Café Jaques

After our last visit to the Edinburgh Festival where we visited the very french La Barantine boulangerie, we are back – and this time we are in Café Jaques which is just along the street from Petit Paris … have the French invaded, are we really leaving the EU? Petit Paris at the Edinburgh International FestivalWith every day that passes we look more and more continental. Al fresco dining at the Edinburgh International FestivalLots of al fresco dining.Street performance at the Edinburgh International FestivalNo idea what’s going on here – it was completely silent for us but they were having a brilliant time with their headphones. The EU certainly seems to have come to Edinburgh … but maybe the photo below gives a clue as to why we have Brexit … oh no, she’s American!SMUT in the Grassmarket at Edinburgh International FestivalAfter dithering over “Abrupt Erotica” we felt the need for a calming scone and it just so happened that it was Café Jaques that came to the rescue … phew! Not that we escaped completely, there was a bunch of  Festival folk sitting outside the window having a great time you just can’t escape the happiness of Edinburgh at this time of year … maybe they had all been to “Smut While U Wait“?Happy festival goers at Café Jaques in the Grassmarket, EdinburghBut lets be serious for a second, we came in here to get away from all the nonsense and for a bit of sensible sconing … even though it was going to be French yet again! Internal view of Café Jaques in the Grassmarket, EdinburghBy comparison with the shenanigans going on outside this place was a little oasis of peace and tranquility. They only had fairly large fruit scones so we decided to share one. This time, would you believe it the coffee was Italian … you would think that in Café Jaques they would at least have French coffee. Not only that, when our scone arrived it was presented already halved through the middle with its insides exposed to the elements … has the world gone completely mad? A scone at Café Jaques in the Grassmarket, EdinburghWe had to reassemble it so that you could see it as it in its unmutilated state. Not to worry this was a very reasonable scone and a good attempt for someone French … they’ll get the hang of it eventually. Touching Greyfriar Bobby's noseElsewhere in the city people were queuing up to touch Greyfriars Bobby’s nose in spite of a huge campaign to stop it from being worn away.  Self evidently the campaign was not working so why not put a collection box there so that you have to make a contribution if you want your wish to come true … that way they could have a brand new statue ever year. Anyway, Edinburgh on this visit looked fantastic and very continental … lets hope the Scottish government can miraculously find a way to keep us in the EU, after all that’s what Scotland voted for … sorry keep forgetting, it doesn’t matter what we vote for in Scotland! Vive le Festival d’Édimbourg!

EH1 2JU    tel: 0131 220 5358       Café Jaques TA

La Barantine

So here we are in France at a nice little boulangerie/patiserrie! Okay, okay, after the last two posts from our home town we thought we should try and give the impression that we have become a little more outward looking … well we have actually but only as far as Edinburgh!  SMUT in the Grassmarket at Edinburgh International FestivalThe Edinburgh International Festival was in full swing … absolutely thousands of people all over the place. Just trying to walk down the Royal Mile becomes a tactical nightmare dodging the performers, leaflet distributors and tourists. There were also clues that the Fringe Festival was alive and well … we met ‘Sven from Sweden‘ who had a sizeable crowd enthralled with his antics. The climax of Sven’s performance was to surmount an unsteady pile of IKEA furniture with an IKEA microwave on top, remove a plate of IKEA Swedish meatballs from the microwave, then spin the plate of meatballs on his head while juggling with three IKEA toilet roll holders complete with toilet rolls. You simply do not get cultural insights like this every day … Sweden seems like a fun place! Contending with the milling hordes soon take its toll however so it was not long before we were in need of some refreshment and, having done Sweden, the next in line was France in the form of La Barantine in Victoria Street. Amazingly it was almost empty when we went in and we could have chosen from virtually any seat. It did not last however, a few minutes later it was very busy indeed … just like everywhere else! You had to place your order at the counter and, oddly for this city where almost all counter staff are from eastern europe, in La Barantine they actually seemed to be from France … promising! They had scones but only blueberry and raspberry … not so promising! A raspberry and blueberry scone at La Barantine patisserie, EdinburghWhen they arrived at our table they looked ‘interesting’, served on a rustic piece of slate with actual Scottish butter … it seems you have to come to a French café to get Scottish produce … good for them! We wondered if we would manage the Union coffee, however, without gagging. As it happened it was all very good. The scone was not as heavy as it looked … it was very moist but light at the same time and had obviously been freshly prepared. We swithered long and hard about whether these were topscones but in the end we felt they were just a tad ‘odd’ for such a prestigious award … pity!Internal view of La Barantine patisserie, EdinburghAfter convincing ourselves that the “Union Hand Roasted Coffee” referred to the EU rather than the UK, it was fine as well – the name actually refers to a union between the roasters and their Guatemalan farmers … so that’s good. Even though Edinburgh is completely bonkers in August it is also great fun and a great advertisement for Scotland. In spite of the multitude of people of all sorts of nationalities we don’t think there has even been the slightest hint of trouble in the entire month. We were just wondering what the chances were of meeting some Scottish folk when suddenly three emerged from the crowd … but they were imposters from Italy … vive le EU!Three 'Scotsmen' at the Edinburgh International FestivalEH1 2JP    tel: 0131 226 4927       La Barantine

Riggs Coffee House

Coffee cup at the Riggs Coffee House, FalkirkCall us boring, call us unadventurous if you like … our previous post on Sorochas was from Falkirk and here we are again posting from Falkirk. We can explain … we haven’t been anywhere else! So … continuing with our boring unadventurous lives we ventured once again into the nether regions of the town, this time to Riggs Coffee House, which until a month or so ago, was Forth Valley Butchers. Advert at the Riggs Coffee House, FalkirkIt’s hard to keep up with our ever-changing high street as yet another coffee house replaces a traditional business. The burning question, of course, was … would this newcomer have scones? Riggs specialises in Italian coffee and makes quite a song and dance about it – the advertising appears everywhere. It is difficult to understand the thinking behind putting a picture of a young, presumably Italian, stud lying on a beach with a beautiful girl and a Vespa, in front of people in Falkirk on a wet windy Wednesday afternoon. A tad annoying … especially when you’ve always wanted a Vespa … got the beautiful girl already! Doubly annoying when there’s great local coffee, made and sold here in Falkirk, in the form of the Cat’s Pyjamas … why don’t they make a song and dance about that, it’s very goodThere is a problem though – what sort of equivalent picture could be used to advertise Scottish coffee?? Tricky one … suggestions welcome. Anyway Riggs is on the corner of the High Street and Lint Riggs (fields of flax) which used to be the centre of the linen industry in the town. The flax (lint) was prepared here before making its way a few hundred yards to Woo’er (weaver) Street to be made into garments. All that is long gone now and in 1903 the state of the street was considered to be so poor that it was demolished in its entirety and a new Lint Riggs (the one you see to the right of the header picture) was built. Interior view of the Riggs Coffee House, FalkirkRiggs Coffee House is tastefully done up but when we entered the chap behind the counter looked as if his entire staff had just phoned in sick … not a happy chappie! He did have scones though! Apparently he had not intended to stock such unitalian items but a lady came in one day and offered to supply him … the resultant trial period had  scones flying off the shelf so now they are a permanent feature … one up for the scones! A scone at the Riggs Coffee House, FalkirkThere was a choice of plain, fruit or treacle and we opted for fruit. They were very good, nice texture, plenty fruit and they went very well with the much vaunted Italian coffee which, in spite of not being quite “the cat’s pyjamas”, we had to admit was very good. In fact, with the exception of the scone, nothing we had here; jam, butter, coffee, came from Scotland … shame! In the end this was not quite a topscone … good effort though, well done that entrepreneurial lady. Oh, by the time we were leaving your man’s demeanor seemed to have improved dramatically so we wish him and his venture every success.

FK1 1EY        tel: 01324 627028       Riggs Coffee House FB

One of our correspondents, fondly known as “The Pedant” has been in touch to say he came across a K6 (Kirkintilloch variety) at the Henry Moore Collections in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. Don’t worry the telegraph pole sticking out of the roof is not a new design feature.A K6 at the Henry Moore Collection in Much HadhamMuch Hadham sounds like the sort of place that the EU should be conducting its Brexit negotiations. Last year, the oil company Shell, which operates in 70 different countries, paid tax in all of them e.g. it paid the Norwegian government £4.3 billion to add to its £1trillion Wealth Fund. Our brilliant negotiators here in Britain ended up paying Shell £187 million so presumably Shell must operate out of Much Hadham as well.

A K2 telephone box in London
A London K2

How come, with all the hundreds of billions of oil money that has rolled in over the past thirty years the UK, in stark contrast to Norway, has simply acquired massive debts … where did it all go? While you write your answers on a postcard can we make a plea for some Norwegian negotiators to come over and help us with the Brexit talks. Still on the subject of telephone boxes, our ever adventurous Trossachs correspondents have sent a photograph of a rarely seen K2 on a recent visit to London. Don’t know precisely where it was manufactured but was most likely, Kirkintilloch. We will endeavour to be more adventurous in future – we must be running out of new cafés in Falkirk anyway … musn’t we?




Although this place has been around in Falkirk for quite some time we, for some reason, have never before crossed the threshold. For a while we thought it was yet another charity shop … like the Soroptimists or something? So, perhaps it was the name, perhaps it was the somewhat uninspiring interior … whatever, we have always just passed by. Today though, partly because we were parked directly opposite, we decided that we should try it out. It turned out to be a mixture of disappointments and surprises. Interior view of Sorochas Coffee Shop, FalkirkThe biggest disappointment is the general ambience of the place … there isn’t any! Sometimes we wish the owners of independent coffee shops like this would visit some of their multinational competitors … there’s a Caffe Nero, and a Costa just a stones throw away and they didn’t become multinationals by not paying attention to detail. Places like this can learn much from them about service and presentation. Not that there was anything wrong with the service .. if anything it was a bit over friendly. So the general look of the place was the disappointment but the big surprise was the scones. There was a selection of plain, fruit or treacle all made by Agnes earlier in the day. We decided on fruit for both of us … they were delicious. So light that we struggled to keep them from floating away … slight exaggeration! In our family, if a piece of baking had turned out too heavy and solid it was described as “doesn’t need pegging down”, well these scones did! Well done Agnes, in spite of all the inadequacies in this place we felt we had no choice but to award a topscone … cause for celebration! In case you were wondering … Sorochas is owned by a lady called Sarah and the coffee shop takes its name from the Gaelic equivalent.

Another cause for celebration?? Apparently, the UK now has a two new ginormous aircraft carriers with which we can go around the world bullying everyone who does not have ginormous aircraft carriers … this also involves pretending that the UK is some sort of powerful nation instead of just a puppet of the US.  Anyway, how else would you deal with an enemy wearing flipflops? Oops, forgot about all our Trident nuclear missiles!

Following the revelations in the last post about the introduction of scones to Austria we got a note from our Maryland correspondents in the US who were introduced to scones in Scotland back in June. Back home in Maryland, of course, they are dangerously close to the impending armageddon referred to in our last post so they have been  baking lots of shortbread and scones in an attempt to spread their civilising influence as far as the White House. We wish them all the luck in the world. They also asked if there were any songs about scones. Well there are … you can view one attempt by clicking here. If anyone out there can do better, please let us know … how hard can it be? There are also organisations that bring people together using the power of songs and scones … fantastic! In the meantime in the unlikely event of the scones failing to at least delay armageddon, our correspondents can find sanctuary in Scotland anytime.

FK1 1PL      tel: 01324 227610        Sorocha’s Coffee Shop TA


It was way back in January that we got a tip-off about the scones at Dobbies Garden Centre just outside Stirling.

January, afternoon tea with two Dobbies scones

Our ever diligent Trossachs correspondents had bought some to take home only to find that they had been given some extra ones free. This was more than they could handle on their own, so they passed on a couple to us and we ate them as part of an afternoon tea we were having with some neighbours. At the time we thought they were rather good, if a little bit oversized … we had to split them up to make them more manageable for our guests. Since then, we have been promising ourselves that we would visit Dobbies and do a proper review … seven months later, today is the day.

Internal view of the restaurant at Dobbies Garden Centre, Stirling
Just part of Dobbies’ restaurant

The garden centre is big and they have a restaurant to match. It is a little bit surprising to come in and find so many people out shopping and then to find a large restaurant which is equally busy. The servery area is also big and, rather than wait in a long queue we opted to go to the automated self service part. There is normally some sort of problem with these vending machines … and so it was, however the problem was not so much with the machine as with the operators.

Automatic coffee vending equipment at Dobbies Garden Centre, Stirling
Coffee machine about half way through delivering and it cannot be stopped

Basically, from the large array of cups, all of which looked identical to us, we selected what turned out to be a tea cup and of course it was far too small for the quantity of coffee being delivered … a kind of Niagara situation ensued. We were a bit bemused by this until we noticed that there were similar but slightly larger ‘coffee’ cups … trauma over. We had opted to share a cherry and coconut scone because they were all so large and also we hadn’t actually tasted that particular combination before. Perhaps we should have stuck to what we know because we found this combo somewhat insipid … the tiny pieces of cherry were relatively few and far between and the coconut, although there, did not feature strongly enough. The scone itself was fine though, still too big for our taste … no topscone here but maybe the prize for the biggest.

The problem with Westminster and Holyrood being on holiday is that there is nothing much to report – witness the BBC’s interminable coverage of athletics. But wait a minute, apparently the end of the world has just got a whole lot nigher … we should report that in case any sconeys get caught unaware. With the great big ‘Goliath’ madman in Washington threatening unimaginable fire and brimstone against the wee ‘David’ madman in Pyongyang who likes dressing up like Ruth Davidson, there may not be much time left. The big question, of course, is … will Scotland manage to become an ordinary self respecting  country before armageddon? The man in the know, Alex Salmond is predicting 4 years for independence but that may be too late. However, with HMRC admitting that Scotland’s economy is actually £15b bigger than they had reported … oops, and the latest figures showing that England ran a massive trade deficit in 2014 and 2015 whereas Scotland had an even greater surplus in those years, perhaps we can just squeeze in a wee bit of self respect before we are all blown to smithereens. How to avoid complete annihilation? We think that Trump and Kim Jong should sit down together over afternoon tea … the civilising influence of a good scone cannot be overestimated and the size of the Dobbies’ scones should almost match their egos!

FK9 4UF     tel: 01786 458860     Dobbies Garden Centre

BREAKING NEWS: Our Tyrolean correspondents have lodged a report on what could possibly be the first ever scones to be baked in Austria … you heard it here first! They were in Scotland for a few days and became so obsessed with scones that when they returned home they baked some of their own ‘Austrian scones’. First scones to be baked in AustriaThey look good and by all accounts were good. No information on whether Austrians go jam or cream first but together, dear readers, we are taking scones to the world … and the world will be a better place! Many thanks C and M.

200 scones

It was in March 2016 that we posted “A Ton of Scones” to commemorate that extraordinary feat of human endeavour … not quite on the same level as Ernest Shackleton and David Livingstone perhaps, but hey! We analysed how many scones had been categorised and offered some profound observations on the future of sconology. Well that was then and this is now. Just over a year later and yet another ton of scones have bitten the dust in the name of research and enlightenment. To celebrate, we thought we would bring you a slightly different scone … not one that you can simply go out and buy or sample for yourself but rather one (or two) that were specially baked for us … no one else, just us! Who would do such a thing we hear you ask?  A thirteen year old lass and fellow scone enthusiast from Connecticut is the answer … over here on a visit with her family. Apricot and Pear scones baked by Leah Sepples She baked us a single apricot scone and a single pear scone, and presented them both beautifully. Any slight apprehensions we might have had were quickly banished as we began to eat … they were truly excellent, wonderfully soft and absolutely delicious … definitely worthy of a topscone award. It seems only fitting that we dedicate this 200th scone to her and all the other youngsters who bake … we hope it is they, rather than the meek, who inherit the earth. There may be hope for the US after all if they can produce more Connecticutters like this! The motto of Connecticut is “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” which translates as “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains” … a bit odd but curiously appropriate for someone who has come all the way over here to do some special baking. Many thanks LS, a very much appreciated treat.

As always, we owe much to our global correspondents for keeping us abreast of scone activity, or lack of it, in parts of the world that we cannot reach. We try our best but we simply can’t be everywhere! Postcard of a K6 telephone box on IslayLately, readers may also have noticed a slight tangential drift from purist scone reports into a dalliance with red telephone boxes. One of our correspondents, sometimes simply referred to as ‘The Laird’, has a wandering brief and recently he took time out to send us a card from Islay. The card featured a pictorial K6 and a scone report from the coffee shop in Ardbeg distillery. Apparently the scone was decidedly below par and would have been totally dismal had it not been for some of Arbeg’s other products which, it is reported, went a long way towards alleviating the deep disappointment.

Thanks to all, here’s to the next 100!