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Posts Tagged ‘Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh’

Mimi’s Bakehouse is a tearoom I’ve been wanting to visit for some time. It’s situated in the Leith area of Edinburgh, a part of the city I know reasonably well, having inhabited three different flats in the vicinity.

Edinburgh, and Leith in particular, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. In the past couple of weeks I’ve read two Ian Rankin books set in Edinburgh, and the main character in my own novel (still under construction, currently at 25,000 words) lives in Leith.

All of this, combined with my desire to meet up with a chum who lives in the great metropolis, led to me nipping down there last week.

The day was dreich (wet, damp, dull and – some might say – a bit miserable) but, arriving a bit early, I wandered round some of my old haunts.

One never knows, on revisiting a place, quite what one’s feelings will be. I was half expecting to be irritated by the noise and traffic, put off by the general busyness of the city, which has sometimes been the case when I’ve been back to Edinburgh after my quiet life in leafy Perthshire. However, I was surprised to find that I felt happy, exhuberant and delighted to be back. Quite a few of Leith’s streets are cobbled, rather than covered with tarmac (is this known in the US as asphalt? I’ve never been too sure): I was glad to see this old chap again, a fellow I often used to walk past and bid good day to: Although some of the shops, pubs, cafes, etc. have changed since I was last here, it was reassuring to see that some looked exactly as I’d left them. This wee pub has probably looked much the same for the past 200 years, dating back as it does to 1785: Inside, Mimi’s provided a bright and welcoming contrast to the weather. Indeed, far from feeling the chill outside, the ladies on the wallpaper appeared to be feeling the heat: We opted to sit in one of the sofa areas, which was decorated with some stylish cushions: The main point of interest to my mind, however, was the cake counter. I opted for the coffee and walnut: If I’d been in a chocolate mood I would have found this creation hard to resist: And if I’d been craving the malty crunchiness of Maltesers, this little gem would have been top of my list: To go with my cake, I ordered Teapigs Chai tea, which came in a little teapot with a slice of orange on the side: The cake was heavily iced (a bit too much for me on this occasion, although if I’d been desperate for a sugar rush I’d have scoofed it back readily enough), but the sponge itself was extremely light and fluffy:

Just as coffee and walnut is one of the cakes I frequently like to try, my chum is very partial to a caramel, or millionaire, shortbread. Mimi’s had large slabs of the stuff on offer, and he jumped at the opportunity, pairing it with a cappuccino: I wasn’t too fussed about trying it, since it looked a bit heavy and solid to me, but when I tasted a little corner I was astonished by its melt-in-the-mouth texture. The biscuit, toffee and chocolate disappeared together in a most pleasant manner. It was, surely, one of the best of its kind.

Mimi’s is, altogether, rather a stylish establishment. The ladies toilet can be located by this attractive notice on the door: The black and white theme evident throughout the tearoom itself, is continued in the bathrooms: After our delicious repast, my comrade had to get back to work and I thought I’d get a little exercise by way of trotting round the Botanic Gardens, which were on my route out of the city. The colours were beautiful but it was raining quite heavily. One good thing about going to the Botanics on such a wet day was that I virtually had the place to myself, including the magnificent hot houses: While I was pounding the pavements in Leith and driving through the city, I noticed that there are lots of new tearooms that weren’t there in my day.

The trouble, if you can call it that, is that there are far more tearooms to sample than I have the capacity for. Just as I don’t expect to die with an empty in-tray, neither do I anticipate managing to consume all the cakes I would like to gorge on in this one short lifetime. If ever there were a reason for reincarnation, that must be it.

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On holiday in Galloway last month, my delightful assistants and I visited Logan Botanic Gardens:

This is a pilgrimage each of us makes, usually at least once a year. Being members of the Royal Botanic Gardens (which comprises a set of four lovely gardens in Scotland, including Logan), like true Scots, we want to get our money’s worth.

The big bonus for me is that Logan also happens to contain one of my favourite tearooms in Galloway.

At first sight the striplights and tiled floor might seem a little stark and utilitarian, but I find this place warm and welcoming and I like the bright cleanliness of it. As soon as I step through the door I get a sense of having come home.

On this occasion, we had come here not only to enjoy the tearoom and look round the garden, but also to attend the Annual General Meeting. Despite all having been members for some time, none of us had ever attended any of the AGMs, and since this one happened to be on while we were in the area, we took the opportunity to pop in.

The meeting wasn’t being held until 2pm, so we rolled up in time for morning snacks, intending to munch those, mooch round the garden, have lunch and then drop into the meeting.

I noticed behind the counter that scones were being cut out of dough, and knowing that scones only take about 10 minutes to cook, I wondered if we might partake of these when they were ready. The lovely lady who was making them said that if we didn’t mind waiting she’d bring some over to our table when they were cooked, and in the meantime fetch us beverages to be getting on with.

So, we sat down with our drinks, and a few minutes later delicious piping hot scones appeared:

They were quite small and dainty, but perfectly formed and absolutely delicious. When the bill came I was surprised at how little we were being charged, and when we queried it we discovered that they’d cut the price of the scones as they were smaller than usual.

Thus refreshed, out we trotted for some fresh air and greenery.

I could do a whole post on this garden, but I will instead limit myself to showing you a hotel complex for minibeasts:

These hotels are at the top end of the market, the minibeast equivalent of a right royal residence:

I wondered if it was Prince Charles who came up with the hotel name. I saw him at Logan Botanics a few years ago when he had turned up to open something, although I can’t now remember what. I remember it was a lovely sunny day, and he was very tanned and wearing a sandy coloured suit that made him look like a pukka sahib abroad. (He was sort of abroad I suppose, having come from England).

After our garden stroll we strode back into the tearoom for a spot of luncheon prior to the meeting. We all opted for soup, the two delightful assistants taking lentil, while I chose minestrone.

Lentil soup:

Minestrone (it was probably the best minestrone soup I’ve ever had, I can still remember how good it was a month later):

The bread was also surprisingly good. I usually prefer brown bread, but this was very tasty, really crusty and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

We did wonder if there might be biscuits at the AGM, but in case not we had a little sweet thing after our soup. We got two pieces of Malteser slice to share between us:

I find it endlessly satsifying to break through the middle of a Malteser:

Nicely filled and not requiring the AGM’s biscuits, we filed into the meeting along with 20-odd other punters.

The sight that met my eyes caused me to gasp. Spread out inside the room was a magnificent buffet consisting of trays of sandwiches, scones, biscuits and cakes, and there were several pots of tea and coffee next to a stack of teacups. We looked at each other in a distressed way and wondered what to do about this situation.

Despite having no room for more food at this juncture, I simply could not pass up this veritable feast. I chose a small fruit scone (this was what the lady in the tearoom had evidently been making them for) with butter and jam, helped myself to a cup of tea and sat down in the back row next to delightful assistant no.1 (who was so full of lunch she couldn’t even manage a cup of tea).

After a bit of toing and froing with people finding seats and selecting goodies to nibble on, the chap in charge offered us another chance to take some treats before the meeting began. I really hadn’t room but I just couldn’t leave all that food there uneaten and looking deliciously at me. I thought perhaps that as the meeting went on I might develop an appetite, and so I topped my teacup up and helped myself to a coconuty cakey pink thing, which I laid on the windowsill beside me. Needless to say, it had gone by the close of the meeting:

After the meeting, which included a most interesting talk on ferns by a very enthusiastic fellow, we bid a fond adieu to Logan and its inhabitants, and are already looking forward to our next visit.

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On Sunday 15th April, the first full day of our little holiday in Galloway, my two delightful assistants and I toddled off to one of Galloway’s many fine attractions: Dunskey Gardens.

Before looking round the gardens, however, we made a bee-line for the aptly named Seasons Tearoom, which was most splendidly adorned with paintings of the surrounding area as seen through the seasons. The paintings went all round the walls and strayed up to the ceiling:

In a previous life, this room had been a dairy, hence all the tiling on the lower walls. Although a most delightful place, it was rather cold, so we kept our outer clothing on:

Mind you, our comestibles were very warming. It was tea for me and a shared cafetiere of coffee for the delightful assistants, along with 3 different food items.

My choice was a coconut cake which was very generously topped with butter icing (I scraped some of it off and assistant no.2 helpfully wolfed it):

As an accompaniment to the butter icing from my cake, assistant no.2 had a fruit scone with butter and jam:

And assistant no.1 ordered ginger cake, and was delighted when the waitress brought it over, declaring ‘this is all there is left, so I’m giving you two slices':

Both of my parents have a great fondness for dairy produce, cream in particular where my dad’s concerned (he explains this by claiming to have been “born with a cream deficiency”) and butter on the part of my dear mama.

If you happen to have seen a previous post on here involving a pancake, you may recall that she wasn’t defeated by the solidity of butter served in a tearoom recently. The ginger cake episode was even more spectacular, to my mind. Really, I think the cake was only there to provide something for the butter to sit on:

Refreshed and warmed by our morning snacks, off we trotted into the bright sunlight. Dunskey Gardens has much to recommend it for a visit. Not only is it an interesting and lovely garden, but it also contains a maze (the pattern of which is based around the maze at Hampton Court), some splendid glasshouses and a woodland walk. We started our tour with the maze:

I have proof that we found our way to the centre of the maze:

I believe my eldest brother claimed the prize when he visited recently, and it was a lollipop  (‘children’ can be of any age, it seems; he’s 49, although he doesn’t look it).

After finding our way out (which was far easier than finding our way in, I’m relieved to say), we took a turn about the lovely gardens.

All over the place there were curious little plastic things hanging from trees and seats. We were initially quite perplexed by these, but once we’d worked out what they were we enjoyed looking for them (if you look closely underneath the bench towards the far end you can perhaps make out a little dangling blue thing):

Close-up, this was what they looked like:

They turned out to be hole punches and, thanks to delightful assistant no.2 being a fellow of infinte resource, we were each able to collect the different shapes on offer using pieces of paper torn from a notebook he had about his person:

I do like a nice glasshouse, and the glasshouses at Dunskey were jolly nice. They were built in the late 1800s by Mackenzie and Moncur, who were also responsible for the magnificent glasshouses at Kew Gardens in London and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Mackenzie and Moncur appear to have been an entrepreneurial bunch for, in addition to building glasshouses, they also ran iron foundries which produced – amongst other useful items – lamp posts, manhole covers, pipes and radiators. I can’t help feeling that making street furniture would be a very satisfying job. Whenever you walked past one of your creations you could smile with delight at having given something so useful to the world.

Beyond the glasshouses lay a woodland walk, which we enjoyed sauntering round. Along the route, visitors were encouraged to engage with their surroundings by guessing tree species which had been numbered, thus:

The answers were on the back of the numbered plates. I didn’t do very well as there weren’t many leaves out (that’s my excuse, although even with leaves I failed to get some of them), but assistant number 1 made a fine stab at it and got most of them right.

Part of the walk skirted a little loch (lake) where there were some boats tied up. I rather fancied nipping into one and rowing out on the water:

Dunskey is one of six gardens in Galloway that are part of a scheme encouraging tourism. When you visit any one of them you can collect a form that gives discounted entry to the others. We only managed three of the six on this trip, but hope to see the others on another occasion. I would like to return to Dunskey in another season, and of course I need to double-check the tearoom delights.

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