Le Pain Quotidien

This place is just round the corner from Victoria station and was the chosen spot for a rendezvous with a group of Lithuanians .. don’t ask, it’s a long story. Le Pain Quotidian ( ‘the daily bread’) originated in Belgium but now has outlets in nineteen countries stretching from Brazil to India though this is the first we have come across. Le Pain 02 The emphasis is on providing a place for people to meet and do business or just have a good gossip and, to that end, they provide some long tables where people or families can gather round and do just that. It prides itself on it’s artisan bread made the traditional way … ‘bakers blend organic stone-ground flour, kneaded patiently by hand and baked in stone lined hearths’ .. whatever .. can they make a scone? In the interests of diversity, we thought we should try the ‘organic spelt & quinoa scone’. If nothing else it was definitely different and, from that point of view, difficult to compare with other scones. Le Pain 03A heavy mix as you might expect with a spelt flour but the added quinoa seeds, currants and almonds gave it a, not unpleasant, crunchy texture. It came with a pot of mixed strawberry/rhubarb  jam and a dish of what we thought was cream but turned out to be ricotta – an Italian whey cheese made from sheep milk. Now once we had got over the surprise of it being nothing like the cream we had been expecting, it was not that bad … in fact, with the scone itself being so completely different, the ricotta complemented the scone quite well … probably better than cream would have done. Le Pain 04This is the first  time we have come across quinoa (pronounced: kinwa) in a scone and probably demonstrates Le Pain Quotidien holding true to its basic philosophy of using good honest healthy ingredients .. apparently it originated from the shores of Lake Titicaca which is quite exotic in itself. At £5 per scone however, they are not cheap. Never had a hope of being a topscone but just for being sooooo different we think it qualifies for a top weird scone award .. won’t be rushing back for another but well done for broadening our scone horizons. Not far away there was a Stop Trident rally in Trafalgar Square. Isn’t it odd that we give so much attention to making nuclear power stations absolutely safe and then spend vastly more money planning for the creation of even bigger nuclear disasters .. bizarre. Of course, things have moved on. The big question now is not whether we should get rid of them but whether we can get rid of them fast enough before  The Donald and BoJo are ruling the world. The BBC‘s report on the rally just prattled on about how disappointing the turnout had been in spite of their own pictures showing umpteen thousands present.

BREAKING NEWS: In best BBC style, keeping you up to date with scone news, we have breaking news from our Trossachs correspondent .. the same one who, you will remember, gifted us some Dobbies scones at Christmas. Dobbies 01Apparently, when he went to pay for his cream scone the other day at Dobbies in Stirling he discovered that cream scones were subject to a BOGOF deal so he went home with another scone in a box which fed  four people the following day … all for £1.45 .. remarkable. Many thanks to our reporter. Obviously they were not spelt and quinoa scones but, in spite of the London prices, Le Pain Quotidien is worth a visit, a little bit quirky, good food, great service and nice atmosphere. It also has a good website with plenty of information and recipe suggestions.

SW1V 1JZ     tel: 020 3657 6945     Le Pain Quotidien


Claridges 03You know you are at Claridge’s when, to get across the street, you have to negotiate your way through loads of Bentleys and Aston Martins … and then, when you get to reception you have to decide between an ordinary room at £550 per night, or a suite  .. dilemma! Eventually we thought a £3,500 suite would be comfortable enough for one night until we discovered that breakfast was going to be an additional £80 … arrgghh, and everything had been going so well. The Scot in us suddenly came racing to the fore and, you guessed it, we ended up just going for a scone. Not just any old scone, mind you, a full afternoon tea in the form of a much anticipated present from a couple of thoughtful and generous readers .. hint, hint. Diligent readers will have noted that over the last few months, topscone awards have been as rare as hen’s teeth, so we were feeling pretty excited and confident that, if hen’s teeth were going to be found anywhere, it would be here. Excitement is not something that Claridge’s does however, the atmosphere, in the rather splendiferous 1930’s art deco Foyer, is one of intense calm, disturbed only by the soft sounds of the pianist and cellist playing selections from Beethoven and Bublé. Claridges 08Pat always blends effortlessly into such luxurious surroundings – a sign of good breeding no doubt, whereas I tend to feel more comfortable towards the greasy spoon end of the market. Cannot believe I have just mentioned a greasy spoon in this context, if such an item was found here some member of staff would immediately be taken out and unceremoniously shot. As serious sconeys, however, whose sole raison d’être is to inform our readers about scones at all levels, we felt it had to be done regardless of personal sacrifice … the menu will give you an idea of what had to be endured.Claridges 12

There is absolutely no doubt that these sandwiches, helped down with lashings of champagne, were probably the best we have ever tasted .. superb, we ate every last crumb. The glaringly empty plate prompted them to ask if we would like more but, of course, we had to conserve some space for the pièce de résistance .. the scones, so we declined. Before that we had to choose from a couple of dozen teas from around the world. Pat plumped on China White Peony with ‘hints of peach and apricot‘ and I went for the Iron Goddess Of Mercy, a gentle flavoured oolong which is high in caffeine and recommended as ‘the perfect afternoon pick-me-up‘ .. ideal for me after having been awake all morning. The tea comes served in teapots that only hold one cup so when you want more they go and get more hot water and each infusion is supposed to improve each time. We were told by our chinese waitress that ‘The first cup is for your enemies, the second cup for your wife and the third cup is for yourself’ .. just as well we were both drinking different teas as I’m pretty sure Pat would not have been happy being given the second cup. Claridges 10The scones … apparently ‘Claridge’s scone recipe is a timeless classic refined over generations‘ .. they have ‘a soft yielding texture and a colour of warm white gold‘ and are served with Cornish clotted cream and tea scented Marco Polo gelée … ‘the perfect complement to the scone‘ .. nothing as common as jam here! They were not far wrong, it was all excellent. However, rather than being the clear and easy decision we had expected, we had to deliberate for a bit on whether they qualified as topscones or not … the presentation of course was excellent but the scones themselves were not quite up to Fonab standards .. but of course Fonab is top of the tree so the answer was yes, phew! Claridges 09Because we are unlikely to be taking tea here again any time soon, for my final cup I changed to the Malawi Antler, a tea which is ‘unspeakably rare’ and in the UK can only be found at Claridge’s .. it had to be done. It was very nice though the antlers (tea shoots instead of leaves) which ‘wonderfully express the earth of Malawi’ was a bit lost on my decidedly uneducated palette. The rest of the afternoon was taken up with cake scoffing, listening to the music and generally watching the world go by  .. what a fabulous way to spend the day .. many many thanks to our very generous benefactors. Before we left this cocoon of peace and calm to renegotiate the Bentleys our waiter rushed off to get us a present … two little boxes of Claridge’s fudge. Judging by his performance over the ‘new deal’ and the EU referendum we think Cameron has been given several large boxes.

W1K 4HR       tel: 020 7629 8860        Claridges

Acoustic Café

“Sounds like great coffee” … that’s the strap line for this latest addition to the Falkirk café scene, the Acoustic Café. Not sure what great coffee sounds like, other than the deafening sound of their own coffee machine (it really is the loudest), but we feel it probably indicates a bit of confused thinking around the concept of selling coffee and guitars together in the one place. Acoustic 07So, is the Acoustic Cafe a coffee shop that sells guitars or a guitar shop that sells coffee, we’re not sure, it does not seem to do either particularly well, kind of falls between two stools, so to speak. As a guitar shop it has a good range of very nice guitars … all well and good you might think but we suspect that more attention has been paid to this aspect of the business than the cafe side … and if anything it should be the other way round. Some fundamentals are just not there; the coffee may sound great but what about the taste … it is not up to the standard of it’s near competitors, the staff are not trained to the same standard as it’s near competitors … the sole member of staff on two of our visits was unsure of just about everything. Worst of all, of course, the scones are decidedly average.Acoustic 06 Not home baked, a bit dry and powdery … nowhere near a topscone. On the up-side it has a nice funky interior which differentiates it from the rest and offers loads of potential. Also, it has only been in existence for a couple of months so maybe we should cut it some slack. If it can concentrate more on the cafe side of things we hope it goes on to make sweet music and  much better coffee and scones for many years to come. Music to the ears, that’s what we call the Scottish Government’s current stance in the negotiations with the U.K. government over settlement of the new fiscal framework for Scotland. Instead of giving the ‘sweeping new powers’ promised after the referendum, now it seems that any new powers will have to be paid for through reduced funding … not even vaguely in the spirit of the Smith Commission. Thank goodness for the SNP .. if it had been up to a Labour led administration they would have undoubtedly rolled over to their London masters long ago and Scotland would be much worse off as a result. To end on a high note, the Acoustic Café did manage to introduce a new word to our lexicon .. luthier; someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments, a service available through the cafe.Acoustic 04

FK2 7AS            tel: 01324 638297      Acoustic Cafe FB


On the south side of Edinburgh you can find Anteaques .. you can see what they have done there, can’t you! It is that kind of place .. a bit quirky; not quite one thing or the other .. a curious combination but one that works quite well. It’s a very small place so by the time they’ve put in four tables and chairs for the tea and scones there is not much room left for anything else. Anteagues 02Because of the space restrictions, the antiques side of things is relatively limited … but the tea house is another story. A vast array of over sixty fine loose teas and they even have tasting tables for sampling whatever takes your fancy. We like a good cup of tea as much as anyone but there is no way we could be described as connoisseurs … we sometimes experiment in places like this but can never remember which is which when next presented with a tea menu. This time we chose ‘Queens Breakfast’ a blend of Ceylon and Darjeeling black teas. Interestingly, according  to the notes: the blending of teas specifically for breakfast originated in Edinburgh in the 19th century. A tea merchant by the name of Drysdale had a small shop in the Old Town and sold a tea simply called “breakfast”. It was very good but like all good teas the service and presentation combine to create an ‘experience’ different from what you would experience if the same tea was presented in, for example, a Lyle’s syrup tin with a wire handle. Many years ago, on my first day as a student labourer, I was directed to make the tea for about thirty men in the site hut and since I found all the syrup tins half full of old tea leaves I decided to clean them all out .. what a disaster .. lucky to escape with my life.  Anteagues 04At Anteaques, however, it is all beautiful china ware, fantastic glass teapots and gleaming silver cutlery .. not a trace of a site hut or a syrup tin anywhere.  The scones are home baked and really very good, as was the cream .. not scooshie, perish the thought. The best thing, however, was the jam .. rose petal jam, especially imported from Grasse in the south of France .. fabulous … so fabulous we had to buy a jar to take home. The ambience in Anteaques is one of genteel sophistication and we would have loved to have given it a topscone, if only for the jam, but the scones were just a whisker off the mark … pity. Anteagues 03When you sit in a place like this you could easily forget that the world outside is not as pleasant as it is in here. Trump and Sanders slugging it out in New Hampshire .. surely, even with it’s past record of electing complete plonkers, America could not elect Trump .. surely? Cameron slugging it out in Europe, frantically pretending he’s making some sort of difference. The logic of Cameron’s situation is that, if he gets his way (he is not asking for much) he will campaign to stay in, if not, presumably he will campaign to leave, but no matter what happens everyone knows that he will never recommend leaving … so where is the logic? If you find it all a bit upsetting then get along to Anteaques for tea and scones … you will emerge in a much better state of mind. To add to the quirkiness of the place, it is only open three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday .. and .. because it’s so small you really have to book a table in advance, worth the effort though, enjoy that rose petal jam.

EH8 9JH     tel: 0131 667 8466      Anteaques

The Coffee Bothy

Deanston 06Since the closure of our own much missed Rosebank distillery in 1993 we have had to travel almost twenty miles to Deanston  to get to our nearest distillery. Not that we particularly need to get to a distillery .. once you have done the tour, you have done the tour, and we have done it several years back. Deanston, however, is always worth a visit, just for the coffee shop if nothing else. This place actually started life as a cotton mill back in 1785. It employed so many people that they built a model village round the mill in much the same way as David Dale did at New Lanark. Workers were paid in tokens that could only be exchanged at the village shop which, you guessed it, was operated by the mill owner .. a perfect monetary circle .. for the owner! In 1966 the cotton industry came to an end and the building was converted to a whisky distillery drawing water from the nearby river Teith .. for those of you with twitching tendencies, the river just opposite the distillery is a good spot for seeing common sandpipers. Deanston 03Initially it was closed to the public but a couple of years back they must have thought they should cash in on the tourism side of the industry and opened the place up for distillery tours .. and, of course, with that came the obligatory coffee shop .. in this case, the Coffee Bothy, one of three such enterprises run by Blairmains Farm. Deanston 05We have been here several times before and have always enjoyed it’s good food and good value. When you order a scone you actually get two which, being quite small, isn’t a problem .. in fact it’s a positive benefit if you want to try two different kinds. You also get plenty of jam and cream, though unfortunately it’s scooshie cream and you all know what we think of that. Not topscone but very enjoyable nevertheless. Much of the movie ‘The Angel’s Share’ was filmed here. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘angel’s share’ perhaps we can explain it like this: imagine that our UK economy is the whisky in a barrel. Deanston 02bBy a process akin to osmosis, over the years, the whisky evaporates through the wood and upwards to the angels who gradually get happier and happier .. in fact they can hardly believe their luck. Meanwhile the whisky in the barrel gets less and less and weaker and weaker .. think you can see where we are going with this. Eventually the barrel is empty and useless but in the process a few angels have become very happy indeed. A perfect analogy for Osborne’s UK economy .. sell off everything that belongs to the people to your mates at knockdown prices and then hire it all back to the people at extortionate rates .. brilliant .. we think he may have worked in that Deanston shop at one time! If you haven’t done the Deanston distillery tour, you should, it is fascinating .. and then go to the Coffee Bothy for a brace of scones .. a good day out and there is something strangely comforting about eating a scone surrounded by two million litres of the amber nectar.

FK16 6AG       tel:01786 843013       The Coffee Bothy

Brodies Vintage Tearoom

Brodies 04Today we are back in Linlithgow having had all our cobwebs removed by storms Gertrude and Henry .. thankfully it has now calmed down a bit.  This time, on the recommendation of several friends, we’re looking for Brodies tearoom .. not as simple as you might think. Brodies 05It turns out they are in the process of revamping the tearoom and currently don’t have a name outside their premises .. so instead of putting up our usual external header view we have given you a view of some the items in the loo. Apparently the plan is to take over another cafe further along the road, which will be ‘modern’ and make this one their ‘vintage’ tearoom. From the decor you can see that it is already fairly vintage. Pat decided to have a fruit scone and I opted for a walk on the wild side with the white chocolate and pear .. a new one on me. Both were very good but, yet again, not quite topscone material! Brodies 09Mine, however, was good enough to get a ‘top weird scone’ so at least we have been able to make an award. For those wondering,  a weird scone is usually one that is not plain, fruit or cheese .. okay! Sometimes when you go into to a cafe like this you just know it is going to be good and so it was with Brodies .. the food, the service were everything it should be. We hope though that when they finish their refurb the end result is not quite so cluttered, or if it is that is more thoughtfully cluttered .. less is more kind of thing.Brodies 08

Just along the road from Brodies is a 13th century pub called The Black Bitch .. a name which is a trifle unusual in our modern, politically correct world … there is a perfectly logical reason, however, for the name and indeed why anyone born in Linlithgow, man or woman, is referred to by the same name. In times gone by, the King sentenced a thief to be tied to a tree on an island in the middle of the loch .. to starve to death. It would, of course, only have been a matter of time had it not been for the intervention of the thief’s big black greyhound dog (not the one made famous by Billy Connelly) which took it upon itself to swim out and keep him supplied with food .. maybe the odd scone or two?  When the King discovered what was going on the dog was tethered to a tree on another island until they both perished .. happy days! LinlithgowThe town’s folk felt the dog’s fidelity and generosity of spirit pretty well summed up their own character so they adopted it as the emblem for the town’s coat of arms and henceforth anyone born in the town was referred to as a black bitch .. told you it was logical! We think that George Gideon Osborne may have been born in Linlithgow .. he certainly deserves the title but perhaps for different reasons! His eleven personal meetings with Google resulted in a 3% tax burden being levied against the corporation .. of course it would have been embarrassing to charge them more when his own family business doesn’t pay any tax on their property deals? This week he also managed to provide Aberdeen with a ‘super generous’ rescue package which, coincidentally, exactly equals one month’s rental of the Crossrail tunnel boring machine .. which, like everything else, is being built on the proceeds of Aberdeen’s oil .. collapsed or not! Is that island in the loch still available .. we’ll make sure no animals are endangered this time! In the meantime we look forward to Brodie’s expansion .. another report may be required?

EH49 7EJ           tel: 01506 843036        Brodies