Tag Archives: Italy

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!

La Barantine

So here we are in France at a nice little boulangerie/patiserrie! Okay, okay, after the last two posts from our home town we thought we should try and give the impression that we have become a little more outward looking … well we have actually but only as far as Edinburgh!  SMUT in the Grassmarket at Edinburgh International FestivalThe Edinburgh International Festival was in full swing … absolutely thousands of people all over the place. Just trying to walk down the Royal Mile becomes a tactical nightmare dodging the performers, leaflet distributors and tourists. There were also clues that the Fringe Festival was alive and well … we met ‘Sven from Sweden‘ who had a sizeable crowd enthralled with his antics. The climax of Sven’s performance was to surmount an unsteady pile of IKEA furniture with an IKEA microwave on top, remove a plate of IKEA Swedish meatballs from the microwave, then spin the plate of meatballs on his head while juggling with three IKEA toilet roll holders complete with toilet rolls. You simply do not get cultural insights like this every day … Sweden seems like a fun place! Contending with the milling hordes soon take its toll however so it was not long before we were in need of some refreshment and, having done Sweden, the next in line was France in the form of La Barantine in Victoria Street. Amazingly it was almost empty when we went in and we could have chosen from virtually any seat. It did not last however, a few minutes later it was very busy indeed … just like everywhere else! You had to place your order at the counter and, oddly for this city where almost all counter staff are from eastern europe, in La Barantine they actually seemed to be from France … promising! They had scones but only blueberry and raspberry … not so promising! A raspberry and blueberry scone at La Barantine patisserie, EdinburghWhen they arrived at our table they looked ‘interesting’, served on a rustic piece of slate with actual Scottish butter … it seems you have to come to a French café to get Scottish produce … good for them! We wondered if we would manage the Union coffee, however, without gagging. As it happened it was all very good. The scone was not as heavy as it looked … it was very moist but light at the same time and had obviously been freshly prepared. We swithered long and hard about whether these were topscones but in the end we felt they were just a tad ‘odd’ for such a prestigious award … pity!Internal view of La Barantine patisserie, EdinburghAfter convincing ourselves that the “Union Hand Roasted Coffee” referred to the EU rather than the UK, it was fine as well – the name actually refers to a union between the roasters and their Guatemalan farmers … so that’s good. Even though Edinburgh is completely bonkers in August it is also great fun and a great advertisement for Scotland. In spite of the multitude of people of all sorts of nationalities we don’t think there has even been the slightest hint of trouble in the entire month. We were just wondering what the chances were of meeting some Scottish folk when suddenly three emerged from the crowd … but they were imposters from Italy … vive le EU!Three 'Scotsmen' at the Edinburgh International FestivalEH1 2JP    tel: 0131 226 4927       La Barantine