I should start by pointing out that I have no idea who either Harris or Hoole are* but I will say that they know how to create a café that's perfect for home working freelancers who want to grab a few hours in a new environment.
Situated in North Street, Guildford, Harris + Hoole is a little gem I discovered after a morning darting round the shops, looking for an outfit for my 40th birthday party (this is, obviously, your opportunity to say 'Wow, you don't look anywhere near 40...' Nobody? Oh well).
The café is one of a chain: there is another Guildford one in the Tesco superstore just up from the Royal Surrey County Hospital, three other fairly local branches and then quite a few more further afield (with plenty in London), going as far north as Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.
Now, normally, I'm not a fan of chains; I don't like that impersonal feeling of 'this could be anywhere' once you're inside a place but as with the Caballo Lounge in Epsom - also part of a huge chain - this Guildford town centre establishment doesn't feel at all like one.
Downstairs is fairly standard: clean white tables, wooden chairs, chilled food cabinets and the counter, which is crammed with pastries. There is a fresh, welcoming feel to the whole place and the staff greet you with a friendly tone. A feature I really like is their huge blackboard, on the left-hand wall as you enter, which is divided into an entire month's worth of days, showing customers all their upcoming events. I wouldn't choose to work down here, however, as the constantly opening door and footfall of people coming past would be too distracting.
Upstairs is where it gets much cosier and, therefore, much more freelancer-friendly. There are tables with upright chairs if you need to get down to serious, concentrated work but there are also soft, deep sofas for those times when cocooning comfort leads to inspiration. You can browse along their bookshelf which has a range of extremely eclectic reads, for those moments when you feel a yearning need to swot up on topics such as 'British Tea Cosies of the 1950s' or 'Practical Bricklaying for Toddlers'.
According to the Harris + Hoole website, their 'baristas are trained for forty hours before being allowed to make drinks.' If I'm honest I'm not sure that I could really notice any difference in H+H's coffee over one made by somebody who'd only been instructed for 20 hours but my cappuccino was actually really good and served in a classy cup and saucer with a flourishy foamy-coffee swirl pattern on the top. And hey, I'm no caffeine expert, no matter how much I depend on the stuff to function some days.
H+H doesn't serve a huge selection of meals but there are some lovely light options, as well as cakes, pastries and, according to my son, delicious flapjack. And he considers himself an authority on the oat/syrup treat so it's well worth taking his word on the subject. They also, when I was there, had some really varied options for vegetarians & vegans.
Because of its location, this coffee shop is always pretty busy but not in an over-powering, can't concentrate type of way, especially if you can squirrel yourself away in an upstairs corner. It's rare that I go to Guildford without stopping off here.
I'm really enjoying seeking out new places to drink coffee and eat cake - I mean, work - and the next place I shall be visiting is one of the loveliest local cafés I've been to. No clues - you'll have to wait and see!
* Finding out why their coffee shops have the name Harris + Hoole isn't actually that difficult. I poked about on their website and found this explanation...that would be why then.