Now I’ve got more flexibility in my timetable, I suggested to my friend Laura, who also works from home (and cafes, and her office … ) that we add in some “co-working” time to our regular lunches. The definition of co-working has extended from its original “working with colleagues” idea to include working in parallel with other people, who are probably not your direct colleagues, in a space which is probably not either of your offices. That sounds a bit muddled – it’s basically those sets of people with laptops sitting around a big table in your local cafe.
So, we decided to try doing this at a local cafe, and then we decided to start writing an irregular series of reviews of local venues with free wifi in which it’s possible (or impossible) to work. We’re going to work our way around Kings Heath and then possibly venture further afield.
Our reviews will appear on both of our blogs and appear at the same time – I wonder if we’ll have the same opinion of all of them!
Loco Lounge, High Street, Kings Heath
This large, relaxed cafe bar hasn’t been open long but seems popular with the locals, with the outside section being full on these sunny Easter days. It was pretty empty when I arrived at around 10.30 am – but this was a good thing, as I was a bit nervous about taking the laptop out and about.
First things first – a decent pot of tea can be had for £3, and they have soya milk if not skimmed (I am on a special diet for health reasons – you’ll see a lot about milk from me!) although the server didn’t seem sure about how to access the free wifi that was advertised at the front of the cafe. But she asked a manager and we were told that, instead of being given a generic username and password, we needed to set up our own logins. Fair enough, although not something I’ve come across before. The wifi was through something called U2com and I think it’s probably used across a number of locations, perhaps all of the “lounge” cafes. Fair enough, again, but it was *really* complicated to log on and use it – first of all we had to wait ages for the relevant page to come up, and then you put in a username and password, which did actually give access to the wifi connection, had we but known it, but it then redirected me to another login page, which proceeded to tell me the username was already in use (by me!) and sent Laura off to a validation page which never quite worked. I got a validation email too, which I didn’t seem to need to use.
So that was annoying, and the connection was quite slow and did drop from time to time. The other slight annoyance was the lack of electricity sockets – the only ones we could see were occupied by the plugs for standard lamps, which weren’t on. My other experiences of using the laptop in cafes suggests that there are usually more points available. Luckily I was fully charged up and it wasn’t a problem this time, but it might have been.
Points in Loco Lounge’s favour: it was nice and quiet; the tables were big and well-spaced, so it felt safe to have the laptops out and open, with less risk of spillage and other accidents than some other places I’ve visited. The staff were discreet and subtle and we weren’t hassled to buy more drinks, although we did end up having another drink (me) and lunch (Laura). No comment on the food from me, as I didn’t have any, but the prices seemed a little high for snacks, although there were a good few options for my diet, which was refreshing. The lighting is comfortable, there are free newspapers available to browse, and I certainly felt secure enough to sit and work there for a morning or afternoon.
In summary: tweak the internet connection and login and this is a great and recommended place for co-working as well as other kinds of visit.
For Laura’s review, go here!
May 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm
Read your entry and Poppet’s – wondering if I got lucky with the wifi which is quick, as was the login (maybe the two are connected)? Tho’ am annoyed that I have to give out an email address and create a password (used disposable account for this).
May 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm
How interesting – it wasn’t like it was busy when we were in there, but maybe they’ve improved it since then, which was a couple of weeks ago. To be fair, mine was OK but Laura’s kept dropping. I wonder if all the Lounge chain use the same wifi provider and system – that would be handy.
Any other recommendations for wifi enabled cafes and bars, esp city centre?
May 22, 2011 at 6:42 pm
Bit awkward this – I love Urban Coffee Company for the coffee, and for the people who go in there, and the friendly staff. But the one thing I can’t recommend them for is the wifi; if there’s many devices in there – often – the wifi can’t cope 😦 I always take my dongle in there with me now.
May 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm
Oh, that’s interesting – they’re on my to-review list. Will take the magic white box if I go and try to work in there then!