Life, after the result of the EU referendum, seems somehow surreal. To make matters worse, in escaping from a boiling hot auction house in Edinburgh, we find ourselves here in what is, for us, almost some sort of parallel universe .. a vegan restaurant … Henderson’s, to be precise. Hendersons 03Now, we are the sort of people who will eat pretty much anything without thinking too much about it .. and thoroughly enjoy it. So coming face to face with a vegan scone made us realise that our understanding of veganism was somewhat sketchy. Google to the rescue!! Apologies to those who already know, but the Vegan Society definition is “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” Great, all very laudable so long as they understand that that approach is a luxury afforded to them by modern day living where supermarkets provide a ridiculous variety and range of just about everything. Hendersons 02If they had to apply that principle in ‘Scotland of old’ their state of health would be best described as ‘dead’. Anyway, apart from all that, this is a nice place with very friendly staff. Our one regret is that we chickened out on the vegan scone and opted for a cheese one .. our duty as sconeys should have been to try the vegan variety and report back to you, the reader … a mistake, one we will rectify in due course. This place was started in 1962 by Janet Henderson to provide an outlet for produce from her East Lothian farm. It is still owned by the Henderson family and has expanded over the years. Hendersons 06We were in the ‘Salad Table’ on the corner of Hanover and Thistle Street but there is also a dedicated Vegan restaurant at the opposite end of the block (joined by an underground tunnel) and a shop/deli in the basement. Our cheese scone was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close. The coffee was excellent and, in keeping with their health philosophy, water is supplied with everything. Maybe it is just our prejudice coming to the fore but it seemed to us that most of the people coming and going, including the staff, just needed a good square meal to cheer them up.Hendersons 04 Back to the real world … ah yes, everything is broken … the EU, the UK, the markets. To try and solve a rift within the Tory party, Cameron gambled big time on ‘remain’ winning. They didn’t and now he has crawled off under a stone and left the resultant mess for others to clear up. The ‘Leave’ campaign obviously did not expect to win since they have no strategy whatsoever for the way forward. The Labour party, useless as ever! The EU does have a strategy though … they want rid of us as soon as possible and who could blame them, the UK has always been a shabby member of the EU. After we leave, vegans will probably thrive on the diet of baked beans we will all be on … maybe we should all think about converting?

EH2 1DR          tel: 0131 225 2131            Hendersons

Patisserie Madeleine

On a momentous and sad day for the UK, which is obviously not at all ‘united’ we though we should break with tradition. We are posting this as a tiny little reminder of what was great about the EU. A small Parisian patisserie and espresso bar in beautiful Stockbridge, Edinburgh, run by lovely French folk and producing wonderful food that you cannot get anywhere else. They don’t do scones but ‘vive la difference‘!

EH4 1HU      tel: 0131 332 8455        Patisserie Madeleine

Scotland, having decisively voted to remain in the EU, has once again to bow to England and a bunch of numpties who want to leave. Bad enough for the UK but it could also herald the breakup of the entire EU. Scotland cannot continue like this, it needs to do something to take control of it’s affair. Perhaps it is worthwhile reminding folks that the UK is not a country, rather it is a state made up of two equal and independent sovereign countries, England and Scotland. The same does not apply to Wales, being a Principality and N.Ireland, being a Province … neither are mentioned in the treaties that brought about the UK. Oddly, in 2016, for us north of the border, the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, still applies and perhaps has become more apt than ever. ‘Yet if he (Bruce) should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.’

Harvey Nichols

Absolutely fabulous, darling! It’s not everyday we are in Harvey Nicks … it is more the domain of those who seek a decadent champagne lifestyle and that description could never be leveled at us?? We do, however, feel a certain obligation  on behalf of our readers, to explore every avenue and if you are looking for a ‘fabulous’ scone this would seem like an obvious avenue to try .. and the rain had just come on so we had to find shelter … that’s our story and we’re sticking to it!  Expectations were pretty high, they have had 185 years since the business started on a corner in Knightsbridge, London, to get their scones right.

The Brasserie looking out towards the castle
The Brasserie looking out towards the castle

It’s not easy though, to get to a scone you have to go all the way to the top floor through masses of ridiculously priced goods on the way up … easy for me but a nightmare for Pat. Having said that, there was a ‘50% SALE’ throughout the store which thankfully had the effect of reducing prices to merely ‘extortionate’. Eventually you reach the Forth Floor Restaurant … on the 4th floor with views over the river … you can see what they have done there .. dashed clever those posh folk!

Part of the Terrace with the river Forth and the Kingdom of Fife in the far distance
Part of the Terrace with the river Forth and the Kingdom of Fife in the far distance

There are several eateries on this level including a YO! Sushi where you can eat raw fish off one one of those carousel conveyor belt thingys.  What is really interesting though, is another carousel called the Chocolate Lounge which does exactly the same .. but with cakes … aaarrgghh … how dangerous is that? Just as well there were no seats available.

Melville monument and St Andrews Square with the castle in the background
Melville monument and St Andrews Square with the castle in the background

We headed for the Brasserie where, even although it was raining, we were able to sit on the Terrace with great views over the city. No ‘50% Sale’ on scones but it turns out that it is one of these places where the scones come in twos, so it is a kind of 50% deal. HN 04We were informed they came as a brace because they were ‘quite small’ but when they arrived with their accompanying little pots of jam and clotted cream they were actually quite big. At £4 we thought this was pretty good value … especially here! At Harvey Nicks they don’t bother with parts of £s, everything is either £3, £4, £5 and so on … keeps things simple … but when it comes to paying the bill, they add on an automatic service charge … boo! Anyway, the scones were actually rather fabulous … soft fluffy and sweet on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside, just how we like them. Service was friendly and the excellent coffee came with a round of crisp shortbread. There really wasn’t anything not to like … topscone, darling! HN 09With only a day left until the EU referendum, things are reaching fever pitch … will we be in or out? We think the Ab Fab pair Edina and Patsy would be ‘outers’ while the sensible daughter, Saffron, would be ‘in’. Whatever happens we will end up like Australia … ‘in’ as in Eurovision or ‘out’, as in reality, and the result will be ‘absolutely fabulous’ for roughly half the population!

EH2 2AD    tel: 0131 524 8350      Harvey Nichols dining

The Pier Tearoom

The writing was on the wall from the start. When James Graham, Marquess of Montrose was promoted to Duke as reward for his support in bringing about the Act of Union in 1707, he was never going to be best buddies with Scotland’s Robin Hood, Rob Roy MacGregor. When the Duke, no doubt flushed with his new found importance, confiscated the MacGregor lands, that really put the tin lid on their relationship.

Factor's island, Stronachlachar
Factor’s island, Stronachlachar

In an act of retaliation, Rob Roy imprisoned Montrose’s factor (rent collector) on an island on Loch Katrine and to this day it is still known as Factor’s island. Rob Roy was born at Glengyle, just a short distance away.

View from the pier
View from Stronachlachar

As if to punish the Factor further, the island is less than a 100 meters from this great wee tearoom with a glass conservatory, so he would have had to sit alone and hungry on his island watching folk tucking into cakes, scones and all sorts of other goodies … absolutely no mercy! Stronachlachar 08We were here to meet with our intrepid Trossachs correspondents who, readers will remember, were recently reporting from Gibraltar. What better place for a debriefing session than here at Stronachlachar, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. The steamship Sir Walter Scott usually docks here but on this occasion the much smaller Lady of The Lake came into the pier and disgorged her cargo of happy walkers and cyclists. The tearoom has everything you would want; free wifi; fine coffee; fine wine; home made cakes … and scones, but not homemade?? Stronachlachar 11Why, when they make their own cakes, they don’t make their own scones, we have no idea. In the middle of an intense discussion on modern trends in sconology, we received our scones, nicely presented with lots of jam and cream. They were enjoyable enough though the overall feeling was that the bicarbonate had been overdone, leaving a slight aftertaste. Stronachlachar 07No topscone unfortunately but this is still a great tearoom in a great setting and, if you go, you will enjoy it, though hopefully the use of this old phone box will not be necessary! Loch Katrine, of course, has been the water supply for the city of Glasgow since the 1850s, a phenomenal feat of engineering and far-sightedness with the water flowing 35 miles into the city and only dropping 10 inches in every mile. Do we have similarly far-sighted politicians today? We fear not. Modern day neo-liberalism means that the ones in power cannot see much further than the end of their noses! Musn’t speak too ill of them however, as the debacle over the EU referendum has been interrupted by the tragic murder of Labour’s Jo Cox … it’s very much a time for sympathy and solidarity.

FK8 3TY          tel: 01877 386 374          The Pier Tearoom

ps On our journey home we unexpectedly stumbled upon this .. the Trossachs distillery … fantastic. Only opened two weeks previously, we thought we should at least give it a mention. Brainchild of the affable Dale McQueen, it produces gin in a variety of flavours using a unique distillation method … and even puts it in nice, dark blue ceramic bottles. The gin market is ‘busy busy’ at the moment so we hope Dale gets a favourable wind for his venture. Online shop at the link below … we chose the ‘sweet citrus’ and the ‘mocha’ and the … noooo we didn’t buy them all … but we might go back for the others!Trossachs distillery 03bFK17 8LR        tel:07968 063125            Trossachs Distillery

The Butterfly & The Pig

tearooms3In what now seems like another life, we actually used to work for a living, much of it in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. In 1896 the Infirmary was the first in the world to have an operational X-Ray department and that was down to a chap called John Macintyre who leapt on Röntgen’s invention, just a few days after it was announced, and put it to practical use for the benefit of the people of Glasgow … he even produced the world’s first X-Ray movie of a moving frog’s leg.B&P 03 We mention this simply because he lived almost next door to where we are today at The Butterfly & The Pig Tearoom in Bath Street. As well as being a bit of a clever clogs Macintyre was a well known bon-viveur, famously throwing soirées for the likes of Dame Nellie Melba, Paderewski, Thomas Edison, Joseph Conrad to name but a few, and when you walk into The Butterfly & The Pig, you get the feeling that, if he were here today, he would feel instantly at home in it’s quiet, comfortable atmosphere. Recently we have been avoiding Glasgow because of the disruption caused by the electrification of the Edinburgh/Glasgow railway line but, being unable to throw off some of the doctors we used to do work for, we were in town for a little business … and a scone seemed like an obvious optional extra. We loved this place! It has a large restaurant/bar downstairs, a drawing room upstairs, but we were here in the tearoom on the ground floor. B&P 07
We were made to feel very welcome by two girls who genuinely seemed to be happy at their work .. wonderful! There was a choice of, plain, fruit, apple and cinnamon, or berry scones … Pat opted for fruit and I for berry. While we waited, an afternoon tea was delivered to the next table and it looked fabulous, they certainly don’t hang about with their portions here, it was very much on the generous side. B&P 05Our tea and scones came nicely presented and the scones … also of generous proportions, were fab. Even the berry one was beautifully light and fresh.  B&P 08Little touches like the red currant berries with the cream, the mixed and matched china, the embroidered tablecloth, make all the difference and combine to create a really nice experience. Great selection of home made cakes as well. Anyway it was good to be back in Glasgow and doubly good to find this place … we may even come back for dinner sometime. We cannot quite make up our minds but watching the contortions both sides are going through in the run up to the EU referendum … is it sad or comical? We are sure most folk are completely befuddled. Scotland is well used to it, hence there is not nearly so much excitement up here as there is down south … we have seen all the antics and heard all the lies before … quite recently in fact … but, of course, we had Macintyre to help us see through it all .. get it? B&P 04Like most of Scotland we are probably ‘remainers’ though it is a knife edge decision. The very fact that Cameron, who just a few months ago, was threatening to take us out of the dastardly EU, is now telling us how calamitous that course of action would be, almost makes you want to vote ‘leave’. According to the brexiters, of course, we are supposed to vote ‘leave’ so that we can have our democracy back. Never mind all the Scottish Lib Dem MPs who were seen as unfit to be MPs by the voting public at the last general election and voted out of office … and are now sitting in the House of Lords, still ruling over us. If that is UK democracy then we may as well just have the crappy EU version. We think that David Cameron would like it here, by all accounts he has a fondness for pigs and judging by his flighty stance on the EU he may like butterflies as well. Whatever happens it won’t make a whole lot of difference and there is always this oasis of calm to retreat to for a topscone.

G2 4SQ      tel: 0141 243 2459       The Butterfly & The Pig Tearooms

Aragon Bar – Gibraltar

Every now and again, particularly if our flow of scone posts slows down a bit, we get a communiqué from one of our foreign correspondents. In this case the ‘foreign’ may be something of a misnomer since they are better know to all as our ‘Trossachs correspondents’. Needless to say, all our correspondents have a roving brief and here we find them straying far far away from Loch Ard, visiting one of the last vestiges of the Great British Empire … Gibraltar. This is their story. Gibralter 04As most of you probably know, this ape covered Rock on the southernmost tip of Spain is more British than Britain, so after circumventing the Winston Churchill car park, passing by Morrisons, M&S and Costa Coffee, enveloped in the all pervading smell of ‘English’ fish & chips … then … as if to complete the picture, our intrepid travelers came on this startling sign. It pointed them up a steep hill to the Aragon, a ‘typical’ English pub … and we all know that no self respecting English pub would be without it’s scones.  Gibralter 01After their uphill travails they were very much looking forward to some refreshment however the picture of Catherine of Aragon on the menu should have been a warning … unbeknown to them she had already had a scone. If we can quote directly from the report “poor old Catherine’s face says it all!! Losing her first husband and then marrying his wee brother who chucked her for Anne Boleyn she now has, as a testament,Gibralter 800x800 an establishment that sells hot doughy scones with synthetic cream and a carton of rather insipid jam.” … nuff said. The scone disappointment did not deter our reporters from digging into the background of Gibraltar and it’s weird British outpost status. Apparently it is the 3rd richest territory on the planet with a per capita income of €53,000 and an unemployment rate of less than 2%. In contrast, the neighbouring province of Cadiz has a per capita income of less than €7,000 and unemployment of 40%. A third of the Rock’s income comes from tobacco sales and a further 25% from on-line gaming. Gibraltar is also an important financial centre with over 70,000 registered companies. What are the chances of most of them being registered there for reasons of tax avoidance … answers on a post card. We now fully understand why eurosceptic, Liam Fox, was stressing the importance of Britain maintaining sovereignty over Gibraltar in the event of his desired Brexit.

is that Bojo?
is that Bojo?

So there you have it … will the sun ever set on this last bastion of the Empire … and just when you thought Catherine had more than enough problems, she will now, forever, be associated with awful scones as well. Many thanks to our reporters … where next?

GX11 1AA        tel: 35020078855        The Aragon Bar TA