It was pretty chilly outside the other morning, and in our case, it was pretty cold inside too. The central heating had not come on because the boiler pressure was too low. Well, non-existent, actually. There then followed frantic Googling for the instruction manual: one of the few unheralded joys of the web is being able to find a manual online to replace the one you know you have somewhere but are unlikely to find. After some more faffing, um-ing and ah-ing, and an abortive attempt or two to fix things, we finally got it sorted. Problem solved, and the prospect of having to spend a day at home waiting for an engineer to come and fix it, was gone.
That prospect of having to stay home, or close to home, in order to accommodate an imprecisely-specified appointment with an engineer, had led me to wonder about where I might usefully base myself in order to remain local and get some work done. Home is the obvious option, but what if I wanted to be in town, and need to be connected? Where could I sit, order the occasional drink and perhaps my lunch, while all the time continuing my Canutian struggle against the inexorably rising tide of email in my inbox. If that doesn’t strike you as a pressing concern – and there is no reason why it should – then perhaps you just need to find some WiFi to keep those special teenagers from predicting the apocalypse if they can’t open their latest Snapchat. Either way, the idea of checking out the WiFi in the various hangouts around town took root and grew and has led to this.
In a lot of our posts we talk lovingly – with good reason – about the location, the food and drink, the atmosphere, etc., that we are really very fortunate to get to enjoy. But also being able to be connected while enjoying such places is important to many, so if it is something you care about, hopefully you’ll find it useful. We’ve already started with our research, with the first couple of results below.
NB: For upload and download higher is better; for the ping, lower is better. While they’re not super controlled and scientific – for example, one place might be more crowded than another, the grading system used by the app gives a good idea.
The WiFi List (with a little nod towards the food and drink!):
- The Cafe at the New Brewery Arts: we’ve written about the Brewery Cafe before, and that we are big fans, not least of the salads and the cakes. Now it turns out that the WiFi is pretty good too, proving to be in the top quartile in the UK. As if there was not already plenty to like about the Brewery Cafe – did you try the mince pies over Christmas – it turns out it is a place you could happily stay all day and stay connected all day.
- Caffe Nero: probably our favourite out of the three High Street coffee mainstays. It is also a popular hangout for those needing to crack on with some work while wanting to be in a social environment. The espresso is passable, the panettoncino always a nice accompaniment, and the WiFi courtesy of The Cloud is pretty good too.
- Waterstones Cafe: somewhere we’ve been meaning to pay a visit, not least because of their focus on local suppliers. With suppliers like Whiddett’s and Lavender Bakehouse you know you’re going to eat well, and the comfy chairs do encourage you to linger. There is free WiFi, too, although according to the numbers, it does lag the Brewery Arts Cafe, being in the slowest 20% of hotspots in the UK.
- He Says She Waffles: this has always been one of our favourite places to go for a treat – the apple pie waffle that drips with caramelised apples and sultanas while the whipped cream slowly melts over it all is a thing of beauty just to behold, let alone eat. The new additions to the savoury part of the menu mean we’ll be going back there for a full waffle-based meal. WiFi is essential here for me, as Blackjack Street contrives to cut me off, so the fact that they have it is a big plus. It’s not the speediest, but it’s more than functional – we worked there without issue and even posted content. Also worth a mention is that this is just a great place to hang out – there’s invariably a fun vibe that feels great to be a part of.
- The Toro Lounge: we’ve always had an ambivalent relationship with the Toro Lounge; it’s not somewhere we make a bee line for, yet it is somewhere we keep returning to and thinking: “actually, this place does have a lot going for it.” While the decor – particularly the dim lighting – is not to my personal liking, I am compelled to admit that the places as a whole does have a rather nice “hangout” vibe that leaves you happy to linger for much longer than you might have planned. And they’ve plenty of space, so you never have to worry that you might be depriving others of a place to sit and eat. Add to this the all day menu, a decent standard of coffee and tea and of course the complementary WiFi and you have the makings of an excellent place to install yourself should the need (or the fancy) arise. The WiFi is not super-speedy (see below), connectivity is relatively simple, quick and stable.