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!
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.