Just when you think you have done all the tearooms and coffee shops in your home town, lo and behold, another one pops up. Mind you the Larder has been open quite a few months now … we just hadn’t noticed it. Getting noticed is crucially important for all new businesses yet unbelievably this place has neither wifi or a contact telephone number … and, to make matters even worse, it has a big glossy Costa directly across the road. The Larder, therefore, has the dubious distinction of being the only establishment we have ever reviewed for which we cannot find a phone number. It also ‘borrows’ its wifi from another business nearby and it doesn’t have a website. We fear for the Larder’s future … no matter how good the scones are. It’s a shame that we were the only customers because the two young girls who appeared to be running the place were trying hard. Maybe some home baking would set us on the right track? No, they simply buy their scones from Costco, a huge wholesale warehouse in Glasgow. However, any preconceptions we may have harboured about warehouse scones were quickly dashed when they actually turned out to be quite good .. on the large side but quite light and fluffy on the inside. No hope of a topscone here but service, tea and coffee were all good … we wish the Larder well and hope they get themselves sorted out before long. This week it was hard to miss stories about suffragettes and the amazing things they had to do to get noticed. It was, of course, the centenary of women getting the vote in 1918. Strictly speaking only 40% of women got the vote then as opposed to 58 % of men – the rest had to wait another ten years. Nowadays most people find it totally incredible that all this was happening only 100 years ago. It’s a bit like the internet – young people think it has always been there … they think the ‘right to vote’ has always been there too and are surprised to learn that it is in fact a relatively recent innovation. Back in 1707, at the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, ‘the people’ would have loved a vote. According to accounts at the time, 99 out of 100 ordinary people were against the Union but of the 175 eligible voters 106 voted in favour and the rest, as they say, is history. We would like to think that, when Scotland becomes an independent country again, people will look back 100 years from now with the same incredulity afforded to the suffragettes at the fact that we were once ruled by another country. We will let you know how the Larder gets on.
FK1 1LZ The Larder TA
Back in at home after our all too brief sojourn up north and the weather has come out in sympathy with our mood. It’s a bleak kind of day and after attending to some business in the town centre we ended up here at Findlays, hoping to have our spirits raised. The rather impressive old Victorian building was built in 1893 as Falkirk’s main Post Office but since then it has undergone a variety of uses leading up to it’s current incarnation as the Falkirk Business Hub, a place which provides a home to over 30 businesses and employs around 150 people. Findlays is the café for the FBH but is open to everyone. It is pleasant enough and, if it was just providing canteen facilities to the FBH, it would be doing a great job. However it has ambitions and promotes itself as ‘the home of great food and coffee’ .. but it just isn’t .. it looks and feels like part of the Hub and lacks that coffee shop vibe. These days we expect wifi everywhere we go. Here the password is helpfully provided on the menu .. but it doesn’t work, the correct password (the one with the capital letter at the start) is on a wall blackboard … annoying. Doubly annoying to have people cleaning windows and going around with feather dusters while you are trying to eat your scone! So far, so not so good … the mood was not lifting! Here you might hope that the scones would ride to the rescue with a glowing report and everyone would live happily ever after … but no, it was a case of style over substance. Presentation is a wonderful thing, it delights the eye and heightens expectations … but these expectations have to be fulfilled and sadly this was not the case here … the scones were disappointingly pasty and heavy. Could the mood get any blacker? Well, yes, just look at the news. It turns out that Scottish Labour’s PFI scandal has taken a turn for the worse … not only are our schools and hospitals crumbling, we don’t even know who owns them, the ownership of many being held in overseas tax havens. No one seems too sure of who owns British Home Stores either as it descends into receivership … this is the super-duper modern business world we live in! Good though, that Barak Obama managed to stop by to wish the Queen a happy birthday and offer his advice on Brexit. Having advised on the Scottish referendum, he presumable felt he had to do the same for the EU one. Obama is probably the best US President there has been for a long long time but we need not kid ourselves it is all being done with some sort of ‘special relationship’ benevolence … the US only cares about one thing .. the US! Findlays is not doing anything particularly wrong but, based on our visit, it is not doing anything particularly right either .. and the website is a waste of time. Once again it is a case of taking a long hard look at the multinationals like Costa and Café Nero and figuring out how they always get it so right. We wish them luck and hope that we will be in a better mood by the next post.
FK1 1LL tel: 01324 614062 Findlays
Tarbert is not exactly overburdened with café-culture type establishments and that’s a shame because it could do with some. Of course it is easy for the likes of us to swan in to a town like this and be super critical simply because we are used to something different .. we don’t have to maintain a place through the winter when visitors are few and far between .. if not completely absent, otherwise Starbucks or Costa would have set up long ago. However, if there is a really good coffee shop in Tarbert, you need to shout louder because we could not find you. The town itself is built round the harbour which is not nearly as busy as it once was with fishing and now features an extensive marina which you would think would bring in a fair amount of money but in fact, the whole place looks a wee bit run down and tired. It does not help the overall impression when you eventually find a coffee shop situated in a building that would not have looked out of place in the old Soviet Russia … if Argyll has a town planning department it has some very serious questions to answer! Anyway, Lite Bites has a certain utilitarian feel to it as well, probably inspired by the building, but it is busy busy, so the hard working folks running it are doing something right and seem to get on well with the local people. Our scones were okay but as you might expect in a no-frills kind of place, presentation was a touch on the austere side. Hopefully Lite Bites and Tarbert itself will get a bit of a facelift before long.
PA29 6UJ tel: 01880 820191 Lite Bites TripAd
When you visit Oban and have done McCaig’s Folly, the shops, the harbour and the distillery you may feel in need of a cuppa and a scone. The Coffee Corner is not far from the Harbour and opposite one of Oban’s best pubs, Aulay’s Bar.
Don’t get your hopes up too far however. Not much in the way of atmosphere and the surroundings, like the scones, were a bit utilitarian. No table service and the scones come pre-buttered .. just why anyone would want to do this is quite beyond me .. do they know how much butter, if any, people want? My scone came with too much butter and the scone itself could probably best be described as ‘firm’. My coffee was fine as was Pat’s tea. We wish The Coffee Corner well but it needs to brighten itself and it’s service up a bit .. just a bit tired and uninspiring. We like to promote the small independent businesses wherever possible but just as well Costa, next door, don’t do scones.
PA34 4LL tel: 01631 562 588 Coffee Corner TA