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Sale - Bags

To celebrate the coming of spring (and ignoring the hail battering at the window as I type this), my tearoom guidebook has gone on sale today at the new knockdown price of £6.30 (including p&p to a UK address; extra postage costs incurred for shipping overseas).

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Fluffy springtime brood watched over by mother in Logan Botanic Gardens

I wanted to sell the book on Amazon, and in order to compete with the low prices offered by other sellers (notably, Amazon itself), I had to cut my price.

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To be fair to anyone buying it on ebay, I’ve reduced the price there, too.

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It’s nearly 11 months since it was published and I’m still surrounded by boxes of these little red books. I remember a year ago how nice it was to see the fruits of my labours, but after a while the novelty of drowning in tearoom guidebooks wears off.

If you fancy purchasing a copy at the sale price, I’d be delighted to sell you it from Teacups Press on Amazon or ebay. You can get to those pages in a jiffy by clicking on Amazon and ebay or their logos above. Copies are also available from a few shops and tearooms in the Perthshire and Angus area. For a list of stockists, please see here.

Thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy already (including many of my fine blogging chums), your custom is much appreciated.

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Splendid illustration courtesy of the magnificent Quentin Blake

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Tearoom Delights for sale on ebay.

 

Woohoo!

 

 

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In Scotland we sometimes refer to the small pancake as a ‘drop scone’ or ‘dropped scone’, presumably because the method of making one involves dropping a blob of batter into a frying pan. When I was growing up I remember thinking myself quite the linguist for knowing that wee pancakes and dropped scones were one and the same thing.

According to the Traditional Scottish Recipes website, such items are also known as  “Scots Pancakes, Scotch Pancakes, and Scottish Pancakes”, which suggests to me that this is a peculiarly Scottish business. Helpfully, the same website adds that A similar recipe in Wales is known as pikeletts.”

Here’s a picture of dropped scones that I swiped from the website:

I mention all this to set the scene for what’s coming next. I was in a delightful little tearoom in Dundee this morning when I noticed a bag hanging from a branch suspended from the ceiling. The bag conveyed a message that appealed to me greatly:

The wording reads: ‘Drop scones not bombs’, the ‘o’ in scones bearing a remarkable resemblance to one of the wee pancakes from the first picture.

There was no shortage of interesting things to look at in this tearoom, particularly on a couple of the walls. One wall had a row of coathooks with coats and bags painted onto the wall beneath them:

While most of another wall was occupied by a large map of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg:

My delightful assistant and I settled into in two comfortable easy chairs in order to peruse the menu, and felt very pleased with ourselves for landing the only seats with cushions covered in the unusual fabric below. The red bits were made of a sort of felt-like material (quite possibly, felt):

I opted for a pot of tea while my assistant plumped for a small Americano, and we decided to share a large slice of coffee walnut cake, which looked delicious. The tea was served with a pretty cup and a mis-matched saucer:

The teapot was small, but very happily covered in a knitted teacosy. A small pink knitted pig sat atop the cosy and had difficulty perching upright because of the teapot lid:

The cake was excellent, very light and fluffy, with big chunks of walnut in it:

Thus refreshed, we scooted back to the car where the parking ticket’s time was up, and headed off for a sunny stroll in Dundee’s Botanic Gardens. One section of the garden is set in a beautifully constructed maze of dry stone walls:

We had the whole place to ourselves for the first hour or so and I wondered if the lack of visitors had anything to do with the roar of traffic coming from a very busy main road right next to the garden and Dundee airport’s runway, which is situated only a few hundred yards away:

Despite the noise, I really enjoyed wandering round the gardens in the sunshine. As well as lots of outdoor space, there is a large glasshouse containing temperate and rainforest areas. It was warm and cosy inside and we spent a very comfortable half hour mooching around soaking up the warmth:

My camera lens kept steaming up, but I liked the fuzziness it produced in these photos:

Four things in particular caught my eye in the hot house. Two of them were plants that are very dear to my heart, the first because I love to add it to soups, puddings and biscuits, and the second because it is one of the foundations of my very existence:

The third plant I particulaly liked was called ‘red head’, a rainforest plant with deep pink powder puff flowers:

Lastly, a little amphibian peeking out of a pond fairly cheered my heart:

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Today I visited a tearoom in Dundee that I have been failing to to visit for weeks now, despite deliberately going to Dundee for the very purpose of visiting it. My previous lack of success has been due to the fact that I have been unable to find a parking place anywhere near the tearoom. I admit that this suggests both laziness and incompetence on my part, and I’ve come up with a number of reasons why I needed to drive there instead of get a bus and then walk, but they all seem so intolerably lame that I can’t bring myself to include them in this post.

I was beginning to get a bit paranoid about the whole thing, thinking that perhaps this lack of parking space was a punishment for my daily contribution to climate change and air pollution. Maybe I was being taught a lesson, perhaps someone up there wanted me to see the error of my ways, invest in a bus pass and freeze to death hanging about at bus stops instead.

These gloomy thoughts were descending on me as I drove towards the accursed tearoom this afternoon, but then, just as I was homing in on the area I was hoping against hope to park in, a bright shaft of golden light sliced through the clouds, piercing the grey of the street and illuminating a car-sized rectangle of tarmac at the side of the road right opposite the tearoom.

To top it all, since I’d bagged an elusive roadside spot rather than finding a space in one of the car parks nearby, I got to park for free for up to 45 minutes, which was plenty of time for the small refreshment I had in mind. Thus, feeling vindicated, I parked up and strode across to feast my eyes on the tearoom’s window display before entering the establishment itself. As you might agree, it looked very promising from the outside:

Inside, it’s mostly a baker’s shop, with only 4 small tables in a little cafe area at the back of the room. However, the space has been cleverly designed with slightly tinted mirrors lining the walls and soft lighting that creates a cosy impression of warmth and spaciousness.

Things were looking pretty good so far, and although the waitress who came to the table to find out what was to be ordered seemed a little dour* I was sure I could cheer her up with a few smiles and pleasantries. Not so, no matter how hard I tried, she was not to be moved on the smiling front. Now I know anyone can have an off day, but there were two waitresses in this place and it’s a wonder that between them they hadn’t turned all the cakes mouldy with their outstandingly glum expressions. Strangely though, when they were hanging around chatting to each other their conversation was animated and enthusiastic, so I suppose it was just the customers they didn’t care for. I noticed that they were just as rude to everyone else in the tearoom, so I didn’t take it personally.

After some indecision, owing to the tempting selection of cakes on display, I ordered a hot chocolate with ‘everything’, i.e. cream and marshamallows (which I should know by now is a mistake as I don’t really like cream on hot chocolate) and a milk scone to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate (I’m not entirely sure what a milk scone is, since all my scone recipes have milk in them, but it may be that they only contain milk, rather than the usual combination of milk and egg):

My glamorous assistant, aka my mum, ordered a Kona Kia coffee (first time I’ve ever found this Hawaiian coffee for sale in a cafe here) and a cream cookie, a delicacy for which she has an inordinate fondness:

Unfortunately, before the food and drinks came, as I was doing my usual note-taking referring to the menu for prices and range of foodstuffs, I became aware that the tearoom’s two waitresses were talking about me and discussing just what I thought I was doing writing down things from their menu. I heard some of their conversation, which included the younger one saying, in stunned tones to the older one, ‘That girl’s writing stuff down out of the menu!’ and the older one replying ‘She’s not… (gasp of shock as she looks in my direction) She is!!’ At this point I thought it would be wise to close the menu and continue writing, without looking up at my surroundings, as if writing from inside my head rather than from what I was observing. They viewed this behaviour silently for a few seconds and then the older one, with obvious relief, explained to the younger one ‘She’s just writing a journal.’ That seemed to satisfy them, and I felt I had got off lightly.

The hot chocolate was very nice, and even when the marshmallows melted and mixed into the liquid it wasn’t too sugary, but it would have been better – in my opinion – sans cream. The milk scone was also very palatable, quite crumbly but soft and sweet and a perfect accompaniment to the hot chocolate. My mum enjoyed her coffee and cream cookie, although the cookie was a little on the small side for her tastes and the coffee was rather pricey and not as good as the freshly ground Kona coffee I’ve tasted from Hawaii.

There is another branch of this bakery/cafe in Dundee that I think I would like to try next time, because although I was very favourably impressed by the cakes, menu, ambience, comfort and lighting, I was quite scared of the dour waitresses and I have a horrible sensation that they may invade my dreams tonight.

*this might be a Scottish word, I’m not sure, but it means grim, sullen or gloomy

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Re: my previous post, I’m delighted to report that Dundee was full of jam today!

I did go for the scone this morning, not because the tea breads didn’t look tempting enough (they did, it was a dreadfully difficult decision) but because, as predicted,  I simply couldn’t resist the glorious raspberry jam.
 

 

 
It looks as if I didn’t slobber on much jam in the above picture, but I piled on as much as I could without it slopping off the scone too much (I got it all over my hands, if truth be told, and enjoyed licking it off).

An excellent tearoom visit and, what’s more, the parents chose a different tea bread each (date and walnut, and fruit loaf) so I got to taste those as well. As tasty and delicious as the tea breads were, I’m very pleased I went for the scone.

Incidentally, the jam is for sale to take away.  I tried to buy some but although they had the jam, they had run out of jars. It was suggested that I might like to bring in a jar of my own and have it filled up, but since I was about 20 miles from home and on my way somewhere else, that wasn’t really feasible. I did briefly consider going to a shop, buying a jar of inferior jam, emptying out said jar and then going back to the tearoom for a refill, but I thought that might be slightly ridiculous. Far better to go back another day, have another wonderful scone and jam experience and take an empty jar with me, just in case. I’m looking forward to it already.

The next food stop was Arbroath, which was bathed in lovely sunshine this afternoon, but in order to work up a bit of an appetite we went via Monikie Country Park for a stroll. If you ever happen to be driving around in the Dundee/Angus area wanting a bit of exercise and wondering where to get it, I heartily recommend a stroll in this excellent park. In the summer it even has a cafe in the grounds, which makes it worth visiting even if all you want to do is haul yourself from the car, fill up with goodies and then slump back behind the wheel again.

The park is very flat, with tarmac paths through some woods and wide, flat, grassy banks running around three reservoirs. This makes it an excellent choice for anyone with a buggy, pram or wheelchair. There are also toilets, an adventure playground and other interesting features. (If you click on the first mention of the park above you’ll find out more about it). Parking is free at this time of year, although between Easter and September it costs £2 for the day. It got the thumbs up from my dad too:
 

 
Just before leaving the park I gave the Arbroath tearoom a ring and booked a table. I was glad I’d done that, because when we arrived they were very busy and a queue was forming. Our table was in the conservatory, which was a little unfortunate due to our position being out of the line of sight of the waitresses. They forgot to bring us menus, and then they forgot to take our order. However, they apologised, and after we’d ordered what we wanted, the food came quickly, and was exellent. I had one of their specials, beer battered fish with chips and petit pois, and a glass of Elderflower presse.

If you’ve been to Arbroath, you’ll perhaps have noticed how fish-dominated the town is. There are a number of fish shops, selling a variety of seafood, but Arbroath smokies are the big thing. There are several suppliers of smokies in Arbroath, and Spink’s is perhaps the best known (click on Arbroath smokies above for Iain Spink’s website and a definitive answer to the question ‘what is an Arbroath smokie?’). My mum had Arbroath smokie pate with oatcakes, which I tasted and thought was superb.

Any visitors to these shores searching for somewhere to taste some top quality Scottish fish would do well to call in at Arbroath. There are other fishing villages and towns up and down the country, but Arbroath can compete with any of them, in my opinion.

Thus filled with fresh fish, we had a gentle wander round the harbour, enjoying the sunshine and watching the waves crash onto the stony beach, dragging the stones back with a loud roar. The roaring stones were very good free entertainment, and I was slightly loathe to leave because I found it so absorbing, but hot beverages were calling, not to mention little sweet somethings, and so it was off to our third tearoom of the day. I hadn’t actually planned to go to three today, but it’s always nice to have a wee bonus.

Number three was an old favourite in Edzell (see previous post ‘A wee bit of Angus’), and I again opted for the cafetiere of decaffeinated coffee, this time with a chunk of deliciously moist carrot cake:
 

 

It was jolly tasty, and I enjoyed it greatly, despite having stuffed my face with fish and chips not long before.

All in all, I can say that Friday 27 January 2012 was a fine day for tearooms and, who knows, tomorrow might be another corker. Tomorrow my mum, my dad, my sister and I are all meeting in Dunkeld for lunch, at a tearoom that does wonderful scones. They also have my favourite tearoom teapots, and hopefully I’ll have some photos to show you after the visit.

This has been a long post, so if you’ve managed to read all the way down to here, well done! I wish I could bestow upon you a scone with that wonderful raspberry jam slopped all over it as a prize for your efforts. 

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At this time of year, during a Scottish winter, my mum regularly wears two vests. I’ve known about this for a while, but for some reason donning two vests myself has never really occurred to me. It somehow seems so decadent, having not just one cosy vest on, but two, and yet I’m perfectly happy to wear a t-shirt over a vest, so why not two vests?

You may be thinking I’m making a fuss about nothing, and perhaps you yourself frequently go around with two vests on, but today is a big day for me, for it is my First Day of Two Vests. It’s a cold, frosty morning in Blairgowrie and if I was going to try it any day, today is a good day to give it a go.

And so to the two tearooms.

My plan today is to re-visit two recently discovered tearooms (recently discovered by me, at least), one in Dundee and the other in Arbroath. Both of them are tipped for the guide book but my policy is to visit each tearoom that gets into the guide at least twice so that I’m convinced of their merits. Both of today’s tearooms made a big impression on me on my first visit to them, so I’m looking forward to today’s little outing.

When I went before, the Dundee one made me feel as if I’d gone back in time. It had me thinking I was sitting in the late 1940s, recovering from the second world war and feeling that Blighty was getting back on its feet again. My notes remind me that leaf tea was served in a teapot that poured well, and that the place had an air of tranquility and calm about it. I am also reminded of the possibly unsweetened and slightly salty tasting fruit scone with only two sultanas in it, and the way in which it was completely transformed by the application of the tearoom’s own home-made raspberry jam. I remember that I was sorely tempted by the range of tea breads on offer, and almost chose one over the scone. Will I have an even greater dilemma today, knowing that the jammed-up scone is such a wonderful taste experience? Will I be able to choose an alternative option just to try it out? Thank goodness I’m taking the parents with me, and between us we can perhaps order both scone and tea bread. I think it will be impossible for me to pass up another opportunity to savour that glorious raspberry jam.

Tearoom two is one of those little gems beloved by locals but possibly not known about much outside the county boundaries. I may be wrong about that, but it was certainly a revelation to me. It was hotching when I went there last time for a late-ish lunch, and I was asked if I had booked a table. Just to be on the safe side, I’ll take the tearoom’s phone number with me today. During my last visit there, I had the impression I was sitting in someone’s house, but with lots of tables full of people I didn’t know. It had that friendly, community sort of feel about it.

My dad hasn’t been to either of these tearooms and so I’ll be interested to see if he agrees with my first impressions, or if something else strikes him about them. I’ve got my camera in my bag and will endeavour to take a photo or two to share anon.  I do hope they haven’t run out of that jam in Dundee…

 

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Welcome to Lorna’s Tearoom Delights, an account of my foray into the delights of tearooms around Scotland.

I’m starting off my adventure in the heart of the country, in beautiful Perthshire, popping into the neighbouring counties of Angus and Dundee.

I’m visiting as many tearooms as I can in the next month or two, to find those special ones that stand out for being somehow different and, to my mind, better than their rivals. Then, when I’ve got a good batch that I think represent the area covering Perthshire, Angus and Dundee, I plan to publish my guide book, either just as an e-book, or as both an e-book and a paperback, if I can find a publisher.

One of the criteria a tearoom must fulfil in order to get into my little book is that it will have made me feel special while I was visiting it. Some tearooms are immediately impressive on entering, raising expectations from the word go, while others are more self-effacing, subtle and quietly confident in their welcome.  Whatever the style, décor, size or layout, every tearoom that gets into the book will have its own interesting atmosphere, which for some reason or other (detailed in each entry) made a favourable impression on me.

So that’s the book, but in the meantime what of the blog? Well, I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to work out yet, but every week I’m going to feature a Tearoom of the Week, specially picked from those I’ve visited over the previous 7 days. This tearoom will eventualy feature alongside all my other favourites in the guidebook.

I’ve been visiting and singing the praises of tearooms for many years, and although I think I’m quite discerning about them, whether or not a tearoom makes my list is a matter of personal taste. I have visited tearooms that I’m not including in my guidebook, and yet I know that other people really rate them, so all I can do is offer my opinion and try to encourage you to enjoy the many wonderful tearooms Scotland has to offer, whatever your taste may be.

So come along why don’t you, and join me on this voyage of discovery into the wonderful world of tearoom delights.

If you’re on Twitter you can follow me @tearoomdelights

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