Monday, 31 January 2011

The Forest is not the place for me [closed] [reopened in Tollcross]

It's a lovely concept, I'm firmly in favour of such a venue as it is a vital part of the arts community and I know many people who hang out there for one reason or another... but It's not the Grail.

Inky Fingers

As a small venue for music, poetry etc. there's the (fairly dark and intimate) space in the cafe downstairs. Here you can get, um, a variety of teas and some coffees and juice and bits of food which are generally suitable for non-meat eaters - all served by volunteers.

Jason Webley

Upstairs has a large space which is used for the slightly rowdier events.


There's an unexpected piano at the bottom of the stairs which is sometimes the source of some entertainment, although it's not always entertaining for the anticipated reasons.


There's even a small dedicated art gallery in the front, which often features people sitting around either working or socialising.

Ryan's book launch

But anyway.

As long as you avoid the occasional puddle the front of the cafe has a number of sockets, and I've never had any difficulty getting to an empty one.

The place also has free wifi, but as it's being shared by at least a dozen hippies at any one time (and it has one of those maddening preachy pop-ups when you first log on - asking you to be considerate and not hog the bandwidth - which replaces all 30 tabs you had open and at least some of which you never manage to retrieve) it's not terribly reliable.

The seating varies hugely; I've been in armchairs, on benches, in upright chairs and even perched on the floor at times.

The hot drinks are... not amazing.

If you're wanting to do some work or have a nice relaxing time I wouldn't recommend it. If you're looking for a 'wacky' community-led venue for arts and music then this is the place for you. Just don't leave your valuables unattended (as the staff keep telling me)!

And while I appear to be firmly dissing the place, this is just my dislike of using it for work. It's great for lots of things and needs saving from the threat of closure...

Sunday, 30 January 2011

We miss the Lady Roxy

I realised a while ago that in order to Get Work Done I really need to be away from the house. Not being a student of that big ol' University in the centre of town, the library is pretty much out so I'm down to cafes mostly.

During the Festival last year Tea Tree Tea was open late, which was most awesome, and I got into the habit of working til late. August left the building and I was adrift. Thought of Beanscene, who are known for their wifi and sockets, only to discover that due to some Health & Safety fiasco they no longer have sockets. And they are more likely to close at 9pm than 11pm as used to be.

Light appeared on the horizon, in the form of the Roxy Art House. Bar open til late, sockets, wifi (which I had access to since I knew half of the staff)... as long as one could ignore the stream of pretension it was heaven. Until the Edinburgh University Settlement, who owned the building and the business went suddenly bankrupt. F**k.


And so I join the cause. There can and will be a place where those of use who like to sit at laptop until late while sipping hot drinks can find succour. One day.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Fruitmarket Gallery Cafe

Fruitmarket Gallery Cafe has the benefit of also being a modern art gallery. There's also one of those typical museum bookstores with tons and tons of cool looking books that you place on your living room table and never actually read.

The hot chocolate in the cafe is pretty good, and the person I went with didn't complain about the coffee which I guess is a good thing. Sadly we didn't try using the wi-fi, since we weren't there for 'work'.

But the place had a nice atmosphere, played excellent music (like, really man, excellent music), and while it was all chairs and no couches, I would definitely consider working there.

SX Café

Southern Cross Café. That's apparently what the SX stands for.

It could also stands for 'sucks.'

Why? Because there's a sign in the window: £1 = 30 minutes of wifi.

I didn't even bother looking at their plugs.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Coffee Etc.

I went to Coffee Etc. today. It's one of the two nearly-identical falafel places across from Appleton tower, the other being Nile Valley. I was supposed to meet my friend at the latter - the problem is that they have difficult seating options. Either you're stuck next to people standing to order, or you're in a basement. Coffee Etc., on the other hand, has a back room. And it has comfy chairs in the backroom.

I didn't check the internet. Nor did I check the plugs. I assume that there is wireless from the University. But I was here purely for coffee and a wrap and chat. And, at £1.50, the mocha was damn cheap. But good.

I also managed to speak to the person making the wrap in Wolof, so I guess my linguistics degree is good for something. Basically, if you want a nice African vibe, good, cheap coffee, wonderful humous and falafel wraps, come here. Bring a girl if you can, it's a lot more fun than working.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Starbucks (Lauriston St. and Bread St.)

Starbucks' are great. You walk into one, you've walked into all of them - all over the world. So if working in a Starbucks is what you do, you sure won't be disappointed.

But we're not looking for the comforts of a familiar stomping ground. We're looking for accessible wi-fi, seats, and access to plugs. Oh, and decent priced mocha apparently. The Starbucks on Lauriston had no plugs available, the one on Bread St. had no seats. And I've been told that Starbucks in the UK charge hard currency for access to their precious precious wi-fi.

So fuck that.

P.S. Our friend Chrisdonia reminds everyone that:

Most Starbuckses are shit for sockets.

And the wifi is only free if you have a registered Starbucks card, cards which are nigh impossible to register.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Black Medicine - Bruntsfield

This place is chill. It's smaller than the normal ones, which are bit crowded at times. The window seat is perfect - great view of the links and the best street-gazing of any café I currently am aware of, after perhaps the Elephant House. The mochas is awesome. The wireless is free and has never failed me. It's open until six every day.

Black Medicine (Barclay Terrace)

I also like the staff. Well, I would, as one of them is one of my good friends, and often has company, who I also know. So. Yes. Biased much?

But no, really, this place is great. The music is also good.

If you were to come, I would suggest walking over in December at around 3 when the light is failing. It's beautiful walking across the golf course at that time.

Black Medicine

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tea Tree Tea [closed]

If you didn't know already, as I didnt - chai latte is amazing. Or, at least it is here. Tea Tree Tea is on Bread street, over new Tollcross. It's a really light, airy café with white walls with cool pictures. I kind of expected more hipsters, but there's a whole circle of girls knitting behind me, so I guess I can't really complain about the lack of atmosphere.

There is wireless, and the password is easy, and it works. WPA, 1-8. And it's not even BT, as far as I can tell. There's also a massive Wifi symbol on the window, which is useful in case you doubted me.

Chairs are good. There is a nice plug next to a wide window seat with a long couch and a slightly water-stained Ikea table. This place is a total win.

Did I mention this chai latte is amazing?

Thursday, 20 January 2011


I went here the other day. It's across from Double Dutch and relatively new, in St. Patricks Square. I went for a full birthday lunch with some friends from Linguistics, and that's pretty much what I got. It's a bit expensive for the 'let's-go-study-and-sit', but if you want a nice lunch, perhaps with a partner and aubergine, I would totally suggest it.

The coffee is great. I love Lebanese coffee.

I didn't check the wireless. Mostly because I feel this is kind of a restaurant as opposed to a café. However - it looks very, very promising. Why? Because on the way out, at the tables outside the door, there was a guy smoking shisha.

Shisha is awesome.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Olly Bongo's (v.2)

Not, in fact, the Bongo Club.

I went here the other day. My esteemed colleague has already given his opinion. Let's be brutally honest with you: we're not here to review cafés. We don't really care, most of the time, about the wallpaper or the taste of the caramel macciato. We're here to review our experience of cafés. Which means how we, as students, broke, poor, informatic students, feel about a place.

Olly Bongos? I like it. It's damn close to the university. 1 point. It's got not one, but two really nice window seats. 2. They have plugs. 3. There is wireless in the form of edinburgh uni wireless. (I'm not sure about in-house; ask if you want to know.) 4. They have really, really good tea. I haven't tried the coffee yet - rest assured, I will. 5.

I can't really think of any drawbacks. My voice resonates: I think the person next to me got annoyed by that. But that's not the establishment's fault. The table is a bit too low, and you have to bend your neck a bit. Again, not really that much of an issue.

Verdict? Win.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Meadow Bar

So, the meadow bar is pretty awesome, besides the fact that it has those weird divided doors that are heavy and some how impossible to get through. It has an upstairs, a downstairs, society nights, a function room, and chairs. There's chairs most of the time, I've never seen this place full. It is also open late, which is a huge plus.

The music isn't bad, either.

And there is wireless.

Really, I don't see why I don't go study in here more often.

No, really. I should. The chips are awesome. No word yet on the coffee - but hey, there is beer.

Olly Bongos

Today was the first time I've actually successfully remembered Olly Bongos name (hold on, is there an apostrophe in there?). The name is printed so teeny on front, I think most people are under the impression that it's called "Cafe Bistro". Or maybe it's Cafe Bristo? That would be clever.

Anyway, I walked in, and one of the waiters helped me find a table with plugs, and I ordered some hot chocolate - cause lets be honest coffee tastes like ass - and a delicious apple pie. There wasn't much hot chocolate, and I don't really remember it tasting great, but the price was decent, and their Internet worked. It's also possible to access both the Uni's central and central-wpa wifi, so that's another bonus. The chairs were too high for the table though, so I spent most of my time hunched over, which got to hurting my back pretty quick.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Hotel du Vin

First off, I have no idea who thought up the company motto of "I think. Therefore I du Vin." But it is kind of weird. Just saying.

Otherwise - yeah. It's really, really, really classy. Like, leather chair classy. Like, finely polished wood classy. With fireplace.I'd kind of feel bad sitting in their café and doing work. (Is any one else annoyed by the use of é? I am. Too bad I can't stop.) But it's alright, because, as nice as the place is, and even though the gingerbread man was good - there's no way I'm paying £3 for that caliber of coffee. At the end of the day, it's just coffee, and I need bulk.

Go if you want to impress your parents, I suppose.

Oh, yeah, they have an outdoor fireplace as well. Kick-ass.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Elephant House

I changed my mind.

These guys don't have wireless.

Although, they do have one, really nice window seat (when it's free - read as: it's never free). And their coffee is a cheap with the discount, if you remember it. And they do have a nice view out the back, say, if you had friends to go with you and talk instead of merely going to the café to study.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty much 100% an exclusive studier. And without wireless, I'd be back doing a Greek degree. Plus, the Elephant house is normally packed, so although it is open late, I'm just not convinced.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Café Jacques

The worst thing about Edinburgh is that it is so ugly that walking is around is a horrible experience. There's nothing worse than not knowing where to get coffee - Imagine the pain of having to trudge through the ugly, maggot-grey, victorian shite that is this pathetic slough of a hamlet. It's made worse the fact that when it snows, the blinding purity of white serves merely to accent the hideous architecture. At least the ice that results partially covers the cobblestones.

Of course, all of that is completely ridiculous. Edinburgh is lovely. Driven out of my flat by the cold on a sunday afternoon, I spent a full thirty minutes before settling down in Café Jacques (Yes, it actually does have an accent on the é, which is awesome.) Once there, I got on the wireless. I'm not sure how. It wasn't due to the password they gave me, so I'm assuming there is free wireless in the area (as well as a wireless called 'euan' - well done, Euan, for naming your wireless for yourself.) The coffee was alright, but I was a bit hurried along while drinking it. The place was a bit busy, being the grassmarket - but again, who cares? If I have coffee and internet, all is good. So - go here if you want a pretty walk.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Coffee Mill

Right, I've gotten a few confusing remarks, so just to clear everything up - this blog is literally only judging mochas, plugs, atmosphere, and wireless. By atmosphere, I mean atmosphere after the headphones are put on. By mocha, I mean - can I drink it? It's not that I couldn't judge more, but that, realistically, that's all I really want to know. Does a café sell coffee? yes. Does it have wireless? yes. Does it have plugs near a window seat? yes. Are there screaming children? no. That would be my ideal answer.

Coffee Mill, in the West Port (past the Grassmarket) does pretty damn well. Sadly, they have BT internet - like most pubs - which often has issues. I spent ten minutes here trying to get on, again, because we had to ask the guy to restart his router and give us the correct password. Once that happened, everything was great. I wish I hadn't drunk the mocha - cheap, £2.30 - so fast, but that's alright. Awesomely, there is a nice window seat, in the Westport, where this place is. And there are not one, but two sets of outlets/plugs right next to it.

This place is, so far, my #1 pick for places to work seriously this semester. The staff is nice, it's not crowded, it's near 6 bookstores.

"I call this a win." - Jayne, Firefly.

[No picture today.]

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Black Medicine on Nicolson St.

We have the same coat, too.

Black Medicine is the first place I bought a panini in Edinburgh, so you would think it has some sort of emotional significance. Not so.

I don't 100% get it. The food is delicious, maybe a bit overpriced. The staff are friendly and obviously get on with most of the customers. There are plugs at the window seat (what better way to procrastinate than people watching), and there's nearly always space. It's bam in the middle of everything, yet it's barely ever packed. All of this sounds ideal except... why do they have the most uncomfortable seats in all of Edinburgh? I guess there is some aesthetic value to them, but seriously. There are reasons humanity as a species has moved on from wooden blocks as chairs.


The Internet was also kind of spotty, with major upload problems, but this is probably because it's completely open and everyone within a 50 meter vicinity uses it - even the people in nearby cafes (say, Spoon) who's own wifi is dodgy.

So Black Medicine: noble, but a bit silly.

Juggling barrista

Elephant House & Café Nero

Let's be honest with our readers: our only real basis for judging coffee shops is whether they have b) wireless c) plugs d) mild-to-bad cheap coffee. Of course, this depends on another prerequisite: a) chairs.

The elephant house didn't today. At least, not in the window seat, which is the nicest in the house. Given as the line was 5 deep, and the 'who's next please' was hidden among the chatter of the 30-something yuppie and tourist clientele, Simon and I deemed today not fortuitous for an elpahantine cup of coffee. Their student discount is fairly good, however, if I recall correctly. I once spent a summer here, reading a book on oceanography for a book I haven't yet written, until I flirted too much with one of the baristas. But that's another story.

Café Nero, next to Blackwells (and attached to it), also failed on the chair front. The tables are unattractively lined in two long rows in the middle, one long row on the wall, leaving around three options for those of us who'd rather not share a surface with anyone else. Of those three individual tables, one was free, with no plugs. Maybe next time.

As for now, I'm writing this in Black Medicine, my favourite chain in Edinburgh. But more on that later.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Starbucks - Simpson Loan


Today I had the misfortune of running into my mate Sam, who immediately asked if I would create a website for him. I said yes, but at the cost of coffee.

We went to Starbucks.

You all know about Starbucks. Right? You've at least seen them. You've been to them. You've thought about arson. Well, maybe not the last one.

This Starbucks is individual, however. It's completely different from the other starbucks, in that it is situated on Simpson Loan, also known as that walkway down from Doctors to the Meadows. No one other Starbucks is situated here, although there is one around 100m up the road.

But in all honesty, the review. It has too many chairs, most of which are full, and not enough wall sockets. If you like Starbucks, it has the sort of drinks that Starbucks has. I liked the Mocha.

But we did spend around 10 minutes trying to get on the wireless. It's just too far away to get the CMB signal, and the normal Starbucks pay signal didn't work for some reason. I didn't have a mac this time, so this may have all been due to the PCs, and not the actual one.

And I guess that's all I have to say. A completely unspectacular experience.



So, we left Grindhouse due to the lack of good internet and went to Spoon, on South Bridge.

It wasn't much better.

The atmosphere is nice, and there were a plethora of plugs. But I spent thirty minutes trying to get on the WiFi, which was also BT, as their router had changed names and wasn't working for my computer. I finally gave up and went with Black Medicine's wireless, from downstairs. That worked, but it sure was annoying. The staff was also not helpful when I asked them about it.


The mocha was too small.

And we were told to leave subtly once dinner time came around, even though there were four of us that were paying customers.

Verdict? Get better Wifi, and maybe I'll bring my computer here again.

Monday, 3 January 2011



Wifi: Free but incredibly slow and spotty at best. I wrote this on my phone.

Drinks: They were out of mocha at 2 in the afternoon. Lot's of cappucino though.

Atmosphere: Meh, a bit dark.

Plugs: Only 3 that we could find.

Seating: Couches and plenty of tables, but not much far from the door.

Conclusion: Let's just say we started this thing here.