'I checked out the Kent café where laptops are banned and I’m a convert'

Fringe and Ginge has broken the mould of cafes becoming second homes for remote workers
-Credit: (Image: KentLive)


As one of the lucky ones who spends most of their week working from home, I’m no stranger to posting up in a coffee shop for a few hours for a change in scenery. Head into any Starbucks, Costa or café in the country and you’re likely to be met with a sea of screens and furious typers nursing flat whites and leaving their lunch to go cold.

I for one love breaking up the working day with a visit to my favourite local coffee shop when the cabin fever starts to set in after days at home. However, it seems one Canterbury café is looking to break the tradition of coffee shops becoming second homes for us remote employees, splitting opinions in doing so.

Fringe and Ginge operates in the city centre from Northgate and has banned laptops in the age of emails and Zoom meetings. It seems opinions are mixed on the move, with many weighing in on the debate on TripAdvisor.

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“No laptops - superb decision,” writes one reviewer alongside their five star rating. “Absolutely sick to death of people with laptops, sitting on their own at a table for four, with a glass of water, occupying prime space all bloody day.

“Wish more cafés would introduce this initiative. Get back in the office for god's sake.” At the other end of the scale, another said: “This policy is quite unusual in my experience, as I’ve visited numerous coffee shops globally and have never encountered such a restriction.

“While I understand that each establishment has its own rules, this particular policy seems overly restrictive, especially for travellers or locals looking for a cosy corner to work in.” With opinions divided, I decided to give the café a go for myself, leaving my laptop at home and intrigued about what I would find.

My experience

It certainly is an intimate café
It certainly is an intimate café -Credit:KentLive

On arriving, it became clear that the reviews dubbing Fringe and Ginge ‘cosy' had really hit the nail on the head. A tiny café found on a street corner, it doesn’t have the largest seating selection so immediately I could understand any frustrations around remote workers converting the limited tables into temporary desks for hours on end.

I was met with a warm and friendly welcome from the staff before I found myself a seat and scanned over the menu. My table did feel a little cramped but was comfy enough for me to still enjoy my entire visit.

After some careful consideration, I settled on the harissa tapenade grilled cheese toastie and a flat white to wash it down. As I waited for my food, a steady stream of customers came in and out of the shop, either finding seats or grabbing to go bits for their lunch.

There was a real energy of familiarity and community you don’t see as much elsewhere, with new conversations sparked with every customer who walked in, creating an incredible atmosphere. With every second that passed, I was beginning to side with team ‘no laptops’.

A lunch to remember

I was absolutely blown away by the food
I was absolutely blown away by the food -Credit:KentLive

It didn’t take long for me to get my lunch despite how busy it was, and from the look alone I knew I was in for a real treat. One bite in and this was a toasty that put most others to shame.

An explosion of flavour with every bite, rich and moreish that combined with the garlic and herb dip beautifully, leaving me excited for every single bite. It was a little on the messy side however, so I was grateful for the generous supply of napkins, otherwise I’d leave the café looking like I’d just had a go at some strange toastie-eating competition.

My coffee was also fantastic, far better than anything you could expect from your local Costa. Combining the brilliant lunch with the cafe's buzzing atmosphere, I was truly won over by this spot.

Verdict

Having now experienced Fringe and Ginge first hand, I can say I absolutely support the move to ban laptops. Even as a remote worker, I totally see the need for spaces where the stress and worries of work can be left at the door and you can just connect with others away from the screen while relaxing over a delicious cup of coffee.

Not to mention, there are so many different places in Canterbury and Kent as a whole where you can set up with your laptop for the day without problem, so just one less venue is not a big deal in the grand scheme. I know where I’ll be heading the next time I’m brought to tears by the never ending emails and Google Hangouts.

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