runs past the toilet and into the backyard. Surrounded by high, whitewashed brick walls on all sides, a narrow wooden bench runs around three of the four walls, with three square tables filling the space. A gate on the left leads out onto Charlotte Street, but for now it’s exit only.

I only had time for a quick coffee, deciding to try the filter option, the Kiriga Estate, a washed coffee from Kenya. I went for a pour-over through the Kalita Wave, my coffee arriving in a carafe, with a cup on the side. It proved to be a sweet, full-bodied coffee with classic fruity notes.

And, with that, I was on my way!

40 CATHERINE STREET • CHESTER • CH1 4JY
https://garden-social.business.site +44 (0) 1244 267479
Monday CLOSED Roaster Has Bean (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:30 – 16:30 Seating Tables, Window-Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:30 – 16:30 Food Breakfast, Toasties, Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 08:30 – 16:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:30 – 16:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:30 – 16:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 15:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 13th July 2021

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Chester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Chester.


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