Every Starbucks in Edinburgh (A Celestial Cartography)

I should start by apologizing to my friend and frequent traveling partner, Steve Coffed.  I used to give him grief every time he suggested going into a Starbucks, anywhere in the world.  The coffee, I said, is inconsistent from city to city – and nothing to write home about even at its best.  The atmosphere can be sterile, the clientele often a mix of high schoolers, bluetoothing businessmen, and the unfriendly type of medical student.  But shortly after I came to Edinburgh (a city awash in espresso, with enough comfy unpretentious top-notch java joints to give anyone a caffeine headache), something changed: basically, my parents sent me Starbucks gift cards.

What can we send our poor starving postgrad son? they thought, Our son drinking pint after pint of Tennent’s Lager, because it’s only £2.50?  Money?  No, that would send the wrong message, he’ll think he can come home and move right back in … So they settled on Starbucks gift cards, and I settled back into a comfortable middle class lifestyle – at least, that’s what it feels like every time I pass beneath that fish-woman’s spreading tails to wait for a cup with my name on it, or whatever variation of a loosely A-sounding name these Scots come up with, from “Owen” to “Hadrian’s Wall.”  I started to take my Starbucks breaks further afield from the university, trying to see if the world’s biggest and best-known coffee chain could produce any significant change in atmosphere.  A project began to take shape: I would visit and review each Starbucks from New Town to Newington, and share my findings with the world.  [Nota: I’m not the first with this obsession.  See the folks at Every Single Seattle Starbucks.]  I found out that the Starbucks locations scattered across Edinburgh do vary, if sometimes subtly, in atmosphere and clientele – even while some franchises in Edinburgh are within a Frisbee-toss of one another- and even more interesting, my Starbucks survey soon turned into a new way of mapping this strange and diverse city: A Celestial Cartography of Corporate Coffee.  Even if I can offer nothing more than tips on hidden views, rush hours to avoid, and, of course, musings on jams and jellies, I hope something in what follows is of some small value.

NEAR THE UNI

The Quartermile

This is the closest Starbucks to the University of Edinburgh’s main campus, just across Middle Meadow Walk from George Square.  Situated in the massive half-castle half-glass-and-steel Quartermile complex in a small plaza with a Sainsbury’s and the excellent cafe and bakery Peter’s Yard, this venue sees few tourists, but fills up quickly with students intent over laptops or crowding drinks and tablets around small tables, fitting in forced group discussion hours.

Food and Drink: Sometimes the staff are too harried, and leave up to two inches in the top of my venti filter coffee for unwanted milk, but they do always have a wide range of bagels, toasties, muffins, and cakes.

Service: Quick and proactive, but with just enough time for banter to make it (almost) feel like a real neighborhood coffee shop.

Seating: Don’t expect to rely on a “spot,” a favorite window seat or one of the benches in this Starbucks’ comfy, mood-lit southern nook – this venue gets crowded.  But cafe tables outside (as long as you don’t mind the smoke; this is a European uni town, after all) make up for the high traffic, and you can always snag a window stool vulture the first table that opens up.

Atmosphere: Open, lively, but not usually distracting.

You’ll Be Sipping With: At certain hours this might appear like a student spot, but it’s actually one of the most diverse Starbucks locations in the city.  It’s usually half-filed with students, but these come just as often from the university as from the primary and secondary schools in the area.  It also draws on from but it also draws on the business types from the Quartermile, and people who drift in seeking a break from the busy tourist trade of George IV bridge.  Then there’s the Meadows crowd: joggers, bikers, Quidditch players, people pulling strollers in close to their tables.  I once saw a third of the place taken up by some kind of mothers-with-babies club.  (Peter’s Yard caters to a slightly smarter set – think knit ties with chambray shirts, tortoiseshell glasses, names of Swedish sweetbreads pronounced in Liechtensteinian accents.)

Wifi: Adequate.

Try Instead: Peter’s Yard, a local bakery with excellent soups and pastries (as well as a pizza kitchen behind, in the Quartermile, open for lunch) – great food, if overpriced.

Teviot Place and Forrest Road

I wondered how I could make myself visit this Starbucks – it was the last on my list.  I’d been in once before, on a gusty wet December night – but I hadn’t started my Starbucks Cartography, and I was too focused – mentally drained from my just-turned-in term papers, turning then to fiction – to take in much of the atmopshere.  It was dark, sparsely populated.  With Quartermile’s window walls, its outdoor seating, the bustle of young bodies high on purpose and leisure – all that just down Meadow Lane, why would I come to this tight airless room on Forrest Road, for the same product?

Then, on the second day of April: glorious, bright, and alive with chill.  My laptop battery was drained.  There were seats at the Quartermile, but none with outlets.  And like the abused lover whose apartment door will always open for you, I knew the Forrest Road Starbucks would have a seat – and electricity – for me.

Food and Drink: The coffee didn’t bowl me over – did I expect it to? – but the almond croissant – which I jazzed up, drawing on the full range of the Starbucks “spice rack,” shaking on cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, vanilla – was oh-so-satisfying.  (I also discovered here, in mid-June, the Starbucks nutella cookie.)

Service: Oddly brusque.  No complaints.

Seating: Okay, there was actually only one seat with an outlet available when I first walked in – but there were chairs and tables aplenty, and the aisle stretching and banking through the spot’s  bright “anteroom” back into its slightly broader “parlor” was wide enough that I didn’t feel like a persnickety hippopotamus as I sought the best spot.

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Atmosphere: The Forrest Road location is a deep, deep closet.  A spacious closet, though.  Four can sit in a window facing Teviot, no bigger than a standard boutique shopfront – but behind this the store stretches three or four shops deep, behind the travel agency, the fried chicken joint, the abandoned optician’s, maybe even the charity shop.  Plenty of two-seater tables, a bank of plush wall seats, a few couches, and two of those (wheelchair accessible, and marked as such) desks where earbudded individuals can sit and work separately, not talking, but respecting all the unwritten rules of shared-coffee-shop-big-table-space, not otherwise interacting with anyone, but still fulfilling their quota of human contact for the day – and feeling good because of it.

I’m not getting tired of Miles Davis and John Coltrane standards – I don’t think I could – but I am getting tired of hearing them within the of-a-piece atmospheres of Scottish Starbucks.  (What, by the way, dear readers, is the proper plural form of Starbucks?  Starbuckses sounds like a careless Americanism.)  Anyway, I listened to the usual Davis-Coltrane before the playlist shifted to not-immediately-identifiable Bensonesque guitar fast-jazz (SchnellJazz, as they say in my favorite Dortmund night-spot).  One delightful standout was a track from Money Jungle, the underappreciated Ellington-Mingus-Roach collaboration.

You’ll Be Sipping With: The clientele is, as expected, much like the Quartermile location.  But customers here are  less chatty,  more focused: to reach the register, one has to pass a ten-yard wall of laptop backs.  Starbucksters go to the Quartermile like a Seattle/Global equivalent of the French Cafe: to see and to be seen (and to, like, smoke, I guess); Starbuckians go to tucked-away Forrest Road to get down to business.

Wifi: Commensurate to my needs.

Try Instead: The Elephant House.  Just up George IV Bridge, this cozy cafe – with fresh food, fairly good coffee, and even some booze – is best known as “The Birthplace of Harry Potter” (as signs out front, in English and Mandarin, will let you know), but more tourists stop to have their pictures taken outside than stop in for coffee.  The Elephant House has a dedicated following of locals who come for the atmosphere and personal touch – try also the casual, student-filled “Elephants and Bagels” in Nicholson Square, near Edinburgh’s best Halal restaurant, Kebab Mahal.

But they get enough traffic as it is – I should also mention the Florentine cafe [Nota: I’ve never been here, but locals populate the place], which feels a bit like an Interstate-rest stop-slash-diner, but offers cheap brekkers to locals and retailers; as well as the palace of icing and candied fruits, Patisserie Valerie (also a chain).  Across the road, Lucano’s Kitchen offers heartier soups and paninis; one sees professors grading papers, comfortable people sketching plans on conference pads.  If you’re really up for an adventure, head west on Forrest and see where it takes you.

Newington – Nicholson St.

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I have a prejudice against this Starbucks, and I’m not sure why.  The clientele is a highly suspect salmagundi; the food is sub-par, but not so sub-par as to merit a compliant; the place is just too close to much better coffee purveyors, the Kilimanjaro, professor-favorite Press, and the incredible Cult all within a minute’s walk.  The place is associated with first-and-last dates; I’ve known friends to need a stiffer drink after a coffee here.  But: I can’t say there’s anything really wrong with it.

Food and Drink: A white chocolate macadamia nut cookie didn’t disappoint, but that, after all, would be inconceivable. Many months later, when I dragged myself back to this Starbucks (for your benefit, dear reader, for the sole purpose of this bean-atlas) I found an “all-day breakfast” (at 4pm) underwhelming.

Service: Student-employees sometimes think themselves above the job, and thus, above the customer.

Seating: Not as comfortable as the George Street locations, not as plentiful as the Forrest Road location; ideal spots are cushioned chairs clustered in the store’s two street-facing windows.

Atmosphere: None of which to speak.

You’ll Be Sipping With: Recent Ed Uni grads still living in Newington and using Starbucks wifi to search for jobs.  Or maybe your own awkward date.

Wifi: No complaints.

Try Instead: Any of the ethnically themed mom-and-pop shops in Newington.  I can recommend the beans at Kilimanjaro Coffee – take a cup to-go and walk east to St. Leonard’s Crags; turn right at the top of the hill, then make a left through a gate and onto a woody footpath toward two benches, to give you a rare, unobstructed and close-up view of Arthur’s Seat, the Crags, Holyrood Palace, and a chunk of the city.  Your coffee will still be tongue-shocking hot.  If you have work to do, if the weather’s bad, or if you fancy some quality banter, go to my favorite coffee spot in Edinburgh, Cult, south from this Starbucks on Bucchleuch.

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Lothian Road

Wedged in a sort of cultural crotch of the city, with four brilliantine gems in the crown of Edinburgh’s theatre scene – Usher Hall, home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and host to top international acts; the arts cinema Filmhouse, epicenter of the Edinburgh International Film Festival; the avante-garde Traverse, with an arts-scene bar hosting Monday music sessions; and the Lyceum, for theatre of all types – on one side, and a bountiful cluster of strip clubs and skin bars on the other, the Lothian Road Starbucks in in all ways liminal, a sort of frontier in the middle of the city.

Food and Drink: I’ve never had a bad Starbucks carrot cake (although I’ve never had an astounding Starbucks … anything).  But the display, at ten so six on a Friday night, looked a little meager.  I wanted to get behind the counter and help the staff to rearrange things (drawing on skills from my days as a watch salesman).

Service: The barista – Kristy – came around offering customers free pieces of chocolate swirl treats and banana muffin.  This may have been the acme of my lifelong Starbucks experience.

Seating: Adequate, if oddly arranged.  One long table next to the door; a line of window stools.  This leads to a second room, a kind of Victorian inter-room; and another beyond it, with the Starbucks ottomans (I’m recognizing them now; they’re of a type).  The seating seems scattered; ceramic cups (grande) sit on empty tables.

Atmosphere: Starbucks Post-Bop might be its own genre of jazz.  This location stuck to recognizable classics from the late 50s/early 60s Davis-Coltrane catalog – think Autumn Leaves.  No complaints here.  Despite the little cards offering their “Download of the Month,” I, at least, don’t go to Starbucks to discover new tunes.  But beneath this, the place has an air of the recently abandoned – as if a business meeting, a student group, a handful of Socialists, and two mothers all got up and left at once, moments before you entered.

You’ll Be Sipping With: Young people who aren’t students or nascent professionals – this is a rare breed in Edinburgh.  Perhaps it’s unsurprising that we find them here, on Lothian Road.  OK, some are students.  This is a Starbucks, after all, where the glowing Bitten Apple logo is just as omnipresent as the fish-woman.  But plenty of the youngsters here are just plain drifters – necking, for example, on the prime seats (just above the unused outlet I covet).  But there are plenty of older patrons here meeting for a coffee before a show at Usher Hall or the Lyceum.  Oddly, I have only ever gone to this Starbucks while killing time before some other engagement.

Wifi: Two bars, but moderately taxed by the moderate traffic.

Try Instead: … a strip club?  There are plenty of those.  But if that’s not your speed, try Lovecrumbs, for wildly popular homemade cakes.

Shandwick Place 52

COMING SOON

Try Instead: Caffeine Drip, with super-generous portions of South African-themed sandwiches, wraps, and rolls, along with a dizzying variety of drinks, from primo smoothies to coffee-treats like the affogato.  Don’t leave without topping your meal off with a double espresso poured over dark Belgian chocolate, served in a martini glass.

THE ROYAL MILE – OLD TOWN

The Royal Mile at Hunter Square

Starbucks has a way of carving out the best locations in a neighborhood.  This one, on the Royal Mile at High Street, adjoining Hunter Square and next to the Tron Church, a popular music venue, is  one of the best examples.  Tourists weary from fighting each other on the crowded Mile as they descend from the Castle (where they likely spent the morning) accumulated bags of scarfs, pewter trinkets, kilts, fridge magnets, and scraps of tartan, only stopping to catch their collective breath for a few moments while watching a torch juggler just south of St. Giles Cathedral, while assaulted by an adept bagpiper on one side and a lamentable indie strummer with a porto-amp on the other will be ready for a coffee-and-wifi break by the time they get to Starbucks’ familiar green marquee.

Food and Drink: The food is what one expects – entirely adequate.  The coffee is also what one expects at such a busy venue: possibly but not irredeemably burnt; perhaps just a few minutes past “fresh.”  Trust that the brew is hot and that a £1.95 venti filter coffee will keep you on your feet until cocktail time.

Service: They’ll move you through, and you’ll thank them for it.

Seating: This place is packed, though it doesn’t betray the fact from the street.  Two wooden squares constitute the seating downstairs – a pitiful if practical gesture – while the majority of the floorspace is dedicated to the tight coiled queue.  After this the upstairs seems to explode, at least as far as a subdued Victorian drawing room can be said to explode.  Seating is tight but the byways (closes, the Scots would say) are wide enough to accommodate tourists’ bags.  The best spots are tiny two-seaters by the window looking out at all the color and bustle on the Mile – but good luck snagging one.  Grab any chair you can and try to enjoy the StarbucksJazz and the view out the high fogged-up dormer windows.

Atmosphere: It’s as if the Germans decided to bomb Edinburgh, and a mix of tourists who don’t really understand the situation and a few locals reading about it on The Guardian via their tablets were herded into a technically Medieval building with a living room done over in a passable imitation of upper-middle class Victorian comfort.  Someone distributes Starbucks: suddenly all is calm.  A strange Diego Riveraesque painting of the coffee-making process looms irrelevantly over the plain communal table in the back of the upper floor – a parenthetical exclamation mark noting the shop’s inoffensive bad taste.

You’ll Be Sipping With: tourists, mostly; along with some undergrads and secondary-schoolers with Home Counties accents, and a few local yuppies from the Tech or “Media” sectors – you know, the ones who hide their Armani jeans labels under nondescript plaid button-ups.

Wifi: One manages despite intermittent kick-offs.

The Royal Mile at Canongate

I immediately disliked this Starbucks, and I’m not altogether sure why.  Perhaps it was the generic feel-good song playing when I walked in; perhaps it was a minor miscommunication with the barrista/register boy.  Perhaps it was a surfeit of artificial light, or perhaps the view: no fewer than three tourist traps selling tackiness, cheap – “Royal Mile Factory Outlet,” “I ♥ Edinburgh,” “Tax Free!” – all with the same set of two-dozen postcards on racks outside their doors.  This is discounting “ye olde Christmas Shoppe,” red, empty of customers, stocked chockablock with nut-crackers and knicknackery of a spiritedly seasonal variety, a brave Christmas tree spinning counterclockwise in the window, twelve months out of twelve, as if to turn back time.

A sign low in the window of the Canongate franchise reads “Thank you for choosing Starbucks.”  Not this Starbucks, I thought, before I’d even approached the glass case to select my noontime pastry; not this Starbucks ever again!!

Food and Drink: The hot cross toast was hot, baby, and despite being a bit prissy the man behind the counter gave me two pads of butter along with my mini-jar of Frank Cooper’s strawberry conserve.

Service: Timely, efficient.  When the man behind the counter asked if I’d like my coffee for sit-in or take-away I said “take-away,” and added – perhaps too softly – that I’d like it in paper, please, with no room for milk or other frivolities.  He grabbed a ceramic mug (and only the fastest drinkers can down a venti in a ceramic mug before that grows room temperature, my friends) – “Excuse me, sir?” I said, “Could you put that in paper, please.”  “So, take-away,” he said.  I gave up hope of any human communication with the man, any exchange of higher ideas of feelings.  Pour, I thought, pour and let me be done with you.

Atmosphere:  The music was irritating and without coherence or theme.  The lights were too bright.  Two frames holding lines of poetry seemed not to acknowledge each other.  Nothing about this Starbucks makes aesthetic, decorative, atmospheric, social, or even spiritual sense – but I cannot tell you why, to my own satisfaction.  Regrettably, there is no outdoor seating – and a Starbucks without patio seating cannot but seem to me like a rest stop on the American interstate.

You’ll Be Sipping With:  I could find no common theme connecting the clientele – there were not many tourists this far down the Mile when I visited in mid-March; there were young people but not students; there were older customers, but with unguessable professions.  We sat close to the Scottish Parliament building – but politicians and aides must have some other favorite caffeine haunt.  Perhaps we came here, each for a respite from our unconnected lives, simply because we had nowhere better to go.

Wifi:  Three bars, sometimes two, but workable.

Try Instead: Cafe Truva.  I stopped at this Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant-cafe in September to catch my breath and keep up with my coverage of the Scottish referendum, while the Orange March continued outside not half as far as I could hurl a haggis.  Not the best Turkish coffee I’ve had – that would go to Buffalo’s Sweet_ness 7 – but good enough.

NEW TOWN

Princes Mall – Waverly Steps

Situated off the Waverly steps in the entrance to the underground Princes Street mall, halfway between constant crush of taxis met by plaid-pantalooned Balmoral bellhops and the rush of trains in the UK’s second largest railway station, this Starbucks caters to patrons who are, in every sense of the word, in transit – and the location tries its best to ease all the stresses of travel and flux.

Food and Drink: Wary of dried-out pastries, I opted for the moist Mississippi muffin, and it didn’t disappoint – an indulgent chocolate delight.

Service: Starbucks-quality.

Seating: Edinburgh Waverly offers enough bite-on-the-go options to keep this Starbucks busy but uncrowded.

Atmosphere:  In the beating heart of the city’s hectic center, Seattle’s twin-tailed melusine offers a breakfast nook of relative calm.  The speakers stream steadily undulating American folk, very much of a theme: California Dreamin’, Homeward Bound, San Fancisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair.

You’ll Be Sipping With:  Hair mussed, coats rumpled and wrinkled from a long ride, books, pads, and cellphones proliferating, precious time-wasters.  Some patrons might stay more than an hour; others will leave pain au raisins half-finished.

Wifi:  Suitable, though I didn’t, as usual, test its limits with more than one device.

“The Cube”

This is the ideal location for patrons of the St. James Shopping Centre and anyone around the northeast end of Princes Street, near the Edinburgh Playhouse, Calton Hill, or the foot of Leith Walk.

Food and Drink: The coffee was decent, perhaps on the light side; the chocolate swirl I ordered on my most recent visit was a tad dry for 3 pm.

Service: Agreeable.

Seating: Adequate, though one could have an unlucky day and not secure a seat.  One benefit of the floorplan is its spacing: the store could accommodate more customers, but instead opts for a roomy arrangement complementing its high ceilings and street-facing window-wall.

Atmosphere: The high glass windows alluded to in the venue’s name give sippers the occasional view of a sunset over the dome of the Scottish National Register; at night, curved hemispherical reading lamps along these windows give the place a a bookish air, like a moody International Style library.

You’ll Be Sipping With: This Starbucks may boast the most diverse clientele: students, tourists drifting in from Princes Street or St. Andrew Square, kids and chaperones, business associates, shoppers from the St. James Centre across the street, and a few of yer average Edina punters.

Wifi: Top-notch.

George Street 30A

30A is one of the stranger area Starbucks.  It is the Starbucks of the New Town business elite, and doesn’t cater much to tourists outside the peak summer months.  White fitted shirts dominate the dress code; a massive photo print of five ethnically ambiguous third world coffee farmers dominates the upper seating area – smiling, they push their magic coffee sticks at a run through some kind of happy dust-yellow field.  (Note: the same photo hangs in the Forrest Road location.)  Yet there is something lonely lurking behind the business babble and brougham shoes, beneath the sunny close-up wall-size prints of beans and berries, just under the low Nawlins moaning of a Norah Jonesesque singer on the speakers.  When I first walked in, I tried to peak around the wrapped food case to look for extra seating; a couple sat in the first window – next to them was an empty table with a toppled cold brew spreading across the table; but I peered deeper, and deeper, and found the bizarre alcove terminated in a table with a family of four, totally cut off from human contact, apparently finished with their meal, sitting, hands-clasped, and staring at me with apprehension.  I retreated to place my order, and look for seating in the more populous upper level.

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In a gesture toward Edinburgh’s martial history as well as its contemporary cosmopolitan character, the the George Street 30A Starbucks is decorated without by figures in weathered bronze depicting warriors of various races and historical periods – some kind of Indian sepoy (surely of the Mughal, rather than the British colonial period), a Roman centurion, some kind of Arabian curved-sword chappie, a sub-Saharan spearman, and a Native American Indian in full headdress. It is worth noting that no other Starbucks location possesses so martial a decorating scheme.

Food and Drink: The filter coffee was brewed to perfection, but my goat cheese panini (“Would you like that warmed on the grill?”) was a bit of a disappointment – one soggy edge, peppers not quite popping, hampered by the unfortunate choice of arugula over something like, say, spinach.

Service: Extremely proactive.  I’m used to having someone take my drink order before I get to the register; I was pleasantly surprised to have an employee take my panini and get it grilling before I’d reached the front of the queue.  I was even more surprised, though, when the lad at the register fixed me with a hard-eyed inquiring gaze and asked, “How has your day been?”  He we were, 12:30pm on a Wednesday, two young punters just trying to make it to closing time.  “Swell,” I said; “I’m paying with a gift card.”

Seating: Even at the lunch hour, this location is busy without feeling crowded.  But I still can’t wrap my mind around the mysterious hidden one-seat alcove.

Atmosphere: Clean, admitting a few crumbs; corporate, but with a profusion of scattered square ottomans that give the place just the barest hint of a day care.

You’ll Be Sipping With: Most of the clientele are drawn from nearby law offices or financial firms; the young bucks are bent over their tables with lattes in paper; then there are the old lions who’ve  put in too many years at the office to be asked to wear a tie with their pinstripe suit, most opting for filter coffees in ceramic.  Listening to the young and old converse at once is like watching on a split screen Chinese ping pong and a Roger Federer tennis match, with the volume on low.  Then there are a few shoppers in from Princes and George Streets, a few girls in those très courant wide-brim felt hats.  Most interesting are the solo drinkers – people watching game shows on their smartphones, or staring off into space for five, ten minutes at a time before taking their first sip from a venti, and, with the heir of one relinquishing with ambivalence a family heirloom for a token price at a yard sale, opening some large leatherbound notebook and beginning to read.

Wifi: Not fast, but not exactly slow – at least I didn’t experience any kick-offs.

George Street 106

This location reopened Friday 20 Feb. after what a hasty paper sign called “massive” renovations.  The result: one of the most comfortable Starbucks in the city.

Food and Drink:  Pain au chocolat was a bit dry, but the hour was late.

Service:  Friendly banter, with the sort of service-questions (“It will just be a few minutes – do you mind? – I have to put in a fresh filter”) that are over-polite without annoying.

Seating: Spotlit window tables are ideal, especially on a wet evening, offering a view on the dark romance of George Street

Atmosphere: Quiet, managing to be simultaneously dark and well-lit – a good environment for any kind of work, though 30A might be more appropriate for lunchtime business meetings.  Checkered textured columns contrast delightfully with the black Roman-style bricks behind the counter.

You’ll Be Sipping With: The odds and ends of George Street’s diverse, quietly busy life.

Wifi: Passing marks.

Try Instead: Wellington Coffee, tucked just below the street on the northwest corner of George and Hanover.  The coffee is a good and the generous slices of carrot cake are a personal favorite, but the real draw is the tiny cafe’s quiet – below-street-level patio is great for that fag-and-a-coffee combo, for a chat or for writing a few postcards, and for people-watching ( … if you want to watch people’s legs).

 

Shandwick Place

Not far from posh eateries like The Huxley and within sight of the Edinburgh Waldorf Astoria, this Starbucks might have been the swankiest of the bunch, but its high ceilings, ovular lighting, and open floor plan make it seem like more like a repurposed 1920s automat or a cafeteria coterminus with a major train-station.

Food and Drink: A mega-chocolate cake seemed to be suffering structural collapse at its mucronate in-facing terminus, so I opted for a white chocolate, coconut, and lime cookie – a treat! though I’m not sure what, if anything, the lime added.

Service: College or even secondary school-aged baristas worked the till while an older manager chatted up customers ready for a break from an afternoon of shopping.

Seating: I’d be shocked to see this venue’s seats filled, though if several tour groups and shopping brigades descended at once, they’d probably spill over the couch nooks and broad benches and make it hard for people like me, the lonely Starbucks-goers.

Atmosphere: Again, think a tastefully and minimally decorated automat, in an unreal but inoffensive shade of blue-green, wall space broken by little paragraphs telling us eveything we don’t care to know about Starbucks’ (enviro-politico-friendly) coffee production process.

You’ll Be Sipping With: Total. Strangers.  (Selah.  Selah.)

Wifi: An infuriatingly slow connection spread up to something workable before long.

Try Instead: I’ll have to work on this, I really don’t know the area.

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Princes Street

COMING SOON

Food and Drink:

Service:

Seating:

Atmosphere:

You’ll Be Sipping With:

Wifi: You’ll get your two hours’ worth.

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FURTHER AFIELD

Starbucks franchises fan out from the center of the city – one can find a cup in Leith, Stockbridge, etc.  I’ve been to a few, and as I’ll be in Edinburgh for the next two-and-a-half months, still, I’ll try to add them all, for you, dear reader.  Expect more.

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