Arriving at the city-centre early in the morning often ensures dragging my pre-caffeinated self to nearby ‘Coffee Beach’ for replenishment. Almost on top of the cascade steps, this venue is conveniently situated within crawling distance of the central area's many amenities. Subsequently, it came to be that before my shift of volunteering began at Bristol's Harbour Festival, I found myself again seeking a serious coffee-hit amidst the painted palm trees and Moby-created calm in order to jump-start my zombie-like alias into the land of the living!
Date and Time: Sunday 31st July 2011, 9:15
Name of Establishment: Coffee Beach*
Location: Broad Quay, Bristol
Reason for Visit: Substance for service!
With a mixture of wooden-benched seating and squishy sofas, both scattered with candy-striped cushions, Coffee Beach is as comfortable as it is coherent with its theme. As well as the overall blue and gold colour scheme, the back wall is adorned with a vibrant beach scene; complete with sizable leafy palms. The sporadically placed bucket and spade arrangements function ornamentally throughout the venue and the outside space has been festooned with garden furniture as well as a few brightly coloured deck-chairs. The chilled-out Moby-dominated soundtrack completes the ambiance and whisks you away, for me almost back into slumber! This was until my skinny cappuccino arrived and I was brought back down to earth with a rich-noted bump! Not dissimilar to coffee served on the continent, my beverage was hot, short and punchy – expertly made and competitively priced at £1.65, it satisfied my shameless coffee snobbery and didn’t break the bank, impressive indeed! It can also be noted here that a loyalty card entitles a free (large) hot drink after purchasing six and before 9:00am on a weekday, a regular coffee is just £1 – I challenge you to find better elsewhere! Furthermore, I can report that service at Coffee Beach is friendly and efficient, perhaps a little ditzy in places but overall, commendably enthusiastic at a time when most are enjoying a Sunday-morning lie-in!
Outside of the venue's namesake however, I feel that some of the more substantial offerings go slightly downhill in terms of their quality. Breakfast seems to be satisfactory in terms of what is plated for its cost but I’ve purchased a panini on a couple of occasions (the second to confirm whether the first negative experience was a blip) and was twice denied finishing due to the stodgy texture of the panini bread which, on both occasions, had been soaked with the abrasive vinaigrette dressing which also drowned the side-salad. Not to mention the strange ingredients that appended the fillings; gunky caramelised onion chutney liberally applied to a tuna and cheddar melt is, in my opinion, just plain wrong! The ciabbata rolls do look a little more appetising however and there is also a range of light-bites to accompany an evening tipple (due to the venue’s late licence) but all-in-all, I haven’t been majorly wowed when it comes to the savoury menu I'm afraid.
On a sweeter note, smoothies, which the servers whip up using a variety of fresh fruit, are both colourful and invigorating. Alongside this, the frozen yogurt, which is available in an array of fruity flavours including papaya, pineapple and mango, really underpins the aforementioned tropical island concept and as a result, is notably very popular with the Coffee Beach clientèle. During this particular visit though, I chose an almond croissant from the cafés naughty pastry range to supplement my coffee. This was served slightly warm, with a crisped finish and harbouring a good measure of its characteristic sweet, nutty filling. I also made a mental note to return in order to sample the generously portioned yogurt and muesli pots which, priced at only £1.80, appeared fresh and wholesome. Putting the aforementioned java to one side, drinks constitute all the usual suspects as well as a lovely range of ‘loose leaf’ teas from Oxford-based 'Jeeves and Jericho',* a company which this venue proudly promotes in a number of places about its interior.
In conclusion, it’s rather a mixed bag when it comes to reviewing this venue. Coffee Beach certainly features at the top of my list for a reasonably priced breakfast or simply, a cracking cup of coffee. However, I will be seeking savoury fulfilment elsewhere, hence, opting not to return for round three with one of the cafés poorly put-together sarnies! In my opinion, Coffee Beach has the potential to up its game somewhat, especially given its location amidst Bristol’s central buzz – come on, ‘life’s a beach’ but it’s also what you make of it!
* Tel: 0117 933 8621 – Coffee Beach do not have a website at present but find and ‘like’ them on Facebook!