Scones of the week

The past week has been a very good one for scones.

(I confess, most weeks are good for scones, the scone being pretty much a daily occurrence in my life.)

The first one I have a picture of was devoured in the wonderful Loch Leven’s Larder, after this delicious chickpea salad:


Following the chickpeas was a truly first class, decent sized blueberry and vanilla taste sensation:


The chum I was having lunch with also had a scone, opting for the dried fruit sort, served not only with jam and butter, but cream to boot (all of which disappeared very swiftly):


A couple of days later I had another decent sized, tip-top scone while working in the A K Bell Library cafe. It was of the treacle variety:


Yesterday I had a golden raisin scone (home produced):


And today, in honour of my sister coming for lunch, a batch of cheese and poppy seed scones appeared:


This is not the full complement of scones devoured in the past week, but unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of the pear and walnut or the sultana scones. They are, nonetheless, happy memories.


Autumn colours and tasty treats

A couple of days ago, delightful assistant no.1 and I found ourselves in Perth needing a leg stretch before luncheon.

It was a lovely day and we popped into Branklyn Garden, which is down a little lane off this street in Perth:


Autumn colours in Fairmount Terrace, Perth.

The garden closes to visitors at the end of October, but at this time of year the shop is already closed and there’s no-one to take your money or check your membership card (if you’re a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can get in for free).

A sign on the closed shop asked visitors to put the admission fee into a box, but since we had membership cards we just looked at these, waved them about a bit and carried on into the garden.


The entrance to Branklyn Garden, Perth.

There weren’t many flowers out but there were some beautifully coloured leaves:


One of the many Japanese maples in Branklyn Garden.


View from the top of the garden over the canopy.

The Japanese maples were the most immediately striking plants in the garden, and some of them looked as if they were aflame:


Tree on fire: a Japanese maple glowing in the sunshine.


This one reminded me of Cousin Itt from The Adams Family. Just stick a hat and a pair of glasses on it and – bingo!

I crawled inside one of the maples and was very taken with the twisted trunk and branches:


A maze of contorted branches.

There were a few flowers in the rock garden and an impressive array of greens:


A splendid selection of plantlife in Branklyn Garden’s rockery.

When we’d had our fill of foliage we tootled off to the Macmillan Coffee Shop at Quarrymill (last day of business for the year tomorrow) for lunch.

The trees outside the coffee shop were looking lovely in their autumn leaves:


Lovely colours at Quarrymill.

We both chose cheese and tomato toasties on brown bread, and tea to drink:


Once the savouries had been satisfactorily devoured we turned our attention to the sweet menu.

This is a blackboard I will miss for the next six months, until the coffee shop reopens for business in April:


Whoever designed this blackboard was a person after my own heart – half of it given over to Scones.

As is often the case when I’m at this particular establishment, I was unable to pass up the opportunity of a date and cinnamon scone:


Six months till I get another one of these, I wonder how I’ll manage till April.

Nice, isn’t it? Would you like to see it closer up?


Flecks of cinnamon tempting me to break into this bakery delight.

Inside it was soft and fluffy:


Soft, fluffy, datey, cinnamony…mmm

Although delicious on its own I was eager to slap on some of the coffee shop’s excellent jam:


Jammy delight.

My delightful assistant, although inordinately fond of a scone herself, is drawn like a magnet to large sponge cakes, particularly when they come with a bit of strawberry and cream:


Strawberry sponge – a temptation too great for my delightful assistant to resist.

On our way home we took a detour past Cargill Cemetery, a place I’d been wanting to wander round for some time. I might do a post about it on another occasion but in the meantime here’s a bit of autumn beauty from the graveyard:


Crocodile cake

One of my favourite tearooms, the Macmillan Coffee Shop in Perth, is soon to close for the season.

I’ve been popping along there as often as I can recently, to make the most of it while it’s still open. It’ll be a long wait between the end of this month and April 2014 when it reopens for business.

They always have interesting and delicious scones and cakes on offer, and on a recent visit I opted for a slice of chocolate and hazelnut cake.

I was astonished by its similarity to a crocodile:


Crocodile chocolate and hazelnut cake

I don’t know if it’s easier to see what I mean slightly closer up:


Can you see the crocodile in this cake?

The whole hazelnuts on top were such a tasty touch that it would have been nice to have had more of them decorating the cake. However, had that been the case, it wouldn’t have looked like a crocodile, which would have been a great pity.

A unique cake and a very happy memory.

Love your local library

I found myself in Perth with delightful assistant no.2 yesterday. We were going to B&Q (a large do-it-yourself hardware emporium, for anyone unfamiliar with the company), and Perth’s central lending library, the A K Bell.

The A K Bell was closed for a few weeks recently, while it underwent a spot of refurbishment. I hadn’t seen the new look and was keen to take a peek, as well as take tea in the cafe and try to flog the library bookshop a copy or two of my book.

This is the library building from the outside. It was originally constructed as a hospital in the 1830s, and designed by a local architect called William Mackenzie:

It being quite late in the afternoon, the cafe was unusually empty, but as welcoming and delightful as I always find it:

I don’t usually admit to locations of tearooms on this blog, but it was difficult to do a post about the library without mentioning the tearoom, which is one of those featured in my book (if you haven’t bought the book to find out where my favourite tearooms are, you’ve at least got this one for free).

The tearoom has been decorated with quotes around the walls. They’re all worth a read, but I picked this Groucho Marx one as an example because it made me chuckle:

On this occasion, my delightful assistant chose a black coffee, I had tea, and we shared a large piece of Mars Bar krispie cake. He likes to have things cut up into small pieces, so I divided it into six bitesize chunks:

Suitably refreshed, we wandered into the newly done up library. This is the foyer, that has been spruced up since I last saw it, and now has the word ‘Welcome’ in silver above the entrance between the pillars:

There is  a painting of A K Bell on one side of the entrance hall:

And a colourful display of Scottish words on the other side:

Inside, the library has been much improved with new flooring and a fresh layout.

It’s a bit of a well kept secret (my delightful assistant wasn’t aware of it, despite having been to the library many times), but upstairs in the library there is a small bookshop section selling books of local interest. It was here that I was hoping to sell my own little book, and so we approached a chap at a desk near the bookshop and asked if he’d be interested.

It turned out that the person responsible for the bookshop area had left months ago and hadn’t been replaced, in addition to which the library had no money for buying new books (perhaps due to all the lovely new renovations?). So, rather than buying a few to sell, I asked if he might like to buy one copy for the library to have in their stock, but again there was a money issue and he hinted that they always hoped people would donate such books to them. He did say, however, that he would email a couple of library staff and see what he could do to try and get them to buy a copy.

Wrong-footed by this unexpected reaction, my assistant and I thanked him and wandered off. As we were ambling back towards the stairs, my quick-thinking assistant suggested that I donate a book and then at least the library would have one. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this myself, but regretfully I am a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.

Britain’s public lending libraries are something I am very grateful for, having made use of many of them over the years, and when I thought about it I realised that it would be a pleasure to give them a little book to add to their stock.  So, back we went to the chap again and donated a copy of the book.

I’m not entirely sure what happens to donations, but perhaps now if anyone wants to read about tearooms in the area without buying a book about it, they can borrow that copy from the A K Bell.

Back outside in the sunshine, we noticed a new display on the grass in front of the building. It was composed of artworks made from recycled glass, and a planted butterfly:

I feel strangely chuffed to have a copy of my book lodged in the A K Bell library, nestling amongst so many great works by authors I admire and have been inspired by.

Thank you A K Bell library, and all the other such fine institutions around the country that have supplied me with books to read for free. I salute you!


Following on from 83, which was the grand old age delightful assistant no.2 (my dad) reached on 29 April this year, today it’s delightful assistant no.1 (my mum)’s turn. She’s not quite an octogenarian yet but she’s more than halfway through her septuagenarian years.

The birthday girl wanted to pop into our local metropolis, Perth, to do a bit of shopping today, and so that’s what we did this morning. Having been very successful in the clothing department of Marks and Spencer, we toddled off to one of our favourite tearooms in Perth for luncheon.

The last time we were in this tearoom, along with delightful assistant no.2, it was very busy and we were asked if we minded sharing a table with someone else. We didn’t mind at all, especially when the someone else turned out to be a most interesting and entertaining fellow called Geoff.

Geoff introduced me to a website called blipfoto, which is a social networking photography site on which you can post one photo every day, taken on that day, and people can leave comments, much as they do on WordPress blogs. I joined up with blipfoto after speaking to Geoff, and if you’re at all interested you can find me there as ‘Weedoon‘.

Well, as I say, we went back to this tearoom today and who do you suppose we should bump into, but the very same Geoff! (This may seem like a great coincidence, but since he is an avid fan of the place and visits just about every day, I suppose it’s not all that surprising).

I had vegetable soup, and delightful assistant no.1 had egg and cress sandwiches (I took a photo of the soup but it’s not very good so I’ll just include the sandwiches or, as our waitress called them, “sangwidges” – very Scottish pronunciation, ‘sang’ being pronounced in the same way as the past tense of ‘sing’):

Geoff also chose the sandwiches, but he very wisely added a slice of coffee and walnut cake. I was extremely tempted to order a piece myself but I knew we were heading home for birthday cake afterwards so I nobly resisted. Very kindly, Geoff offered me his cake to photograph (being the fine fellow he is, he understands the importance of such things):

Back in sunny Blairgowrie (I like to call it “sunny Blairgowrie by the sea”, perversely because it’s nowhere near the sea) the birthday candles were lit and the four family members who were available gathered to sample it. My sister baked it and I decorated it:

Some stalactites formed on the edges (and a few spare chocolate buttons were wedged into the middle of the cake):

The cake was light and delicious and slipped down nicely with a cup of tea, served on my bargain tea and toast sets:

All of this was very nice, but it wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened today.

I think 76 is an age at which you might think about things you haven’t done but would like to do. Having survived for more than three quarters of a century, you might feel it’s high time you fulfilled some long-held ambitions.

Today, 76 years from when she first breathed air on planet Earth, delightful assistant no.1 fulfilled such an ambition. Her grandmother did this very thing at a much younger age, apparently to improve her eyesight, because she was trying to stave off the inevitable glasses (a common rhyme of the day didn’t help her to feel comfortable about the impending situation: “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”). As far as I know, what she did made no impression at all upon her eyesight, although perhaps it helped her to feel a bit more glamorous.

I took my dear assistant to a jewellery shop in Perth, where she bravely sat in a chair while a be-gloved lady shot at her twice and this was the result (the ears are where the action was):

The earrings are tiny gold ones with small diamond-like sparkly stones in the middle, they’re very pretty when they catch the light. I was so proud of her doing this at her age, and I think she looks great with them in.

When I got my ears pierced (I think I was about 16 or 17) I was intending to have two piercings in one ear and none in the other. However, after getting the first one done I was so distressed that I couldn’t take a second hit. My sister accompanied me to the jeweller, sat on me, and let me squeeze her hand until it went white while I had it done. It was quite a bit later that I plucked up the courage to have the other ear done. Then, in 2004 while I was wandering aimlessly around New Zealand on my own, I took the fancy for another piercing up at the top of my left ear. I went to a piercing parlour and had it done sitting in a chair, but then I fainted and had to lie down on a couch in the shop. Various kind-hearted customers, displaying all manner of painful looking piercings, came in and talked to me for the next half hour, while I lay there with the room spinning and a wet cloth on my brow. You will gather from this that I am a champion woose and quite incredibly feeble when it comes to needles, pain, or anything remotely medical.

We had been keeping this little ear-piercing business a secret from delightful assistant no.2, and wondered how long it would take him to notice. On arrival at the house, he chatted a bit to his dear wife and then I suddenly heard him exclaim, in the manner of somone profoundly shocked, “What have you done to your ears?!” I ran through from the next-door room and asked him what he thought of it. Once he’d got over the initial shock he admitted that he thought they suited her and she looked rather lovely. I agree, and hope he feels the same about the tattoo she’s planning to celebrate with next year.

Tearoom of the Week (9)

Something wonderful happened on Monday the 2nd of April: one of my favourite local tearooms reopened its doors for the season, an event I’d been waiting for all winter.

This tearoom is situated on the outskirts of Perth, on my main route into the city, and many’s the time over the past few months I’ve driven past, longing for it to open again. When the big day finally arrived, on Monday morning, I took two delightful assistants Perthwards to celebrate this marvellous event.

I have been warned on many occasions by my delightful assistants that in my over-the-top enthusiasm for certain tearooms I may be getting people’s hopes up so much that they end up being disappointed when they visit one of my recommendations. I understand this concern, but there are some occasions when I simply cannot help myself. If it’s of any reassurance, when my tearoom guidebook comes out it will be a little more restrained and balanced in its reviews (that’s the plan anyway, but who can tell what will actually happen?), so that hopefully if you read it you won’t be let down. I do apologise in advance to anyone who suffers as a result of my adoration, but when it comes to certain tearooms I feel I have some sort of defence.

If you’ve ever had a relative, friend, partner, pet or pair of shoes that you have felt a deep and fervent love for, you will understand my feelings about this tearoom. Like a proud parent when their child comes first in the egg and spoon race on sports day, stepping through the door of this tearoom the other day briefly felt like the best moment of my life.

A sight for sore eyes: an empty table in this wonderful tearoom:

It being that lovely time of day between breakfast and lunch I selected, from their splendid scone options (on this occasion: plain, fruit, date and cinnamon, and cheese), a date and cinnamon scone. It was almost certainly the best date and cinnamon scone I’ve ever had (at least, since the last one I had here):

What’s more, it had not long ago come out of the oven and was still slightly warm. A universe away from a microwaved job. The outside was of perfect crispness, while the inside was as fluffy and light as you could possibly want, and the datiness and cinnamoniness made it nothing short of heaven on a plate:

To accompany this marvellous creation I had a pot of excellent tea, which lovely assistant no.2 joined me in along with her choice of a fruit scone, while lovely assistant no.1 had a decaf coffee and another date and cinnamon delight.

One of the many things I love about this tearoom is the way the teacups and plates are laid out on the pretty tablecloths ready for my arrival. It’s so welcoming, as if they’ve been expecting me and have popped the required crockery out because they know I’ll be needing a nice cup of tea and a scone when I sit down:

Had I not gone for a scone, I might have had a slice of one of these very tempting looking cakes that were smiling at me in an engaging manner from inside the chiller cabinet:

A thing I always like to see in a tearoom is a ready supply of napkins/serviettes, because you never know when you might need a spare one. Here, we even had a choice of yellow or green, and a most delightful little cow to serve them to us:

This tearoom, as well as being one of my top places for a good scone and a nice cup of tea, has charming service. The lovely ladies (and, occasionally, men) who take the orders are volunteers, and all profits from the tearoom go to a cancer charity. Despite the very reasonable prices, they raise thousands of pounds a year by selling their delicious morsels. By patronising this tearoom, not only can you indulge in superb fare, but by doing so you’re helping to save lives. It is a most excellent win-win situation.

Attached to the tearoom is a small gift shop which sells, amongst other enticing items, the cafe’s own first class cookery book. I mentioned this book in a previous post (see here) because it is currently my favourite recipe book, and I was delighted to see that they were still selling it this year. Delightful assistant no.2 was overjoyed to discover this, as she had been waiting for months to buy a copy for herself.

Seats were set up outside ready to welcome the long warm days of summer (I live in hope), along with a rack of second-hand books, from which I have sometimes found a little gem to take home with me:

As if all of this were not good enough, when I went to pay the bill I discovered that, since we had been one of the first 12 customers of the new season, the coffee was free of charge!

If I could recommend this tearoom more highly I would, but bearing in mind the stark warnings I’ve been getting about my over-enthusiastic approach to such things, I will content myself with saying that this is a jolly nice tearoom and I’m looking forward to many more visits during the coming months.

N.B. There was no Tearoom of the Week last week because the previous one had been in two parts (see Tearoom of the Week (Part One) and Tearoom of the Week (Part Two)), and I decided to have a small break before the next one. I was delighted to be able to make this one TotW (9) though, as I’ve been wanting to highlight it ever since I started this blog. Hurrah!

An exotic lunch in Perth

After our visit to Perth museum the other day, my lovely assistant and I made our way to a lunch place in Perth that we’d never been to before. We had initially thought of going to Breizh, a creperie nearby, but on viewing the menu of this other place, plumped for that instead. Our choice led to a jolly tasty luncheon with a twist of foreignness about it.

This place only opened in 2010 but has become very popular and was fairly hotching when we rolled up. Thankfully, someone had just vacated a nice corner table by the window, so we nabbed it in a timely manner.

There was an old-fashioned dark wooden bar near the entrance, with cloched cake stands gleaming temptingly. We both thought that the mirrored bar and style of wooden chairs made it feel a bit French. I took my chance for a quick photo when there was no-one sitting directly in my line of vision:

Cafe with a French feel

What we chose to have wasn’t very French, but it was a bit exotic. I went for falafel (Middle Eastern in origin, I believe), which was served very simply with a tub of Greek yoghurt and a beetroot side salad:

Tasty Middle Eastern fare

My assistant opted for a Greek salad, which was fairly swimming in olive oil but was declared most acceptable. She ordered some of the cafe’s own superbly crusty homemade bread to go with it, which could also be bought in loaf form to take away.

We didn’t have room for a pudding but on the way out I spotted these marvellous large meringues. They must have been about 5 inches in diameter:

An excellent use of egg white
On another occasion I may have to pop back and sample one.