One of the best choices for a coffee in Bristol is Baristas, a down-to-earth place, central but tucked away.
It has been around for a few years and feels well established. Not tired, but like a nicely lived-in house, with staff baby photos on the fridge, a cluttered, higgledy-piggledy bar, and half-full help-yourself jars of jam.
It’s all the better for it. An antidote to the clinical, industrial coffee shops of London (which are perfectly wonderful, but maybe a bit too cool for school).
Baristas, by contrast, has a relaxed, unhurried vibe. A grand choice for coffee-sipping on chunky furniture, itself on rather lovely stripped-pine floors.
Flat white isn’t on the menu, so I had an espresso and, on another visit, a latte. Both were served from a manual piston machine, one of those vintage-style operations where the barista pulls a lever rather than pressing a button.
This type of coffee machine emerged in Italy in the 1940s and gave us the phrase “pulling a shot”. There’s no whirring electric pump, and, more significantly, little chance of pulling shots with 100% consistency. That’s a no-go for many of today’s top coffee shops, but for others, including former World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies, it makes the process all the more satisfying, with feel and variety taking a front seat.
I couldn’t say whether the piston made a difference, but I enjoyed my coffees, though not as much as the ones I’ve had before at Boston Tea Party, the most likely alternative in Bristol for a good brew.
Nevertheless, Baristas is a different proposition from Boston Tea Party. More individual, arguably more friendly. A place to get to know the baristas, read the papers and revel in the absence of coffee snobbery. Recommended.
29 Victoria Street
We visited on 17 January 2012.