Tag Archives: Buchanan Street

Wild Olive Tree Café

If you can’t see anything resembling a café in the above picture that’s because it’s hidden within the St George’s Tron Church, the rather large pointy building sitting centre stage. The Church of Scotland opened it in 1808 and it’s still going strong today. We had heard a rumour about this church. The rumour could have been about all the fantastic work they do in conjunction with the Glasgow City Mission and the Bethany Christian Trust to help the most vulnerable people in Glasgow … as explained to us at some length by ‘big Andy’, a lovely bloke who seems to take care of everything here. The rumour could also have been about their ‘gifted soup/coffee’ scheme whereby you can buy an extra coffee or soup which they then offer to people who can’t afford them. The rumour might even have been about their green credentials or the fact that all their bread comes from the Freedom Bakery in Low Moss prison but no, it wasn’t any of those. Would you adam & eve it, it was about scones! We had heard from a very well respected source that their scones were worthy of inspection … and that’s what drew us in here … yes, we are are actually that shallow! Recently the congregation and the Church of Scotland spent over £3m refurbishing the whole building and The Wild Olive Tree Café came about as part of that redevelopment. Internal view of St George's Tron Church and the Wild Olive Tree Café in GlasgowIt is intended to provide a place of quiet sanctuary away from the hustle, bustle and general madness going on just outside the door in Buchanan Street, Scotland’s busiest shopping street. In here, the almost serene atmosphere, seems like another world. The café specialises in soup, scones and cakes … what more would you want? As for scones there was a choice of:

  • Spiced Sultana
  • Apricot Date & Vanilla
  • Cheddar & Sunflower seed
  • Goats Cheese & Caramelised Onion … wow, and all freshly baked!

I opted for the the spiced sultana and Pat went for the cheddar and sunflower seed … both were wonderful. Scones at the Wild Olive Tree Café in St George's Tron Church, GlasgowMine had a lovely crunchiness on the outside and deliciously spiced on the inside … never before tasted a scone like it! Pat’s was beautifully cheesy with a lovely crunch courtesy of the sunflower seeds. There wasn’t anything not to like about the whole experience … nice surroundings, friendly service, good presentation and fantastic scones … even my drink was Dear Green Coffee, roasted right here in the beating heart of Glasgow … excellent! These were definitely the best scones we have had in ages .. no problem awarding a topscone here. It many ways this place reminded us of our recent visit to the Glasgow Gurdwara where our Sikh friends were also doing lots of good work with the needy. The only problem with both this place and the Gurdwara is that they are required at all in this day and age. Britain is one of the richest oil producing countries in the world yet there are still thousands of people in Glasgow and every other major city who are on the breadline … how come? The lowest state pension of any developed country in the world doesn’t help … lots of old folk living in poverty and hopelessness.

Painting of the Last Supper by I.D. Campbell at St George's Tron Church and the Wild Olive Tree Café in Glasgow
The Last Supper using guests at the Glasgow City Mission as models

This eight foot long painting hangs in the café and kind of encapsulates the situation. It is a depiction, by the artist-in-residence Iain Campbell, of the Last Supper featuring Jesus among men who have fallen on hard times.  We have seen the original Last Supper by Da Vinci in Milan but this version seems much more powerful … sorry Leonardo! At the supper Jesus said “remember me” but somehow all these men seem totally forgotten. Jesus is one of them … you pick! Meanwhile our wonderful government can still spend billions on weapons of mass destruction and, at this very moment, are actively contemplating going to war with Syria? Trump and May haven’t had a war yet so it’s probably to be expected. On whose behalf would they go to war … certainly not these guys, they’ve got much more immediate things to worry about!

Internal view of St George's Tron Church and the Wild Olive Tree Café in Glasgow
the Wild Olive Tree … pruned to within an inch of its life
G1 2JX            tel: 0141 248 2049           Wild Olive Tree Café
ps: To be or not to be … the Pedant has sent us a picture of a brace of K6 telephone boxes in Stratford upon Avon. The question is, are they protecting that wastepaper bin or are they taking it into custody?Two K6 telephoe boxes in Stratford-upon-Avon

The Willow Tea Rooms

Kate in 1903
Kate in 1903

Many people, especially Glasgow people,  will be aware of Kate Cranston’s name and know that she was the owner and driving force behind the famous Willow Tea Rooms which opened in 1903 at 217 Sauchiehall Street. ‘Sauchie’ means ‘willow’, hence the name. She commissioned  architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, to design everything; the rooms, the furniture, the cutlery, right down to the waitress’s costumes. It became the place to meet for the gentlemen and ladies of the time and by all accounts was the epitome of ‘genteel’. In 1901 it was reported “One states the amount of one’s indebtedness, and receives a check therefore from the attendant maiden. This, with the corresponding coin or coins, one hands in at the pay-desk, and so home. Nothing could be simpler or less irritating.”[2][7] 

a Mackintosh light fitting
a Mackintosh light fitting

For some reason that system fell into disuse but we definitely feel that ‘attendant maidens’ should be reintroduced.

The Glasgow Rose
The Glasgow Rose

The enterprise was a tremendous success and Kate, who was a tad eccentric, became a familiar and flamboyant figure on the Glasgow scene. Through her commissions she actively promoted two groups of artists ..  the Glasgow Boys and the Glasgow Girls who developed what eventually became known as the Glasgow Style. After her husband died in 1917, however, she lost interest, sold her tearooms and withdrew from society to lead a very low-key existence on the south side of the city until her death, aged 85, in 1934. She left most of her money to the poor of the city. The tradition she started over 100 years ago carries on to this day and so we find ourselves here in the Buchanan Street establishment which, although not original, is a faithful copy of the now defunct, Ingram Street tearoom.

the Mackintosh designed, White Room
the Mackintosh designed, White Room

It has replicated the White Room (the one we are in) and the blue Chinese Room, upstairs. Now we were in a bit of a rush because we were going to a lecture on opera at the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons .. don’t ask. Luckily the service was very efficient and in no time we had our scone .. and what a scone it was! Willow 04Quite big, but really light and fluffy and with plenty jam and cream. Looking at that picture of Kate you can tell that she just knew she would get a  ‘topscone’ award. We think she would still be proud though. Proud, unfortunately is not a word that could be used about the last week in politics, particularly if you live north of the border. A year ago, the PM could not stop blabbering about how crucially important Scotland was to the UK but, now, just one year on, in his annual address to the party, barely a mention. And of course Labour MPs  and activists have been advised not to use the word ‘Scotland’ at all .. what would Kate have made of it all? For those of a curious nature, we made the lecture on time and it was excellent; at some point however we may return to the Willow Tea Rooms for a more relaxed visit.

G1 3HF    tel: 0141 204 5242       Willow Tea Rooms

Cranachan

If you have ever shopped in Glasgow you will no doubt be familiar with Princes Square on Buchanan Street, an up-market emporium of shops and eating places. If you have never shopped in Glasgow, you should; it is undoubtedly one of the best places to go in Scotland .. and that’s from someone who is pretty allergic to the entire process. However we were not here to shop .. oh no, we were here for afternoon tea and Cranachan was our chosen spot. Cranachan 05Now this type of dining may not be to everyone’s taste .. sitting out on the balcony not sure where the boundaries are between this place and the next place but it certainly was not putting people off and in fact it turned out to be a quite pleasant experience all round. Cranachan 03We had some bubbles to begin with and then they brought the afternoon tea .. what they didn’t bring was the tea, we had to go and ask for it! Apart from that though it was not too bad at all; good selection of sandwiches and cakes, topped off with little tubs of their own cranachan. What about the scones I hear you cry; what about the scones? Well, this may be controversial, prepare yourself .. they came fully loaded with jam and cream?? Call us old fuss pots but we rather like the whole business of loading up our own scones .. the anticipation .. the decisions; how much jam; how much cream .. it is all part of the scone experience. Cranachan 04All these dilemmas were removed and as a result our enjoyment was slightly diminished .. told you it would be controversial! The dilemmas facing Corbyn this week have been even more controversial perhaps. As an atheist republican he has been berated for not singing a song about the monarch being rescued by God; he has been condemned as sexist for not appointing women in spite of all the women turning the jobs down; maybe worst of all he has had to forego his bike and take to the official car to avoid being hounded by baying journalists; to top it all he has also been branded by the government, and hence all the main stream media, a major security risk. Some suspect that the car may have been forced on him because national security risks on bikes don’t provide a big enough target for drone missile attacks. No matter what your politics you have got to feel for the guy .. it’s been a rough tough week! To finish on a more positive note, in spite of our, by comparison, relatively minor issues at Cranachan we had a very pleasant time and we would recommend it to you should you find yourself shopping in Princes Square .. especially if you are too lazy to butter your own scones!

If you would like to make your own cranachan here is a recipe.

G1 3JN      tel: 0141 248 6257       Cranachan Café