Small Batch Coffee, Seven Dials

As the Small Batch Coffee empire stretches out across Brighton & Hove, I keep finding myself unable to write columns quickly enough.

It was not long ago that new outlets of this highly successful local enterprise opened on Wilbury Road and Jubilee Street in quick succession. A branch on the Seven Dials roundabout has just opened and an extension to the Goldstone Villas roastery is hot on its heels.

The new Seven Dials outlet is situated in a building that was once home to Barclays Bank, but recently vacated by a bar called Xuma. The building actually consists of what was originally a fairly standard Victorian end-of-terrace house and its large Edwardian ground floor extension of 1902. The extension features an open-topped pediment, fluted Ionic pilasters and egg-and-dart ornamentation. The Black Spread Eagle of Barclays has been etched onto the glass of each of the two main entrance doors.

The ground floor, basement and much of the exterior have been given a thorough makeover by my friend Paul Nicholson of Chalk Architecture. A Corten steel worktop is perhaps the centre-piece of the airy main area. This is surrounded by a scattering of Chalk’s bespoke coffee shop range of solid oak stools, and custom-made tables and counters. A new addition is a matching chair which, like the others, features the Small Batch dome logo.

The walls are lined with lots of reclaimed oak and a number of ‘antique’ mirrors (which have been aged with old teabags). The oak has been deliberately charred black in places. Paul says that is an allusion to the way in which timber was once treated on barns around Sussex. I think that he just likes burning stuff.

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of the subterranean which explains why much of my visit to Small Batch was spent in the basement or, more precisely, the old vault. A long corridor in the basement leads to an incredibly thick steel door which guards a large room with thick concrete walls, floor and ceiling. In turn, this leads, via another thick door, into a smaller room where the cash was once kept by Barclays (and the bottles by Xuma). Each has been given the Chalk treatment and will soon be used as training areas.

I do happen to like the coffee at Small Batch but, if I didn’t, I would certainly go for the architecture.