You are all aware of the Bermuda Triangle – that mysterious area of ocean on the other side of the Atlantic where things simply disappear without trace. Today we are in the Crystal Palace Triangle, a relatively small area enclosed by three streets and famous for an eclectic range of vintage furniture and clothing stores, in south London. Like it’s Caribbean namesake things go missing here as well … scones, for example! It is not as if there are no cafés, there are loads of them … Venezuelan cafés, Nepalese cafés, Polish cafés, Sudanese cafés … would any of those have scones?
Just as we were about to declare the Triangle a ‘scone desert’ we came across the Living Water Satisfies or LWS Café. No idea where it gets it’s name but it is situated on the outer extremity of the Triangle where the influence is obviously weaker … and lo and behold … scones. Admittedly there was only three left and they were all the same … gruyère and chive! LWS turns out to be a charity dedicated to helping those who suffer domestic abuse so all the proceeds from the café and bookshop go towards providing shelter and comfort to abuse victims … well done them! The café itself is pretty basic but is obviously well used for functions and meetings as well as folk just dropping in for something to eat. They also make everything, including the scones, on the premises. As you know we occasionally like to live life on the edge, adrenalin and all that … and besides, this place was worthy of our tiny little bit of support … and you readers obviously need to know about such things, so gruyère and chives it was! What a surprise, what a pleasure … really cheesy and the chives just gave them a certain je ne sais quoi.For sure, they fell into the ‘weird scone’ category but definitely one of our top weird scones! Coffee was good as well. In the short time since our previous post there have been other disappearances. We think that David Cameron may have moved too close to the epicentre of the Crystal Palace Triangle because, having laid waste to the UK, the EU, Libya and even brought perfectly honourable pigs into disrepute, he has now vanished completely. He told us himself that he is “no quitter”, so the Triangle seems the most likely explanation. He will be remembered fondly … in much the same way as Tony Blair.
This fine-dining restaurant, is situated about as far out of the way as you can get .. in Portmahomack, on the tip of Tarbat peninsula in Easter Ross. Question is … is it the best restaurant in the world? Probably not, but it does make you ask the question, so its pretty special … it is certainly unique. We were fortunate to be there for the first night of the season and we had been looking forward to it with much anticipation. There is no doubt that this is fine dining .. fabulous menu specialising in seafood and almost a thousand different wines along with hundreds of whiskies and liqueurs to choose from .. and correspondingly expensive. It may only be three courses but, they provide extra palate ticklers between each dish … one was cullen skink, another was haggis neeps and tatties, another was peach sorbet topped with crowdie … all taster sized portions but fabulous. But places like this don’t do scones .. do they? No they don’t .. our excuse for writing this is pretty thin, in fact it’s embarrassingly thin.
Yes, I had the ‘seared scallop of scone’ .. because I like scallops and I like scones. So the dish was king scallops, black pudding; bacon & coral scone; airbag; garlic-sauteed samphire; partan sauce. I did not even get a picture of the scone because it was buried underneath everything else but suffice to say it was delicious. Don’t ask what the airbag was, we have no idea but it wasn’t a safety device. Obviously this could not be classed as a topscone but we do have a weird scone category so we placed it there .. top weird scone!
I can show you a picture of my pudding though .. and that’s good Talisker you can see burning away there. Susan, the owner/waitress, looked after us superbly well but don’t expect any of the usual deference you normally get in fine-dining restaurants … no standing on ceremony here, just great friendly service. All in all it was a fantastic experience, hats off to Susan for making The Oystercatcher work in rural Easter Ross, amazing!
Was it a better than Bruce’s Café at the Carnegie Hall, just round the corner .. that would be like comparing apples and pears, completely different but both wonderful. While Susan and Bruce work their socks off we don’t suppose either of their businesses will feature in the Panama Papers … but it is disturbing to learn that ownership of great swathes of Scotland are simply registered to PO boxes in Panama. Also, if you have ever wondered why people in oil rich countries like Nigeria are still poor it is because the country’s wealth is squirrelled away in Panama .. and most of it is administered through the UK by RBS and HBSC. What is being displayed in the Panama Papers is that the system is global .. and rotten, but maybe we already knew that? Nothing rotten at the Oystercatcher .. expensive but worth it.
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. 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. A 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. This 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. Apparently, 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.
Today 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. It 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! Mine, 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.
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! The 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?
We said that if we ever figured out the treacle scone days at Mother Murphy’s Tearoom, you would be the first to hear .. and we are nothing if not true to our word. You will remember from the first blog, the reason treacle scone days are important is because on these days you can get a ‘thunder and lightning’ scone? You will also remember that there was something of a tricky problem … it was impossible to tell when these days would occur … it seemed to depend on some sort of devine intervention and, of course, there is no foretelling that sort of thing. Well, let me tell you about one of the perks of being scone bloggers, you sometimes get inside information … call it divine intervention if you wish! Pat has just told me that it is the only perk, I stand corrected. Anyway, this morning on FaceBook, we got a wee message, “today is a treacle scone day!”. And so it was that we ended up in this little tearoom for the second time in a week with a somewhat heightened sense of anticipation. After a short wait (sure they did it just to get our juices flowing) it duly appeared. There is little point in me describing a ‘thunder and lightning’ scone .. hopefully the picture says it all .. a veritable extravaganza of treacle, cream and icing sugar. Scoffing could get a bit messy if it was not for the fact that it comes complete with a dedicated ‘thunder and lightning’ scone scoffing kit – a knife and fork. The top picture hopefully describes adequately how good it was .. devine even! The other day, in Aberfeldy, we had a ‘cheese and bacon‘ scone which was also delicious so perhaps we need to introduce a new ‘weird scone’ category .. this one definitely qualifies. Ordinary mortals, however, will just have to figure out for themselves which are treacle scone days .. good luck!
You tend to think that every cafe/restaurant will have some sort of scone with which to provide the honest traveller a bit of sustenance … not so, or at least not in Aberfeldy. We tried the Watermill first to no avail, then the Croft and both just shook their heads. The Croft is more of a restaurant so may be it is excusable there but we found it very disappointing that the Watermill, which otherwise has a great café could not cater to this simple request. Not to worry, we headed to the Habitat Café in the Square and not only were we successful but were treated to a first time experience .. a cheese and bacon scone! Now we have tasted a lot of scones but ‘cheese and bacon’ has never been one of them. As it turned out they do a different scone every day and it just so happened that today was the day for cheese and bacon. It has to be said that some trepidation was involved in our approach to this scone but were encouraged when it turned up with just some butter .. no jam and cream ..phew! Needless to say, as cheese and bacon scones go, this was definitely the best we had tasted but, more than that, it was one of the best scones we had tasted anywhere and easily gets our topscone award for its light fluffy texture and sheer ludicrous inventiveness. Bet the migrants waiting to cross the Channel have never tasted a cheese and bacon scone either .. do you think that is why they are trying so desperately? The media would have us believe that they all want to come to the UK because the UK is such a fantastic, wonderful, elysian paradise .. nothing could be further from the truth! Only a tiny minority thinks the UK is worth a try and usually because they already speak English or have family here. The vast majority want to settle elsewhere in Europe because they have never heard of Aberfeldy, The Habitat Café and its scones .. sad!