Friday, June 16, 2006

Starbucks, Widnes style

At the end of a particularly fraught week, a mate from work and I decided to go for a coffee. Having been told earlier this week that Halton Borough Council had become the first council in Britain to get a Starbucks franchise, I was really pleased. I have to go out of my way for a Starbucks, or engineer a shopping trip to Manchester. I know many people hate the fact that most Starbucks stores look and feel the same, but I'm a small town girl - comfy chairs, ambient jazz and lemon zest & poppy seed muffins really do it for me. I love Starbucks. Love it.

So anyway, K and I set off for Victoria Park with glee. Grande Skinny Latte here we come!

Ah well.

It's located in a refurbished sports pavilion just behind the crown green bowls rinks, which has had the front walls replaced with plate glass. Now in cities, I guess they protect this with roller shutters, but this being Widnes, there is a metal cage on runners around all the glass. Obviously, it can only be slid back so far. If you sit at one end, the view will, I can only imagine, be similar to the one seen by the tigers in Chester Zoo when they gaze out at the visitors.


So much for outside. Surely the inside will be reassuringly familiar?

Well, yes, it is familiar - if you frequent the cafe in Widnes Library. Where are the chessboard tables? The chocolate coloured upholstery? The mind-blowing choice of beverages on the board above the tills? (You know, the one that floors K and always makes her say..."cup of tea, please...") The recommendations from your barista? Where, oh where are the lemon zest & poppy seed muffins?

Not in Widnes, that's for sure. I've just learned the difference between a Starbucks store and a Starbucks franchise. The coffee is Starbucks', as are the wrapped biscuits and the serviettes. The Eccles cakes, melting moments and rock buns are pure council catering, as are the slightly tacky homemade laminated table menus offering "Panini's" (Argh! It's Italian! It's already a plural, you don't need and "s", let alone an "s" with an apostrophe!)

The bare concrete floor is a nice touch too. I hope someone soon tells them that they'll drive away less customers if they lift the chairs when placing them back under the table. K and I weren't entirely sure if the decor was post-ironic construction chic, or it just wasn't finished. The view from the window (not the caged end) will probably be lovely too, when the landscaping is finished. Today, we had a nice view of a digger, security fencing (more cages!), Portaloos and builder's bum. Nice.

Coffee was good though.


Anonymous said...

You went for the coffee, you said the coffee was good. I don't why you need to moan about it not being they typical Starbucks in relation to it's decor. t's actually not nice coffee, not if you have tasted real coffee. Maybe you should try to educate your palette before trying to educate the people of Widnes about how their council has once again under performed with it's finishing touches.

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, which school do you teach at? I'm also a teacher, in your name Geraldine?

Nic said...

I actually like the coffe at Starbucks, I also like the coffe at the Starbucks in Widnes. I also like the coffe in Italy. Different blends have different flavours, and I like pretty much most of them apart from those with chicory. I'm not knocking Widnes or its council, rather, my own silliness. Neither would I dream of mocking the good people of Widnes or preaching to them. In fact, I'm envious of the facilities it has got and very proud to work for Halton.

Jules said...

I actually think that Victoria Park is nice and we had a lovely time there, made even better by the addition of the takeaway Starbucks coffee. It's baby steps each time in Widnes, you don't want to change things too quickly!!!

Gambaru said...

Hi, I stumbled across this post while planning to meet up with a friend in Widnes this weekend. I was looking for a Starbucks in Widnes and your post ranked highest in Google.

I share your views on Starbucks (and on misuse of apostrophes, funnily enough).

Is this Starbucks still there? Is it still bad? Are there any better options?



Nic said...

Hi Glen
Yes, this cafe is still there and I'm pretty sure it still has the Starbucks franchise. It isn't a Starbucks in the sense that regular users would recognise it, but the park is a lovely location and the cafe looks out onto the bandstand. I really like Victoria Park, so I'd go again. I don't go after school anymore simply because the colleagues I used to go with no longer work in my school, not because the cafe was bad.

However if you don't fancy the park, there is a Costa Coffee on the redeveloped retail park just off Watkinson Way, near Aldi. That is exactly like all other Costa franchises.