Duncan's blog

January 5, 2015

Bristol coffee shops

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 8:00 am
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After a recent trip to Bristol, in keeping with previous articles on coffee shops in Dublin, New York, Zagreb and  New Zealand and Australia, I thought I’d do a write-up for some cafés we went to.

Playground Coffee House

45 St. Nicholas Street

The first place we called at was the Playground Coffee House.  It hadn’t opened for the morning, we were slightly too early, but we were still able to get some very nice coffees.  It looked like a fun place to go; from the usual like board games, to the unusual like, er, swings for seats.  Which come with their own warning, they maybe don’t mix too well with hot drinks!

The barista was very friendly, and recommended to us a few of the other best coffee shops in town.

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Bear Pit Social

St. James Barton Underpass

This place is housed in a converted shipping container, in the, er, interesting location of the Bearpit, aka the St. James Barton Roundabout underpass… not as bad as it sounds.  In fact they had quite a nice little seating area in one corner, and they were doing food in addition to the coffees.


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Spicer and Cole

1 Queen Square Avenue

Spicer and Cole was listed on our map, out in Clifton.  We didn’t go there, but they also had a branch in the centre, on Welsh Back, very close to Queen Square.  I overheard someone in the street raving about it to a couple who were looking for somewhere to eat.  I went there a couple of times; the coffee was ok; we had some nice Sunday breakfast.

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Full Court Press – Speciality Coffee

59 Broad Street

Full Court Press I visited a couple of times.  The name’s apparently a basketball reference.  They seemed to take their coffee pretty seriously (as their sub-title would imply), and both times the baristas gave me good descriptions of the choice of beans available.

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I intended to visit some of these too, but unfortunately they were all closed on the Sunday:

  • Didn’t You Do Well
  • Workhouse Cafe
  • Small Street Espresso

The coffee map I bought in Playground was very useful; I’d recommend it if you were on a trip to Bristol and wanted to visit a few different cafés.  It listed 24 different places to go, with lots of information and an attractively-designed map.

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(when I first checked the website was fine; but it seems be offline right now).


July 17, 2013

Café Le Cordon Bleu

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 6:00 pm
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P1000213This is a nice place I discovered by chance one day.  I was wanting to find some new coffee shops to go for, and noticed this on Google Maps… I figured anything with the Cordon Bleu name on it would  probably be quite good, and I wasn’t wrong!  And just in case you’re not familiar with the name, Le Cordon Bleu is probably the most famous cookery school, founded in Paris in 1895.

The café is on the ground floor of the Cordon Bleu building at Bloomsbury Square.  I’ve not noticed it mentioned in any of the usual coffee shop guides, and it seems to be a bit overlooked.  Possibly because it’s tucked away in a courtyard and doesn’t get as much passing footfall as it otherwise would elsewhere.  To find it you can either come in through the main entrance to the school on Bloomsbury Square, or directly into the café via Pied Bull Yard.

Most of the customers seem to be staff and students at the cookery school and it’s usually quite interesting overhearing their conversations, which always revolve around food obviously, as well as the usual stress of exams!

All the food is made in-house, although I don’t think any of it is done by the students.  There’s always a very good-looking display of cakes and pastries, some reasonably priced artisan breads, filled ciabatta sandwiches and soup.  They also do these quite cheap ‘savoureux‘, which are just warm little bread rolls filled with a mixture of sweet and savoury ingredients, e.g. feta cheese with fig and honey, or beetroot and roquefort.

They always take care over the coffees they prepare, and usually this is where I see the best latte art of all the coffee shops I go to.

Inside the cafe they have a long wooden table, a few stools and several small tables (plus some computer terminals for the students).  There’s also plenty of seats in the square outside, a space shared with a couple of other venues.

I’m always happy with the coffee and the service here, and if the much busier and smaller Freestate hasn’t got enough seats, it’s only a short walk to here.


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Café Le Cordon Bleu on Urbanspoon

June 26, 2013

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs

1-IMG_1555-001 This is one of my regular coffee shops.  It’s on Leather Lane, which is a great place for some street food on weekday lunchtimes, from its many market stalls and cafes.  It’s also home to two very good coffee shops, this one and Prufrock.

Dept. of Coffee is part of the Coffeesmiths Collective, which includes Chancery Coffee, The Liberty of Norton Folgate (great name!) and Speakeasy Espresso & Brew Bar.  The coffees are consistently tasty and well presented (see my collage of latte art below), the staff friendly, and there’s always some (usually) decent music playing.

It’s not usually a problem getting a seat, so a good bet if Prufrock is too busy, as it often is – although in no way would I say this was second-best; they’re equally good in my book, although quite different.  The main seating area is a good place to sit and watch the passing world, and they have a long comfortable bench seat against one wall.  And they have a room with a large table which can be hired for meetings.  They always have a small art exhibition too.

They do a range of nice looking sandwiches and cakes (although I never eat them – I’m just here for the coffee!), as well as tortas de aceite.  I did have some nice ‘artisan’ toast there for breakfast one morning.

In summary, a place I always like to go to, and if I’m needing to get a coffee at lunch, this would usually be my first choice.

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Department of Coffee and Social Affairs on Urbanspoon

May 25, 2013

Coffee time

Filed under: Coffee — duncan @ 3:04 pm
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I think I’m going to start blogging about some good places to have a coffee.  Mostly I just write about fairly boring niche programming subjects, so it’s a slight  change for me.  But lately I’ve been regularly drinking lots of really good coffee.  I also like to photograph my coffee (as evinced by my little collage above), so it gives me somewhere to post that photos (other than to my continual photostream on Flickr).  Indeed coffee is probably my 2nd or 3rd most commonly photographed subject, after graffiti.

I recently picked up a copy of The London Coffee Guide (2012 edition, not the 2013 edition which came out about a month ago).  Of the 100 places featured there, I’ve only been to about 15 of them.  So that gives me some ideas for new places to try.  Although I’ve also been to lots of great coffee shops they haven’t got listed.  And I’ve drank coffee in other places outside of London too!  (I even started a Google Map of coffee shops, see below)

As you can probably tell from my photo, I’m a fan of a milky coffee, lattes/cappuccinos/flat whites; I never have an espresso or macchiato.  I’m not really much of a connoisseur or know much of the technical ins and outs of making coffee, but hopefully that won’t matter too much.

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