Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Writing Wednesdays

As some of you may know, one of my goals for 2011 is to take my writing more seriously. Alas I do not work very well at home. There are too many distractions such as numerous repeats of Desperate Housewives, dusting, one of the pets. The list goes on and on. So I decided to explore alternative venues for writing outside of the house. Initial searches on Google did not not bring up what I was looking for. Which cafes were writer friendly? Would they hound me out for ordering one cup of coffee in two hours? Then I saw an excellent post by Liz Broomfield, a woman of many talents and who runs her proof reading business alongside various other projects. In her blog post she reviewed a local cafe for a suitable (co)working venue. And I thought "Hell, why don't I do that for cafes around Glasgow?"

So, ladies and gents, I give you my first review of one of Glasgow's many writer friendly cafes. I decided to start local, and cheating a little, a cafe I had used before. 

Tapa Coffeehouse
721 Pollokshaws Road 
South Side 

Tapa has become a Glasgow institution in a very short time. They opened their first outlet, a bakery, in the east end of Glasgow. I remember friends living in Denniston raving about Tapa's bread and other goodies  during my undergraduate days. In 2008 they expanded out into the south side and opened a coffeehouse. Amongst Tapa's many talents they roast their own coffee and provide a variety of mouth watering specials on a daily basis. I'm a vegetarian and it's such a lovely experience to be able to choose from a variety of items on the menu. 

I have based my review upon the following criteria and what I'm looking for in a writing venue. These are:

  • Feed me for a fiver
  • Good coffee
  • Table space
  • Power outlets and Wi Fi access
  • Friendliness of staff
  • General atmosphere

Feed me for a fiver 

Tapa has a range of sandwiches available for under £5.00. On my visit I purchased a falafel sandwich with hummus and a side salad for £4.65. The bread came from Tapa's bakery in the east end and tasted very fresh. Did I mention that you can buy some of Tapa's loaves to take home? Unfortunately I had to resist temptation due to my ongoing diet. They also have a small selection of cakes, including wheat free chocolate brownies, available to fuel mid-afternoon writing frenzies. 

N.B. Tapa do take credit/debit card payments but only for payments over £5.00. 

Good Coffee

One word sums up Tapa's coffee: sublime. It packs a punch, exactly the way fresh coffee should. After two cups my hands were dancing over my laptop keyboard. Unfortunately most of the typing was sending messages on Facebook. A cup of black coffee (with milk on the side) is an absolute steal at £1.90 and extremely wallet friendly to most writers. 

Table Space

Tapa is spread over two levels with seating available in the basement. From previous experience they only tend to open this up during busy weekends. Downstairs doubles as their coffee storage area so its understandable. Some of the tables are a wee bit too close together which can make you feel like you're spying on your neighbour. And this leads me onto.... 

Power Points and Wi Fi access

I counted a total of four power points. They are mounted on the walls that are very close to tables. You don't need to worry about causing any accidents with your laptop power cable. When I arrived the tables beside power points were occupied with non-laptop users. I was a bit shy about asking people to move but luckily a power point friendly table became available not long after I arrived. Still it might be worth charging up your laptop before venturing out. My Acer Notebook has a shockingly bad battery life so I am tied to my charger. 

The wifi access was easy to log into. All I had to do was scan for the networks using my notebook and ask a member of staff for the password. The connection speed is best described as "zippy" apart from when a chap next to me started using BBC iPlayer. Still I was rather impressed by the speed especially as I counted at least three other laptop users over the course of my visit. 

Friendliness of staff

Tapa provides table service which can mean a bit of a wait for your order. They did seem a bit over stretched which was puzzling for a Wednesday morning. There was a delivery being made when I arrived so I assumed it was down to that. However the slight air of "panic" did linger after the delivery men had departed. Less than half of the tables were occupied yet the wait staff seemed in a bit of a flap. This has happened on my other visits but it adds to the quirkiness of the place. The staff were quite happy to leave me on my own and I was not pestered to order more drinks during my time there. Thumbs up in that case. 

General atmosphere

Tapa manages to maintain a rather tranquil atmosphere even when it's busy. The background music playing ranges from The Clash to Mumford & Sons but is kept at an audible level without infringing on your conversation or your concentration. The coffeehouse seems to be popular for people coming in for a morning coffee and a read of the paper. Personally I love the downstairs which has ‘false windows’ installed which gives you the impression that you're not below ground level. I never felt rushed or unwelcomed by staff even though I was there for over three hours. 

All in all Tapa gets a solid thumbs up as a writing venue from me. Just don't forget to charge up your laptop