Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Coffee House: Caffé Nero, Rickmansworth
Address: 80 High Street, Rickmansworth, WD3 1AQ
Rating: Below even the depths of Gloria Jean’s (Sydney-Coffee Rating System)
Chain Website | Map (Hey, why’s the Ricky satellite imagery suddenly a decade old?! The building I live in is a sandpit!)

Update 2007-12-30: Very recently a sign appeared in the window of the local Nero outlet informing passers-by that Nero is switching over to BT OpenZone. I’m not a huge fan of BT OpenZone but they are my roaming wifi provider because everywhere I’ve been (US, Sydney, Perth, UK, throughout Europe) I can usually find a place that my OpenZone account works (almost every hotel I’ve stayed in uses a provider that partners with OpenZone). Of course, OpenZone aren’t the only provider to have extensive worldwide partnerships like this (T-Mobile do, and most APs in Europe I use are actually T-Mobile). Anyway, the important point is that OpenZone has a far more convenient pricing structure than “Surf and Sip”, importantly this includes a no-upfront-fee pay-per-minute account type. Even though minutes are expensive here in the UK (why? no idea, because they can be I guess) this makes “Neronet” far more useful for the casual low-frequency user. Now, they just need to elevate the average quality of their espresso above “chain store”, hah.

The only “‘net Café” in Rickmansworth is a Nero outlet. Even though the coffee is pretty terrible I’d be happy to sit here for an hour or two and tap away on the laptop, mainly because the chairs are comfy. There’s a big problem though: the cost. A day-ticket costs 10 quid, which is the cost of about 5 coffees and is the lowest price ‘net access ticket you can get. A month costs 40 quid (twice as much as I pay for my home 8Mbit ADSL and telephone combined), and a yearly access ticket is 200 quid. The access provision company is “Surf and Sip(TM)” and, on the prior-to-payment café web pages, I can’t find any listing of the outlets where I can get connected to them. I’d bet it’s probably only available in Nero outlets, and outside of Ricky I never go to Nero.

Coffee notes about Nero in Ricky: If you get the right person you can get a barely drinkable espresso, that’s one staff member in about ten. I only drink Americanos here, watering down bad espresso can make it not insult my mouth at least. I used to have coffee here most mornings (simply to get the caffeine fix) but now that I’m working from home I go to Cinnamon Square instead. On the Sydney-coffee-rating scale this place is below Gloria Jean’s. They do have some decent panini though, so on Sundays Kat and I tend to have coffee and a panini for breakfast here (there’s not really anywhere else to go).

I’d really rather have a Starbucks in town, the coffee is a little better and the ‘net access is a little cheaper (but still not very well priced).

I’m almost tempted to try the local Wetherspoon’s pub for ‘net access. The coffee will probably be undrinkable, but they give you 30 minutes of free ‘net access with each drink you buy (and a coffee only costs about a quid there). But I can’t really bring myself to step into a pub before midday, even one with coffee and a breakfast menu. Also, the Penn is a pretty bodgey chainpub that I wouldn’t normally wander into at any time of day.

It doesn’t help that it is Sunday and the only things open are Nero, the Penn, and an Italian place we don’t go to.

So, 1.5 years into living in Ricky and Sundays still suck and (legally sound) out-of-home ‘net access is still a myth. I thought it might have picked up a bit by now. Unfortunately this is a town of rich semi-to-fully geriatric professionals (many retirees I’d guess) and breeders… so there’s probably not a lot of market for a bit of modernisation.

If it fit into my visa provisions I’d seriously consider trying to pick up a little café on the high street that shut down a while back. This Nero place is absolutely packed, the coffee and food are both dull but there are no other options (hey, even I’m sitting here).

I wonder about WiMax. They say it’s long range, if I ran an AP from my balcony what sort of cover could I get in buildings. How much does line-of-sight matter? How much does WiMax gear cost?