Forth Valley Royal Hospital

We would not suggest that you actually come here just for a scone, heaven forbid, but if you have to come here for whatever reason then it might be worth knowing if the scones are worth a try. Forth Valley Royal Hospital was opened in 2010 in Larbert as a replacement for both Falkirk and Stirling Royal Infirmaries. It covers a geographical area stretching from Tyndrum in the NW to Bo’ness in the SE and serves a population of 300,000. It’s very much a state-of-the-art facility with much of the work being done by robots … though we are assured that, if you need an operation, it will still be carried out by highly intelligent human beings … phew! Amongst the wide variety of therapies available is retail therapy … Marks & Spencer, WH Smith, Starbucks, StockShop are all present and ready to remedy your shopping cravings. FVRH 04We were just here visiting, and having some time to spare, we ended up here in what is imaginatively called ‘The Restaurant’. It has received a Healthy Living Award so we wondered what form a healthy scone would take? At the self service counter there is plenty of variety on offer but we by-passed all the healthy stuff and went straight for a scone which, it has to be said, did not look any different from any other. FVRH 06It didn’t taste much different either, but it was perfectly acceptable – nothing more or less than what you would expect in a place like this. Fortunately NHS Scotland seems able to cope much better than NHS England with the financial stresses and strains of running a modern Health Service. Although there is no mention in the media whatsoever, when you have one half of the UK getting on just fine with it’s junior doctors and the other half driving their junior doctors to take full strike action without even emergency cover, it has to say something about the governance of the ‘United’ Kingdom. Let’s hope  the threatened strike by doctors south of the border gets resolved without mishap. We hope that none of you ever have to come here, but as hospitals go, Forth Valley Royal Hospital is up there with the best in the world .. and the scones aren’t too shabby either but probably not any healthier than any other.

FK5 4WR    tel: 01324 566000    Forth Valley Royal Hospital

The Dome

No, nothing to do with Mad Max! This is in Edinburgh’s George Street and there is definitely nothing thunderous about it .. ‘a warm balmy evening’ might describe it better.

The entrance
The entrance

Built in 1847 as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland it currently functions as a bar, restaurant and night club. We often come here when we are in town, fancy a pint … and the Café Royal is just a bit too far away. On this occasion however instead of going into the bar area under the magnificent dome we went upstairs to the Georgian Tea Room .. a bit of an adventure, since we had never strayed upstairs before. Needless to say the splendour continues and the tea room certainly does not let the rest of the building down in any way .. all chandeliers and ebony.

Georgian Tearoom
Georgian Tearoom

As soon as you walk in you get the feeling that you are not going to be let down either. It was a special day so we were treating ourselves to afternoon tea and it seemed that lots of other people were doing the same … a constant turnover of tables but all done in an atmosphere of absolute calm. Of course, champagne had to be taken first. Recently, a correspondent from France could not understand how Hugh’s champagne bar existed when it was not open in the evening until I explained that, in Scotland, we drink champagne all day because, just living here, is a constant cause for celebration! Anyway the bubbles allowed us time to look at the tea menu which contained six different options. Pat wanted her usual breakfast tea and I decided on the Bannockburn .. no idea why? Dome 06In our last post we were seeking out Scottish tea plantations, however, in spite of the name, the Bannockburn tea estate, which has existed since the 1850s, is situated just a few miles from the centre of Darjeeling … no prizes for guessing where the founders were from. Served in Dudson fine bone china, the blurb said it was fresh yet fruity with citrus and apricot notes; the perfect accompaniment to scones .. and it was! What with the crisp white linen tablecloths and napkins, the silver tea service and the scones being just the right size and melt-in-the-mouth, it was not in the least bit difficult to make a topscone award … hurrah! Sitting here in the Dome, cosseted and looked after superbly well, you tend to wonder what the government was thinking about with it’s recent attempt at cutting allowances for the sick and disabled … little wonder they have decided to do a U-turn. Cafe Royal 02As we write, news is coming in of bombings in Brussels. What is happening in this deeply divided world? Maybe Trump can sort it out .. or was that a pig flying over? You’ll be pleased to know that we did manage to squeeze in a wee visit to the Café Royal on the way home.

EH2 2PF          tel: 0131 624 8624              The Dome


The Kenmore Hotel

Oh dear, here we go again … scone 101. First of all, apologies for this rather lengthy preamble, but it is necessary to let you know how we came to be here, at the Kenmore Hotel, especially since we never had any intention of coming here. It’s great to get feedback from readers, it is most definitely a major part of the fun of a blog like this. One reader in particular always comes back with lots of comment and information on all sorts of things .. not so much a scone correspondent, more of an informant … the ‘Stenhousemuir mole’. After our review of the Iron Goddess of Mercy tea at Claridges the ‘mole’ informed us about the Dorchester Hotel where you can get Scottish grown tea at £10 a cup and commanded us to go and try it. Bearing in mind that most of what emanates from the ‘mole’ could be classed as ‘brain farts’, there initially seemed no reason to think that this snippet would be any different .. tea grown in Scotland?? Upon investigation however it turned out that this little gem was in fact accurate and, not only that, the tea was from Amulree and had won ‘best tea in the world’ at the recent World Tea Championships in Paris … surely not, how can that be? Those of you who are familiar with Amulree can be forgiven for being slightly incredulous; for those who aren’t familiar, Amulree is 750m above sea level and consists of a hotel (currently defunct) and a couple of houses surrounded by miles of open bare hillside … even bracken struggles! Sconeys should know about tea as well as scones .. and particularly if the best tea in the world is grown in Scotland; further investigation was obviously going to be necessary. So off we went, determined to witness this spectacle for ourselves. We felt so sure we would recognise a tea plantation when we saw one (seen them on the telly) we didn’t bother trying to pin down the exact location before leaving home .. mistake. On arrival in the village we thought, if there was any tea growing going on, it would be down the Glen Quaich road on the slightly lower ground around Loch Freuchie …  but there was no sign, and as we headed further down the glen on a GWR (great wee road) we eventually ended up in the lovely village of Kenmore without seeing hide nor hair of a tea plantation .. zilch!

Poets bar with Burns' poem above the fire
Poets bar with Burns’ poem above the fire

Mystified and ever so slightly scunnered we headed for the hotel .. perhaps they would be able to shed some light on local tea growing activities?

Kenmore 05The hotel is a mixture of old and new. The bar area, called Poet’s Bar, has become a place of pilgrimage for enthusiasts of Robert Burns from all over the world. On a visit on 29th August 1787 he wrote a poem in pencil on the chimney breast and it is still there exactly as written, though it’s now protected by a sheet of glass. At the back of the hotel there is a much glitzier restaurant with fabulous views over the river Tay. Our scones were nicely presented on a slate-like piece of wood with jam and a tub of cream topped of with a strawberry, very pretty! The scones, however, had a slightly dry sawdusty texture which was disappointing. Kenmore 04We’re not going to pretend that sitting by a toasty log fire drinking excellent coffee and eating scones was any kind of  hardship, quite the opposite, could have sat there all day but we were still no nearer to achieving our mission so we had to press on .. duty called! The serving staff were all eastern european so we thought we would ask the lady at reception about Dalreoch … but she was from Paris … and had never even heard of the tea tasting championships .. goodness … what self respecting Parisian does not know about the tea championships? The local post-master had heard rumours of tea being grown locally but had no idea where. By this time we were seriously beginning to doubt the veracity of the mole’s info and were beginning to wonder if we were on a wild goose chase. Suffice to say that, after a 12 mile return journey via Aberfeldy and a bit more judicious sleuthing we did eventually find it. Nowadays you are almost tempted to look nostalgically at bygone times when conflicts could be resolved by a chap wearing jodhpurs and drinking a civilising cup of tea. We doubt if even world beating Scottish tea is sufficient to beat some sort of order into the mess the world seems to find itself in these days … pity.

PH15 2NU       tel: 01887 830205        Kenmore Hotel

A Ton Of Scones

Motorcyclists often refer to ‘doing a ton’, meaning 100mph, so this post is the scone equivalent … not reviewing a particular scone but rather 100 scones; a ton of scones .. as a pie. Our last post from Liberty was our 100th so we thought it was time for some analysis and, bearing in mind our limited mathematical dexterity, 100 makes it easy to work out percentages. Our first post was Palmerston’s in Dunkeld almost exactly one year ago which works out at almost one scone every 4 days ..  how’s that for dedication, and amazingly, we are just as sylph-like as ever .. or at least Pat is.Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 18.20.57

The Results:

  • 75% gained no accolade or categorisation other than they were just fairly ordinary or self service scones. That does not make them bad, in fact many of them were very good, but not good enough for an award. Notably the Biscuit and the Bingham Hotel just missed out on a topscone award.
    Wee Blether
    Wee Blether

    Annoyingly the Corinthian had superb scones but abysmal service, otherwise it would have had a topscone award. 1% of this category, the Buckhaven scone, wasn’t even a scone. Some, like the Wee Blether were just great fun.

  • 21% gained a topscone award. We think this is rather good but like the ordinary scones not all were equal and if we were to select our top three topscones it would be Fonab Castle, the Olympic Studios and the Dormy.

    The other 18 topscones were all excellent but not quite as good as these three. Some locations like Ackergill Tower and Ardanaiseig  were fabulous. Our most expensive scone was undoubtedly Claridges but what an experience!

  • 1% was classed as ‘foreign’. The Duke was based on information from a friend. Many thanks to our Iberian correspondent.
  • 2% was classed as ‘homemade’ since they were made by friends and not sold commercially. One, Dan’s was so good it got a topscone. The other was on Nicola Sturgeon making scones but we didn’t taste them so couldn’t give them an award, though we are sure they would have been first class.
  • 4% were classed as ‘weird’. This did not mean they were in any way bad .. they were just weird. The ‘thunder and lightning’ scone at Mother Murphy’s was memorable as was the ‘bacon and cheese’ scone at Habitat.
  • 22% were self service scones. In itself this did not make them bad but none of them made topscone, partly because it is about the whole experience and waiting in a queue is never as good as being waited on, although we have had some service which would make you wish for self service.
  • 8% were island scones … The Puffer on Easdale being the best.

    The Puffer
    The Puffer
  • 11% were English scones. Difficult to say if English scones are better than Scottish, they certainly have some odd ideas about the prioritisation of jam and cream, it might need further investigation.

A Dash of Politics: Our rants have probably got progressively more and more ranty as the year passed. Sincere apologies to all, but it makes us feel better!

Summary: All in all it has been a wonderfully enjoyable year. There are some places we won’t be rushing back to, either because they were too bad or too expensive, but the vast majority we would happily visit again .. which is great! _BIL4531Many thanks to our benefactors who have treated us to the odd scone here and there and thanks to our correspondents who have shared their scone stories with us. Thanks are also due to the places we have visited who, by and large, have enjoyed the reviews and given us lovely feedback. Will there be another ton? Don’t know, we shall see.


Café Liberty

When asked to name Britain’s poshest and most iconic shop, most people would probably say “Harrods”, and they might well be right, but we think this place would give Harrods a run for it’s money, any day. It’s maybe not as big and it’s maybe not as posh, but it’s terribly terribly British. Arthur Liberty opened the shop in 1875 selling oriental objets d’art and, perhaps most famously, it’s own printed fabrics .. later to become known as Liberty prints. Liberty 02a

It quickly became one of the most prestigious stores in London. The current Tudor style building, dates from 1924 and was constructed from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable and HMS HindustanLiberty 01It’s a Grade II listed building constructed around three light wells each with smaller rooms leading off to provide a homely feel; many of the rooms still have beautiful ornate fireplaces. When you wander round the shop you can’t help but be amazed at the eclectic range of stuff on offer, everything from Alexander McQueen’s latest fashions to ceramic egg cups and vast heaps of Persian rugs … you never know what is just around the corner. On the 2nd floor there is Café Liberty where you can have breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or even dinner. We have been here before on several occasions but had never tried the scones and since Liberty was going to have the dubious honour of being our 100th scone, it just had to be done. Café Liberty is relatively small and very busy.  Liberty 03It was pretty full when we arrived and we are sure we saw another hundred people come in and only about two leave. They don’t take reservations but somehow they, very calmly, manage to find seats for everyone from the constant stream of weary shoppers at the entrance. No one is kept waiting for any length of time and yet no-one seems to leave .. as Queen would say, it’s a kind of magic!” Like Deanston and Glamis the scones come in pairs; for just under £10 you get one fruit, one plain and a pot of tea, not cheap, but not too bad considering Liberty 04they also come beautifully warm and with all the right accoutrements .. linen napkins, nice cutlery and of course jam and cream .. and what might even be a Liberty pattern plate. They were nice and soft on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside, just the way we like them .. well done Liberty, nice to complete our first century of sconeology with a topscone award. At one time Liberty had several stores around the country but now it is just this one. This government, however, elected by a third of the voting public, is taking one big liberty with just about everything: the NHS in England, the Vow in Scotland, the Chilcot enquiry, the immigration crisis, the EU, land reform, union rights, human rights, disability rights .. we could go on. The Tories belief in austerity (trickle up economy) is mind boggling especially when you consider that they came to power in 2010 with an inherited debt of £780 billion, which they promised to reduce, and yet here we are in 2016 with a dept that now stands at £1.6 trillion and growing by the second .. what a liberty .. thank goodness Café Liberty harks back to a better more enlightened and humane past.Liberty 07

W1B 5AH          tel: 020 7734 1234             Liberty

Hugh’s Bar/Restaurant

Hugh's is first floor right
Hugh’s is first floor right

We were in Glasgow for a meeting and afterwards found ourselves here, in Hugh’s Restaurant & Champagne Bar, part of the House of Fraser department store. The store was founded by Hugh Fraser in 1849 so that’s where the name comes from. It serves a range of coffees, over a dozen champagnes but principally Mumm and Bel Époque. Now don’t be running away with the idea that we live some sort of champagne lifestyle, no, no, no! It just so happened that we were passing and, feeling a bit peckish (and a bit nosey) asked if they could do a scone .. it didn’t exactly look like a scone place, but they immediately said “yes, of course” … very welcoming. Honest … no champagne was harmed in the making of this post. The decor is, however, fairly obviously aimed at the business folk of Glasgow who do live champagne lifestyles  .. sleek, dark and sophisticated. Hugh's 03Anyway, they scooped us humble bloggers up into their arms with promises of lovely warm scones and perfect coffee .. what were we to do? It was the middle of the day and it was very quiet so they were probably more than delighted to see anyone crossing their doorstep. Hugh's 02True to their word our beautifully warm scones arrived on a slab of slate with little ceramic dishes of jam and cream … they were very good, could even have been a topscone but think they may have been baked the day before so maybe not as fresh as they could have been. Super Tuesday has just passed and it increasingly looks like Clinton and Trump are going to slug it out for the White House. Someone on social media noted that “the Americans seem to think it is an election, but it is in fact just an IQ test” .. kind of sums it up. Anyway, Hugh’s is an oasis of calm if you are suffering from retail fatigue .. try it if you get the chance, the staff are very helpful.

G1 3HL     tel: 0141 221 3880 ext 2101     Hugh’s Champagne Bar

White Peaks Café – Kew Gardens

This is our first visit to Kew Gardens which famously houses the world’s biggest collection of living plants. It quickly became evident that a few hours was never really going to do it justice .. it’s big, about 300 acres, and there’s lots to see and do; orchid collections; photographic exhibitions; tropical glasshouses; museums of botany; loads of beautiful  parkland and big adventure playgrounds for children. There are four eateries all operated by the same external  contractor and they are all different. We ended up in the White Peaks family food hall near the adventure play area … it was busy, busy, busy .. kiddies everywhere, but we had kiddies with us too so we were just adding to the general chaos.White Peaks 02‘Food hall’ is probably the correct description rather than ‘restaurant’, you certainly would not come here for a quiet cuppa .. at least not on a school holiday. If you want that The Orangery, a couple of hundred yards further on, would probably be a much better bet. Fortunately White Peaks is self-service and set up to cater for loads of people all at once and it does not take long to get served with whatever takes your fancy. Predictably our fancy was taken by the scones, not because they looked particularly appetising, but rather out of our unstinting sense of duty. As might be expected in a place like this everything is geared towards fast  food and the scones are no exception; jam and cream in little sealed plastic pots; paper plates; plastic knife … do they not know that we normally have our scones at Claridge’s .. darling? White Peaks 03This definitely was not a Claridge’s scone but then that would be like comparing apples and pears … let’s just say that this scone was okay and ideally suited to it’s environment. If the folks in London are baffled by a peculiar chortling noise drifting downwind from the north, it is probably referendum hardened Scots laughing at the 2014 pantomime of the Scottish referendum being played out again over the EU. The same predictions of impending doom if we stay in .. oh, and if we leave. Incredibly, the people who want to leave the EU are ferociously arguing that ‘we need to have control over our own affairs‘, are exactly the same people who argued so ferociously to stop that happening in Scotland .. the logic is hard to grasp. The other day Ian Duncan Smith said “I’m tired of hearing that we’re too small, too little, too inconsequential to stand alone” .. is that a wee touch of amnesia Ian, what were you saying a year ago about Scotland? No such worries on this beautiful day at Kew, at least we didn’t notice any kiddie-winks fretting about the prospects of being in .. or out .. although, they are the ones who will be affected most. Whatever the result, it will be made to work so it probably does not matter that much. Dumfries & Galloway Council have resorted to cutting a pack of cards to make decisions … maybe Westminster should do the same, it would save a lot of trouble?

TW9 3AB     tel: 020 8332 5000     Kew Gardens