Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Writing Wednesdays: Clarkston Beanscene

Recently my blogging compadre, Mark Shields, gave me a reminder about a series of blog posts I started writing a couple of years ago. In an attempt to become more productive (and actually do some bloody writing) I gave myself the 'hard' task of sussing out writing friendly zones on Glasgow's South Side. Since I let those blog posts dwindle away, I have moved house and become vegan which might impact on my venue choices. I have settled into a nice writing routine that does involved visiting some cafes near my new home in the suburbs to get the pen moving across the page. Without further ado, here is the next in the series of my cafe reviews.

Clarkston Beanscene

1-3 Helena Place
Clarkston Toll
South Side

Feed me for a fiver

Beanscene is what it is when it comes to food. It emulates other coffee house chains, like Starbucks, and has a range of pre-packed sandwiches that can be toasted on demand. They can also whip up some nachos or a pizza if you're in the mood for something more filling. The menu does contain the vegan staple of hummus that comes with veggies to graze on. Prices for sandwiches start at roughly £3.95 and go right up to £7.95 for a pizza. My plate of hummus and veggies came in under budget at £4.95 and did tide me over until I got home.

One bonus for this Beanscene is that it comes with an alcohol license. If you feel like drowning your writing sorrows, you can buy a glass of wine from the counter or bring your own for a corkage charge. Might not be a good idea at lunchtime though.

Good coffee

Again, Beanscene coffee is nothing to write home about (excuse the bad pun...). It's hot, slightly too bitter and comes in oversized cups which can be great for giving the brain cells a good prod. They charge extra for soya milk (30p) which can be frustrating for those who avoid cow's milk. I usually order their medium size when I'm settling in for a writing session which comes to a purse happy price of £1.80.

Table space

This Beanscene is unusual because it's spread over two levels. The ground floor is usually busy, regardless of what time of day you visit. There are a number of large sofas that groups tend to take over, with more spacious seating at the back behind the counter area.

Upstairs is where I usually hide out during the day. It's a common sight to see people working, studying or eejits like me writing away upstairs. There are bar stools under the huge windows which look out over Clarkston Toll. It's an excellent spot for people watching and dreaming up characters.

As for the table space, I find the tables for two quite restrictive. You have enough room for a laptop and a small bucket of coffee. During the day it is possible to grab a four seater table, spread out your writing tools and not worry about taking up too much space.

Power outlets and Wi Fi access

On my first visit to Beanscene there was a good level of access to power points but none, that I could see, close to the sofas I prefer to lounge on. The Wi Fi can be very weak if you choose to sit upstairs or non-existent as it was on my visit. You can ask a member of staff at the counter for the password and, if I remember correctly, you do not need to register for an account. That time I decided to give up on the Wi Fi and catch up on web related tasks when I got home.

Friendliness of staff

The staff here are pleasant enough for a chain coffeeshop. They do seem to be kept extremely busy either serving customers, making up food in the kitchen or clearing tables so it's understandable they don't have time to chat. I would say they are very professional and polite but lacking the friendliness I've experienced in, say, Gusto and Relish.

General atmosphere

This Beanscene has been around for some time. I remember coming here to visit friends years ago and its still standing. On my more recent visits, it has been reasonably busy. It is a good meeting hub for the people that live nearby and don't want to trek into town. In the evenings, this place can be absolutely mobbed. I remember coming to meet a friend for coffee on a Tuesday evening and being gobsmacked that every table was taken. During the day, it's a different type of busy and more laid back than the caffeine fuelled evenings.

You can catch a train to Clarkston from Glasgow Central (there's two every hour) or the 44, 44A and 66 buses stop seconds from Beanscene's front door.

On my last visit to Beanscene, I started working on a story which ended up on Write in for Writing's Sake. Pop over and have a little read if you wish.