Scottish National Portrait Gallery Café

Sunday 21 January – at least two seasons in one day. Down at the beach with the hoond in the morning – a crisp, clear day where you could see the snow-covered peaks of the Kingdom of Fife across the Forth, which was attested to be a sea state zero by my beloved. Jive forward a couple of hours and we are driving into the capital in a blizzard; we were in that ‘will we keep going and risk  performing an impromptu Bambi on Ice excerpt on the slushy pavements, or will we call it quits and go home now?’ dilemma. We pushed on (streets are gritted, aren’t they?) and spent a good hour wandering around the BP Portrait Competition in the Queen Street gallery. Worth a look – if only to confirm that Scotland does indeed spend its arts money well. The gallery itself is housed in a fabulous red sandstone gothic building, and it’s worth it to go inside just to see the entrance hall with its beautifully-painted friezes.


Onto the scones. So – no plain scones left and the alternative was chocolate and apricot. CHOCOLATE AND BLOODY APRICOT? Whatever next? I mean – I’m all for mashups  (hell, I even smoosh my peanut butter into my banana these days) but there’s a very definite line and chocolate and apricot is so far over it, it’s a mere dot in the distance.

Cheese it is then. Look promising – is that a wee bit of melted cheddar I see on the top there? Think so – and it’s a healthy dark-orange which means there’s maybe even a wee bit of paprika in there. Great size too – all good so far. On balance, however, it was another case of form over fancy – we agreed the scones were a bit doughy and had an overriding wholemeal flavour which stood out where it shouldn’t have.  Might have been okay to dunk in soup as it was a sturdy ol’ thing, but on its own it was tooth-stickingly moist.

There are worse things in the world than a slightly-moist scone, however, so I shall return. Let’s just hope they have plain ones the next time, cos I aint eating chocolate and apricot ones.


The Ovendoor, Peebles

Naw. Looked promising, but flatter than a pancake. Mair bicarb next time, folks and mebbes a lower oven temperature. The wifie who runs the cafe is a hoot, and the rest of the meals looked good (10/10 for having mac n cheese for a start), but not sconetastic. Also – pre-packaged jam? Come on, people, it’s no’ hard to lob a bit o’ jam in a wee glass dish to make it look homemade!

Looked promising…

Ebb Carr Cafe, St Abbs

These scones are very expensive. Not because the scones themselves cost a lot of money, but rather that to get to St Abbs harbour you have to pass Number Four gallery on the way down the road, and we can’t go by without looking in to see what’s new. And that, dear reader, almost always results in the purchase of some form of artwork, whether it’s a print, a piece of glass, ceramics – it’s our favourite gallery.

Onto the scones themselves – usually a selection of at least cheese, fruit and plain scones. Well-fired with a satisfying crunchy crust hiding a light, flouncy inside with plenty of fruit (if you’re having a fruit one, obvs) or a nice hint of mustard if you’re having the cheese ones. Made on the premises and take pride of place among the rest of the homemade traybakes and sponges.

The Loft Cafe, Haddington

Oh my. If, like me, you are no stranger to a bit of homebaking then roll your spare tyre on down to The Loft Cafe and Bakery in Haddington. The cafe won an award in 2017 for Cakery Destination at the Scottish Food Awards, and it’s easy to see why. I am no stranger to the cake tin, and there are always at least two cakes or bakes I fancy in this place, and I’d say that the coffee sponge is as good as my dear-departed gran’s (whose sage words of advice for me were: ‘the more ye tramp on a sh1te the bigger it gets’. Think about it…). There’s a large seating area, with a cool mix of upcycled Ikea benches and Ercol Windsor chairs and tables, and there are always newspapers to read. It’s kinda tucked away in Peffers Place, which is behind the Corn Exchange and beside the cooncil offices. Monster carpark beside it but you’ll be pushed to squeeze your charabanc into it as it’s well-used by the afore-mentioned cooncil staff.

Anyhoo, back to the scones.