The best Wi-Fi cafés in Edinburgh and Glasgow
- Dave Cook
- 17 February 2010
The Wi-Fi try guy
Wi-Fi internet has become a necessity for the modern café, though some serve it better than others. On the next two pages we assess the best of the cities' free Wi-Fi cafés, while below our 'tech bloke' Dave Cook road tests the latest wireless gadgets in realistic café conditions
Wi-Fi connectivity has become a staple feature of many handheld and portable gadgets, so you would think that the companies making them would have perfected it by now. Well, of course they haven't, but is the technology good enough to at least beat the printed word when it comes to whiling away a lazy lunchtime?
Using the free Wi-Fi in the comfy Spoon Café on Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, the iPod Touch is the first device to be put through its paces. Setting up your online account is a breeze, but if you want to download apps, podcasts or music you will need to link the device to your iTunes account. In theory, you should then be immersed in a world of instantly available media, but only if the Wi-Fi connection holds up. Unfortunately, iPod connections are prone to dropping off whenever someone nearby sneezes, or if there is a full moon that night, whereas iPhones rarely have this issue as they run on the far superior 3G service. To put the connection to the test, current arcade app Arachnadoodle was purchased from the app store for 59p but the download bar never filled up after about 20 minutes.
Next is the PSP Go, Sony's recent attempt on the iPhone's life as the number one mobile app provider. Connecting is again relatively simple, but before you can even access the Playstation Store to download games, you have to install a whopping great system update. This transfer lasted an obscene amount of time. It's also worth pointing out to owners of older PSP models that this version lacks a disc slot, meaning that all the games you currently own are now worthless, unfortunately. However, the download games, or 'Minis' are actually pretty good and affordable, with PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe being the cream of the crop at £9.99.
Amazon's Kindle e-reader is a deceptive piece of kit, with a monochrome display that is so painfully sharp you could cut yourself on it. Thinner than a student's wallet and just as
light, the Kindle connects to Wi-Fi with ease and never lets up for a second. Automatically locating access points and connecting to the Kindle store is simple. To put it to the test a copy of Max Brook's zombie docu-novel World War Z was downloaded at speed for $8.17 and with minimal fuss. Paper is so last year – grab a Kindle and stuff it full of your favourite reads.
Last up is the Ubisurfer from Datawind, a netbook device that offers 1800 minutes of free internet per month. It is something of a Frankenstein's monster of a device, using mobile phone GPRS technology and a sim card to connect to mobile and Wi-Fi networks, all rolled up in a handy compact laptop shell. The idea is ingenious and the internet connects with ease, even taking you through a neat user tutorial when you first go online. The screen is pleasantly clear, although the onboard processor does seem to struggle with more demanding websites. Regardless, it's ideal for the commute or trip to your local net café.
All stood up well to café test conditions, and none of them made me look like too much of a berk, while offering an agreeable level of distraction. The verdict: wireless technology is worth carrying, with the Kindle having the edge over the competition as the plastic slab of choice for entertainment on the go.
Wi-Fi gadget info
Apple iPod Touch
From £140 for 8GB model. Available from Cancom, 95-97 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, 0845 686 3100. ipod.cancomuk.com
£199.99 from various retailers.
$259 (£166). Available from www.amazon.com/kindle
(ships from US).
Glasgow Wi-Fi cafés
Reviews: David Kirkwood
3–5 Gibson Street, G12 8NU, 0141 341 0110, Mon–Fri 8am–10pm; Sat & Sun 9am–10pm.
Don't let the temporary layer of scaffolding put you off – hidden within is a satisfyingly simple café: lots of seats and tables in a bright and airy space, hip staff serving students and West End locals, and an ultra-fast connection for which the password is clearly displayed.
1321 Argyle St, G3 8AB, 0141 334 0594, Mon–Thu 11am–midnight; Fri & Sat 11am–1am; Sun noon–midnight. www.firebirdglasgow.com
With its floor-to-ceiling windows and the scent of stonebaked pizza permeating from the kitchen, Firebird is a thoroughly European-feeling café. Its great coffee, impressive selection of continental beers and wines, and cosmopolitan demeanour befit its prime West End location. Wi-Fi signal is strong through the venue, with decent connection speed.
350 Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD, 0141 352 4900, Tue–Thu 10am–7.30pm; Fri & Sat 10am-9pm; closed Mon & Sun. www.cca-glasgow.com
Cappuccino: £1.75 small; £2.15 large
The CCA's stunning interior – an indoor courtyard which is the hub for the centre's many creative projects – is large enough that one might expect some Wi-Fi weakspots, but none occur. Table service and a bistro-esque menu are classy but it's still informal enough to chill out and surf in peace.
The Tron Bar
63 Trongate, G1 5HB, 0141 552 8587, opening times vary, usually 10am-midnight. www.tron.co.uk
The Tron Theatre's bar can get understandably busy before and after shows, but at other times both the minimalist front section, or the more sedate Vic Bar behind, offer a good connection and coffee in a venue with lots of character. Also serves highly recommended modern Scottish food.
4–5 Bell Street, G1 1NX, 0141 552 3539, Mon–Sun, 11am–midnight, Cappuccino: £2
This characterful and popular Merchant City bar is also a great option for a daytime coffee and surf, with ample seating (including big leather chesterfields). Getting online is easy and the connection's very quick, while a well-rendered selection of popular bar food is available until 8pm.
Bank Café Bar
443 Clarkston Rd, 0141 637 8461.
167 Dumbarton Rd, 0141 337 7023.
57 Bank St, 357 1777.
28 Vinicombe St, 0141 560 8004.
348 Cathedral St, 0141 333 1224.
239 North St, 0141 221 0061.
The Counting House
2 St Vincent Place, 0141 225 0160.
1287 Argyle St, 0141 357 7373.
380 Byres Rd, 0141 334 7626.
1008 Argyle St, 0141 564 7988.
Cappuccino: £1.50 small; £2.20 large.
33–35 Gibson St, 0141 339 5969.
42 Jamaica St, 0141 248 8581.
The Rio Café
27 Hyndland St, 0141 334 9909.
102 Dumbarton Rd, 0141 576 0122.
Cappuccino: £1.60 small/£2.10 large.
8–12 Ashton Lane, 0141 334 5007.
Edinburgh Wi-Fi cafés
Reviews: David Pollock
Tea Tree Tea
13 Bread Street, EH3 9AL, 0131 228 3100, Mon–Fri 7am–7pm; Sat–Sun 9am–7pm.www.teatreetea.com
Cappuccino: £2 small; £2.20 large
The somewhat plain café surroundings here are lent character by wall-hung works from local photographers, and the cheap 'n' cheerful arty vibe is enhanced by an impressive selection of loose-leaf and fruit teas, coffees and snacks.
The Storytelling Café
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43 High Street, EH1 1SR 0131 556 1229, Mon–Sat 10am–6pm; closed Sun. www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk
A cultural hub for those happy to enjoy the exhibitions and events it plays host to, or a quiet space to relax, the Storytelling Café's warm, inviting charms and generously portioned homemade fare and delicious coffee has made it a firm favourite for Wi-Fi hoppers.
3 Bristo Place, EH1 1EY, 0131 220 4538, Mon–Sun 10am–11pm. www.theforest.org.uk
All things to a particularly bohemian group of people, the Forest is a performance space, art gallery, creative hub and also a rather laid back and bustling volunteer-run vegan café.
Roseleaf Bar Café
23–24 Sandport Place, EH6 6EW, 0131 476 5268, Mon–Sun 10am–1am. www.roseleaf.co.uk
One of the brightest stars of Leith's increasingly recommended Shore area, Roseleaf offers fine food and cocktails, all in the most quaintly-decorated bar setting you can imagine.
Traverse Bar Café
10 Cambridge Street,EH1 2ED,0131 228 5383, Mon–Sat 10.30am–late.www.traverse.co.uk Cappuccino:£2.0510 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED, 0131 228 5383, Mon–Sat 10.30am–late. www.traverse.co.uk
Feel the inspiration as you sit down to work in the stylish and shiny bar area adjoining perhaps Scotland's pre-eminent new writing theatre. Or just tuck into their renowned nachos instead.
29–31 William St, 0131 225 5748.
Cappuccino: £1 small; £1.85 large.
Black Medicine Coffee Co
2 Nicolson St, 0131 622 7209.
Cappuccino: £ 1.50.
Bread & Olives
17a Queensferry St, 0131 226 3005.
Cappuccino: £1.60. small/£1.85 large.
7 Barony St, 0131 558 7111.
89–91 Montgomery St, 0131 556 0432.
38 Home St, 0871 704 2052.
29 Haddington Place, 0131 652 3880.
88 Lothian Rd, 0131 229 5932.
284 Bonnington Rd, 0131 554 5824.
16–18 Hamilton Place, 0131 226 4199.
2b Jamaica St, 0131 476 5333.
23 Elm Row, 0131 556 4140.
57–61 High St, 0131 557 0330.
6a Nicolson St, 0131 557 4567.
15 Charlotte Lane, 0131 225 6060.
121 Hanover St, 225 6215 & 1 Forth St, 0131 556 6323.