Balmakewan

If you happen to be in Scotland driving along the A90, the main road between Dundee and Aberdeen, you might be surprised by the dearth of good eateries along this busy route.

However, about halfway between the two cities, near the little town of Laurencekirk and about half a mile off the main road, there lurks a gem of a place called Balmakewan:

According to the website, Balmakewan is not only a farm shop and tearoom (housed in the old coach house building pictured above), but also a small family run mansion house, with holiday cottages to rent and a large selection of rhododendrons and azaleas for sale.

When you go through the doors of the old coach house, you find a very spacious and nicely laid out shop area:

Beyond this there is a big table surrounded by tins, jars, packets and bottles of food and drink for sale:

The big table is one of the places you can sit if you want to make use of the splendid tearoom facilities, but there are smaller options too:

Much of the seating appears to have been acquired from a church, many of the chairs having storage areas on their backs (see picture above) for a Bible/hymnbook. Old wooden church pews are also provided:

The tables are remarkably shiny, as can be seen in the picture below. The only other place I’ve seen wooden tables gleaming like this was in a small farm tearoom not far from Balmakewan. Perhaps it’s all the rage in rural Aberdeenshire.

The menu is more of a restauranty affair than you’d expect to find in the average tearoom, but helpfully they offer small portions as well as full size versions.

My delightful assistants and I all went for small portions in order to leave room for pudding.

Delightful assistant no.1 had smoked haddock with boiled new potatoes and spring greens:

Delightful assistant no.2 and I both opted for pea risotto, which came with creamy cheese fritters and was artistically finished with watercress and pea shoots. I thought it was one of the most beautiful meals I’d ever eaten:

I was particularly delighted by the curling pea shoots:

The main courses were very good, but what of the desserts?

Choosing a sweet was a fairly painful business. I’m often torn in situations where there’s a number of pleasing pudding options, and I had a sort of pleasurable nightmare at Balmakewan.

I almost plumped for St Clement’s Log, one of the day’s specials and the choice of delightful assistant no.1. I tasted a bit of hers and, although you might not get all this from the photograph, it was a creamy, moussey, extremely citrussy slab of near perfection:

Delightful assistant no.2 also went down the creamy pudding route, with Bailey’s and white chocolate cheesecake. Texturewise, it struck me as cheesecake perfection, melting in the mouth like a snowflake on the tongue:

Faced with such decadent delights, what do you suppose I went for?

Regular readers might not be too surprised by my choice of a very decent sized (enormous) fruit scone:

It was served with a little dish of swirling butter and a small cup of excellent strawberry jam:

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Due to its great girth I struggled to finish it, but the accompaniment of a pot of Lady Grey tea helped it down nicely. The assistants both went for coffee.

Prior to hot beverages, with our main courses we had a carafe of water between us. In addition to that, delightful assistant no.2 had a bottle of Thistly Cross cider, an alcoholic beverage crafted in the Scottish seaside town of Dunbar.

He enjoyed it very much, but it left him ready for a nice nap, so when our luncheon was concluded he headed off to the car for a sleep while delightful assistant no.1 and I went for a little walk up a quiet road.

On the way we passed the garden of Balmakewan House, which had an unusual stone fence (or perhaps, being made of stone, it would be considered a wall):

There was also a curious old tower in a field that caught our attention. I have no idea what it was doing there, but I thought it looked rather nice sitting alongside some pylons (I like a nice pylon):

When we got back to the car, delightful assistant no.2 was awake and ready for a new experience, so we all whisked off to the nearby Steptoe’s Yard. I wrote about this amazing place on my Teacups Press blog¬†last year but on that occasion it was only delightful assistant no.1 and I who visited.

As anticipated, delightful assistant no.2 was fascinated by the garden implements:

Despite the profusion of items on offer, we left empty handed.

It’s several days since we had this little outing, but while I’ve been writing this post the memory of that Balmakewan scone has been looming large in my mind. It exceeded expectations and days later I’m craving another. This, in my view, is an indication of scone greatness.

 

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Categories: Aberdeenshire, Angus, Jam, Photography, Scone, Scotland, Tea, Tearooms | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Balmakewan

  1. Oh Lorna! I wish I had known of this place when we were in Scotland. We were staying in Aberdeenshire and we drove along the A 90. It will certainly be on our stops next time. The smoked haddock is just my thing.

    • I wish I’d known about it earlier, too, it’s a great place. I hope it will dish you up some tasty fare next time you’re over this way.

  2. Gardengirl

    The food looks scrumptious, but I never could have left Steptoe’s Yard without a garden tool! The tower is very interesting and curious and the stone fence is very unique. I’ve never seen one like it. Very good post. Thank you.

  3. Wow that food looks so good I could eat it all now. With a request for seconds of the scone and cheesecake. Food like that really shouldn’t be allowed.

    • I’m so sorry to tempt you with fattening foods when you’re being so good in marathon training mode. Mind you, I think the main courses were pretty healthy, and a good scone is – to my mind – a health food.

  4. Beautiful post Lorna, (Zlotna!) I dream of finding a wonderful tearoom and converted buildings like this. Love how sheeny, shiny that table is too. Actually (we’ve been wanting a new dining table for some time,) if only I didn’t live so far from Scotland! Your pictures of the Pylons are incredibly beautiful too, such a lovely country you live in…

    • Thank you Alice! It’s great when you find a place like this, especially in an unexpected location, which this one was for me. I like the shiny tables too, I think if I had one it would make me happy to see it gleam every day. :-) Glad you like the pylons, I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

  5. Goodness, I’m craving one of those scones too! It looks out of this world. But so do the other puddings! I don’t know how you brought yourself to choose between them. I love your choice of words! :) ‘a pleasurable nightmare’ – exactly! The tower is very intriguing – a massive rain gauge perhaps? For a very rainy area? I agree that the pea risotto looks just like a work of art. Another fantastic post!

    • Thank you very much, Jo. The pudding choices were really rather good and slightly overwhelming. There was a coconut cake I nearly went for, and a chocolate gateau that looked amazingly rich. However, when in doubt reach for a scone, that’s my motto. I hadn’t thought of the tower as a rain gauge although I did wonder if it was a water tower. I hope I can find out, it’d be interesting to know.

  6. I would like to be driving there right now! The food looks so good and I can believe you’d like another scone – you have the most interesting strolls too :)

    • Thank you Meg, I’m going to have to go back and have another of those scones some time. There’s always so much to see when you’re out and about, wherever you are, as your own fine photographs testify.

  7. How have I never heard of this place?! It looks really good. I love your classifying scones as health food. My son used to complain bitterly because when we stopped somewhere for refreshment I usually only ever let the children have scones! (Instead of millionaire’s shortbread or the like.)

    • That was what I thought myself, Christine, it was the delightful assistants who drew my attention to it. Your children didn’t realise what treats they were getting, being allowed to consume scones!

  8. I know those little cider naps :) That place looks beautiful, and the St Clement slice looks scrummy. I think I can just imagine how it would taste.

    • It was a real corker of a dessert, that St Clement’s pud. The delightful assistants like a little post-prandial nap, and certainly when alcohol’s involved in luncheon, which admittedly isn’t very often.

  9. That is an awesome looking scone! When it comes to choosing between a scone or a sweet dessert…I vote for the scone (and add one’s own condiments to sweeten it up if need be)…. What a lovely place.

    • You’re spot on with that observation. One of the many wonderful things about a scone is that you can play is relatively plain or fancy it up with a bit of jam, and possibly even a blob of cream. It really is the snack for every occasion.

  10. Hello. I work at Balmakewan, firstly I would like to thank you for the lovely review, it is great that you enjoyed your visit so much.
    Secondly, I thought that I would answer some of your questions. The tower is indeed a water tower, however, I love the thought of it being a giant Scottish rain gauge! The tower is now disused. It used to pump water from a well beneath the tower to the holding tank using the wind. There were large wooden sails (blades) which drove the pump. The water then was fed by gravity to the farm.
    It did once make local news, as on frosty winters night the water tank ran over. As the water ran down the side of the holding tank the water froze. As dawn broke people driving down the main road they were greeted with the sight of a large gleaming tower, looking somewhat like a spaceship! Sadly it was not the beginning of the Balmkaewan Space Programme, but it did make local news. I will try to see if I can find any further info of this.
    Also, the stone fence that you speak of were made here on the farm for drying grain. In the days before combine harvesters grain was cut using binders. These machines cut the stalks and bundled it into ‘sheaves’ (with the grain still in the ear). The stone ‘wafers’ were put together to form a circle, which was raised on stones. The ‘sheaves’ were then stacked on the stone circle to form a ‘stook’. The ‘sheaves’ were left in the ‘stook’ for several days to dry by the circulating air before being ‘threshed’. Clearly I am too young to remember this though!! I hope this answers your questions.

    • Hello Phil, thank you very much indeed for your most interesting and informative comment. I’m so pleased you were able to end speculation about the tower, and I love the idea of it being covered in shining ice and looking like a spaceship; it’s a very beautiful construction, I feel. What a wonderful story about the stone fence, too. I would never have guessed it had such a history. All of this makes Balmakewan an even more of a fascinating place to visit.

  11. Oh my now that is a tearoom! I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I heard you were still there sampling each of their beautiful desserts!

  12. What a wonderful place. I would have had so much trouble deciding on a dessert. The meals certainly looked decadent, just what I love. So pleased all three of you had a nice outing.

  13. Beautiful place and a lovely post as usual Lorna! Scones and pudding…. I would have both ;-) Love those puddings! I ordered different kinds of pudding each day when I visited London.

    • Thank you Aparna, your plan sounds like an excellent one to me although I’d have had to forego the main course to have room for more than one pud. Different kinds of pudding are one of life’s great joys. :-)

  14. As you well know, Lorna, I too am a shameless scone junky and would’ve made the same choice. It looks like a meal in itself and ridiculously fluffy. I love clean shiny wood, and the old church pews and lathe-turned table legs are delightful. The food looks like genuine cuisine without being too fussy. A gem of a tea room, indeed. Oh dear, the list of Scottish tea rooms I want to visit is getting ponderously long — I might have to just pack up and move there! xo

    • Ha ha, I like your thinking, Lucinda! I do hope we can lure you to these shores with our tempting tearooms, and this one is certainly well worth a visit. It’s so nice to know that people all over the world are enjoying the delight that is a fluffly scone.

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