Tag Archives: cream tea

Brian’s Café

Yesterday morning we were back at the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to see The Shape Of Water … an unexpectedly enjoyable film. It’s really a love fantasy but it also turns out to be surprisingly topical. The Americans had captured a unique South American water monster with peculiarly human characteristics … honestly, it’s better than it sounds! Rather than let the US acquire any  advantage by studying the beast and unearthing its secrets the Russians, in the form of KGB agents, plotted to kill it with a lethal injection. Have you heard of any similar stories recently? It is amusing to see the media in a frenzy wondering where the nerve agents directed against Sergei Skripal and his daughter could have come from without ever mentioning the world’s biggest stockpile of such chemical weapons at Porton Down … only eight miles from Salisbury where Skripal was found. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessAll fingers seem to be pointing at Vladimir Putin however and probably with good reason. Have you noticed a rather worrying trend among world leaders recently? Putin, who unexpectedly came to power because Boris Yeltsin hadn’t enough blood in his vodka system, now finds himself drunk on power itself. He has manufactured a situation where he can remain in power indefinitely. Likewise with President Xi of China. Power is a great corrupter and both men now seem to think that they are omnipotent. Meanwhile, back in the USA, President Trump  knows he is omnipotent but, unlike Putin and Xi, hasn’t yet worked out a scam to keep the job for a life … watch this space. Theresa May on the other hand will be forced to keep her job for life whether she likes it or not simply because it’s such a mess no one else wants it. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessEnough of all that. Just across the road from the Hippodrome is the imaginatively named Brian’s Cafe which, would you believe it, is owned by a chap called Brian, surname Curry. Its outward appearance is somewhat uninspiring and we did not have high hopes as we entered. A scone at Brian's Café in BonessThe interior is pleasant enough though and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We were soon settled down with some tea and sharing a fruit scone … okay, we sometimes indulge in reckless extravagance! There was no cream and the butter and jam were prepackaged but the scone itself was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close.  The café has lots of what appeared to be family photographs hanging on the walls and when we asked about them we ended up being introduced to Brian himself who had been sitting at another table with some friends. He’s a lovely guy who proceeded to take us round and explain his family history. Turns out that he is part of the Serafini family who not only had a cafe in Bo’ness but operated the York Café in Falkirk, a place we know very well.

Serafini family group from Brian's Café in Bo'ness
The Serafini family from Barga in Italy with Brian’s aunt in the centre

What amazed us was that Brian’s aunt, a Bo’nessian born and bred, had married a Serafini and as a result was interned during WWII. It had never before occurred to us that Scots were also interned simply because of their association with Italians … unbelievable!

The Serafini's original café and their fish and chip van
The Serafini’s original café in Bo’ness  … and their fish and chip van c1950s

It was great listening to the many delightful childhood stories Brian had to tell … a far cry from today’s world of all-powerful autocrats and dastardly subterfuge.

EH51 0AA       tel: 01506 823815       Brian’s Café TA

p.s. News of an even bigger controversy came to us the other day courtesy of our correspondent, the Stenibrainfart. He reported that the National Trust in England had organised a cream tea at one of their venues in Cornwall and to publicise it they used a picture of a scone with a dollop of jam on top of the cream … arrgghh! National Trust picture of a cream tea sconeNow all self respecting sconeys worth their salt know that that is how they do it in Devon … and it’s just plain wrong! It is definitely not how they do it in Cornwall and Cornish folks have reportedly been resigning their NT membership in droves. A #JamFirst badgeThey felt so strongly they even produced #JamFirst badges to support the cause. Well done Cornwall, you tell ’em!

Fonab Castle (revisited)

As you are probably aware, we have long asserted that, in our humble opinion, the best scone in the world is to be found at Fonab Castle Hotel in Pitlochry. Since our first Fonab cream tea experience we have devoted much time and effort, not to mention expense, looking for a worthy challenger, but in spite of all our testing at places as far apart as Ackergill Tower in Wick and Claridge’s in London, Fonab has managed to hold on to its position  on the top tier of the cake stand as the topmost topscone. However, it is now almost two years since we made that rather bold assertion. In our minds Fonab shone like a beacon in terms of ambience, presentation, service and quality … okay it’s not the cheapest – it’s one of these “you know you’re worth it” places. But … perhaps, after such a long period of time, our combined memories were playing tricks on us … something that, in our advancing years, is not only possible but highly likely! Maybe the scones would be awful and we would have to find a new benchmark …. aaarrgghh! So it was with more than a little trepidation that we decided to return and reassess the Fonab scone … luckily we could still remember the location of Pitlochry.

Winter view across Loch Faskally from Fonab Castle, Pitlochry
View across Loch Faskally towards Ben Vrackie from Fonab

The trepidation was caused by fear of disappointment …  what if there was a new chef with a different recipe, what if they were just different? Picture of a cream tea scone at Fonab Castle Hotel, PitlochryYou may remember that, on one visit, we actually asked the chef what his secret ingredient was for a good scone … and the answer – “happiness in the kitchen!” Well, we need not have worried! This time around the service was impeccable, the ambience relaxing and comfortable, the views superb, the range of Scottish jams just brilliant, the coffee fantastic and the scones were just perfect … warm and light as a feather. Not only were they presented in beautiful white linen napkins but even the serving bowls had been warmed. This is how scones should be treated!Picture of cream tea presentation at Fonab Castle Hotel, PitlochrySo just to be clear – let this be a clarion call to every posh hotel, coffee shop, tea house and greasy spoon we visit on our travels … when you see us coming this is what we expect if you are to have any chance of dislodging the Fonab scone from the pinnacle of sconiness. At just under £11 for a cream tea, it may be expensive but it is soooo worth it! Not only that but it turns out that the chef we spoke to about ingredients has long gone, and yet the scones were still delicious … there must be a lot of happiness in that kitchen! Such scrumptiousness lulls you into a warm sconey world where the trials and tribulations of a mad Trump/May/Putin world seem far far away. With the PM delivering a speech on Brexit yesterday that completely ignores the wishes of us folks north of the border, it also clarifies the situation … Scotland is going nowhere until it takes control of its own affairs. Oh dear, sconey world is so much nicer. … if only we could stay for ever?

PH16 5ND     tel: 01796 470140    Fonab Castle Hotel and Spa