Tag Archives: Devon

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!

The Lyric

London means many different things to many different people. From our point of view it has too many cars, too many people, not enough time … and not enough scones. Scones can be remarkably difficult to find in what is supposed to be one of the world’s leading cities. This is largely down to the same reason that Pat finds the capital so frustrating. Her remarkable ability to earwig other people’s conversations at one hundred paces is largely useless down here because they are almost all held in Swahili … or what might as well be Swahili. Scones suffer in the same way … unless you go to a particularly English restaurant or café, and they can be relatively few and far between, you are unlikely to find a good old-fashioned scone. Internal view of the café at the Lyric theatre HammersmithNow all this diversity may be cause for celebration but for dedicated sconeys it can be a teensy bit frustrating. What happens though is that you sometimes find scones in unexpected places and that is always a pleasant surprise.

View from the roof terrace of the Lyric theatre Hammersmith
The garden terrace

London has lots of theatres, a fact not all together surprising when you consider that this city absorbs more than 75% of the entire UK Arts and Culture budget. Suffice to say that we found ourselves here at the Lyric Hammersmith, not expecting it to be a scone adventure, but lo-and-behold there they were, plain and fruit, in the ground floor café … it had to be done. The Lyric was built in 1895 slightly further up the street from where it now stands. After it was scheduled for demolition in 1966, a campaign was launched to save it, resulting in it being moved brick by brick to its current location. Picture of a scone at the Lyric theatre HammersmithThe café is run by Peyton & Byrne, a company which holds the catering contracts for places like the Royal Academy, the National Gallery and the Orangery at Kew Gardens .. so you would imagine that it would be good. However, even though our scones came well presented with lots of jam and cream they were not exceptional … enjoyable enough but nothing more. Just in case you think we are getting a bit highfalutin, we were here to see a production of the Ugly Duckling in the middle of the afternoon … we will let you work it out. It was fab … we understood it all! Understanding, however, is much more difficult when it comes to the current government position on Brexit where our ‘unelected’ prime minister is invoking the ancient ‘royal prerogative’ in order to circumvent any consultation whatsoever with our ‘elected’ representatives in Parliament. Thank goodness Corbyn seems to be getting his act together at long last.

W6 0QL       tel: 020 8741 6850       The Lyric

ps: a bulletin has just arrived from our ‘south coast’ correspondents regarding the scones they found on a weekend visit to Torquay. They thought these Devon beauties were great, but not quite up to our topscone benchmark. We have never been to Torquay but now we may have to go and test them ourselves. Many thanks for the report. Picture of scones at Dot's Pantry, TorquayIt looks suspiciously like they have put the cream on first … what are these Devon folk like??

TQ2 5QB    tel: 01803 294396     Dot’s Pantry