Society Café, The Corridor (Original)

A black circle surrounding a woman in silhouette blowing on a cup of coffee. The words "Society Cafe with love from Bath" are written around the circle.On Bath’s High Street, just a few steps from the Cathedral, opposite the Guildhall and with High Street chains Caffé Nero and Patisserie Valerie to one side, Starbucks to the other, this is an unlikely, but welcome, location for an independent speciality coffee shop. This prime spot, at the eastern end of the Corridor, Bath’s Georgian shopping arcade, is home to the second of Bath’s two branches of Society Café. It’s a wonderful location, probably the loveliest setting out of all the coffee spots that I’ve visited in Bath.

During my visit, most of the coffee was from locals, Round Hill Roastery, with two single-origin espressos (Round Hill’s house single-origin Guatemalan, plus a guest) and two single-origin filters, one through the Aeropress, the other through the Clever Dripper. There was also a guest filter, a single-origin Kenyan from Workshop, while Society Café regularly rotates all the coffees, including the house espresso (which is always from Round Hill) and the guests.

If you don’t fancy coffee, there’s always a selection of loose-leaf tea and hot chocolate from old friends Kokoa Collection, as well as Willie’s Cacao. Add to that sandwiches and a great selection of cakes and you’re spoilt for choice!

November 2019: I’ve updated my piece on Society Café, The Corridor. This is the original write-up, published in March 2015. For an up-to-date description, please see the updated post, while you can see what’s changed in my Coffee Spot Update.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The view from across the street of the Society Cafe in the Corridor, Bath.
  • A more detailed view.
  • There's a bench out front for drier days...
  • The door is slightly inset to the left.
  • Now, what's that A-board say?
  • There's more information, include the Society Cafe's coffee credentials, next to the door.
  • Before we go inside, the Corridor itself is worth a look!
  • And, while we're here, we may as well take a look in the window.
  • Looks very cosy in there.
  • Turning to go inside, we catch a glimpse of the Guildhall across the street. Nice view.
  • However, it's time to go in.
  • A panorama from just inside the door.
  • The main seating is to the left of the counter.
  • ... while the rest is by the window as seen in this panorama looking the other way.
  • This second counter masks the stairs down to the basement (sadly, staff only!).
  • The rest of the seating in the front window.
  • The counter, with its wonderful lighting...
  • Talking of which, the Society Cafe is a light-fitting lovers paradise.
  • I particularly liked these ones in the windows...
  • ... with their neat reflections.
  • The view out of the window into the Corridor.
  • The Society Cafe has a beautifully-tiled floor.
  • It's full of interesting things, such as this bicycle hanging on the wall.
  • And this chemistry lab, I mean, cold brew aparatus, on the counter.
  • There's also a decent selection of cakes.
  • I was particularly taken by the Friands.
  • There are also sandwiches if you want something savoury.
  • The second counter also holds the retail shelves...
  • ... there's coffee for sale...
  • ... and the perfect combination, Aeropress and Keep Cup!
  • However, I've been told that the second counter's since been replaced by this extra seating!
  • The menus hang on the wall behind the counter.
  • The Society Cafe's coffee philosophy...
  • ... and the coffee itself.
  • There's also tea and hot chocolate for those who like that sort of thing.
  • For filter coffee and decaf, the EK-43 is pressed into use.
  • The settings are all chalked up for each brew method and for the decaf.
  • There's also the espresso machine if you are so inclined.
  • It has its own two grinders.
  • .. which also have the settings chalked up next to them.
  • Time to make some coffee... First, dose the portafilter...
  • ... then weigh the shot. They are precise here!
  • Now tamp...
  • ... and we're ready to go.
  • Here it comes...
  • The extraction is a little slow to start...
  • ... but soon gets into its stride.
  • Look at that single stream of coffee...
  • Aren't bottomless portafilters wonderful?
  • The finished espresso.
  • As wonderful as it was, I actually went for the filter option.
  • My coffee in close up...
  • ... and my lovely blueberry Friand!
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Compared to the original Society Café on Kingsmead Square, the branch in the Corridor is tiny, just a single room with a pair of window bars and two small tables by the stairs (plus a solitary bench outside on the High Street). However, what it lacks in space, it makes up for in sheer beauty. Much like Manchester’s Pot Kettle Black in the Barton Arcade, Society Café takes its lead from the Corridor itself. Regular readers will know of my love for Victorian shopping arcades. Well, the Corridor goes one better: built in 1825, this Georgian structure was one of the first covered shopping arcades outside London.

Society Café occupies a prime spot at the Corridor’s eastern end. Looking from across the High Street, it’s on the right-hand side, with windows on two sides and a recessed door in the corner. The window facing the High Street is the shorter of the two, its four-person window bar ideal for people watching and admiring the architecture. The longer window, facing into the Corridor itself, has space for six.

Inside, everything is arranged around the edges, leaving the centre a glorious open space, which is just as well since it means that you can admire the stone-flagged floor. This, coupled with high ceilings and the two windows, give it a wonderful sense of space for somewhere so small. There’s also plenty of light, with lights in both windows and above the counter at the back to supplement the daylight. There are stone walls at front, which give way to white-washed brick and a plain white-washed wall at the back, all topped by a white-washed ceiling, the light colours all enhancing the brightness of the place.

The main counter, where you study the menus, eye up the cake and order, is at the back, while the right-hand wall contained shelving/a second counter, which has now been replaced by two small wooden tables/booths. This fences off stairs down to a (sadly staff only) basement. Society Café makes clever use of the space, with the corners taken up by the coffee-making equipment. To the left, in full view of anyone passing along the Corridor, is some cold-brew apparatus and, clustered around an EK43, the brew bar, with built-in hot water tap. On the other side, in the awkward space above the stairs, is the La Marzocco espresso machine and a couple of grinders, one for the house espresso, the other for the guest.

There’s a very quiet, relaxed atmosphere, and while I was there, it was mostly people working silently on their laptops. My only complaint is that due to the layout, everyone has to sit with their backs either to the counter or the baristas. However, it’s hard to see how else the space could have been laid out.

I had Round Hill’s Ethiopian Kebado Coffee through the Aeropress, primarily because I’d had it that morning through Repack Espresso’s Kees van der Westen espresso machine and I wanted to see how it compared. It was surprisingly fruity and subtle, very different from the flat white and espresso I’d had earlier. I paired this with a blueberry friand (I blame the Candlestick Bakery) which was lovely. It had a fine, moist sponge and was packed with blueberries, and while not quite up to the platinum standard of those at The Wren, it was nonetheless excellent.

THE CORRIDOR • 19 HIGH STREET • BATH • BA1 5AJ +44 (0) 1225 442 433
Monday 07:30 – 18:30 Roaster Round Hill + Guests (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 18:30 Seating Window Bars, Bench (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 18:30 Food Sandwiches, Cakes
Thursday 07:30 – 18:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 18:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 07:30 – 18:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 Power No
Chain Regional Visits Original: 13th October 2014
Update: 25th November 2019