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Posts Tagged ‘Walnut’

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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About 30 miles south-west of Aberdeen there is a small village called Fettercairn.

I’ve passed through Fettercairn on quite a number of occasions, and each time I’ve thought that I must stop and have a look round one of these days. That day came earlier this week, when my delightful assistant and I deliberately went there for a look-see.

Fettercairn is perhaps best known for its rather splendid arch, which narrows the main street so that only one car can pass through at a time. It was built in honour of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, who stayed overnight in Fettercairn en route to Balmoral in September 1861, and I think it’s quite a magnificent structure:

If you walk under the arch you’ll see that it’s on a bridge with a river running under the road. The view over both sides is rather attractive:

On the north side of the arch there is that most wonderful of businesses: a nice cafe. If you’re needing a little refreshment while wandering around in this area, you might do as we do and dive in there post haste.

It being the middle of the afternoon when we rolled up, I wasn’t holding out much hope for a scone, but I’m delighted to say that not only did they have scones, they had three options available: plain, fruit and – irresistible, to my mind – walnut and apricot:

My delightful assistant was more in the market for an iced cake, and plumped for a slice of the generously three-tiered coffee and walnut sponge cake:

Both the scone and the cake were excellent, the scone being a most interesting texture with chewy apricot and crunchy walnuts, and the cake being intensely coffee flavoured. My scone was fairly studded with small apricot and walnut lumps:

We both washed our eats down with decaf lattes, which were also extremely good.

Great success so far, but what of the facilities? I had a feeling they might be interesting and so I trotted off to investigate. I wasn’t disappointed:

One area of the cafe had been given over to young visitors, and was very well equipped, with a large assortment of reading material as well as toys and games:

A sign on the wall read “We’re here for you to play! While mummy drinks coffee and chats away!”

Near the counter there was a small sofa with some attractive cushions on it. This was my favourite one:

Enlivened by our refreshments, we trotted outside to have a look at the village square, which contained some nice stone buildings:

The Fettery Shoppe was selling luscious looking plump red strawberries, and we bought a punnet. I would have included a photo of them here but they sadly disappeared before I thought of it.

If you’re ever driving up or down the country to or from Aberdeen and have a little time to spare, I would highly recommend a little detour into the pretty village of Fettercairn, and a good old gaze at the arch.

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After our delicious salads at the wonderful Fife cafe that featured as last week’s Tearoom of the Week, my delectable assistant and I took afternoon refreshments in another Fife eatery.

It was a very cold, overcast day but before going into tearoom number 2 we took a health-giving walk up a small road that took us past some buildings featuring lovely crow-stepped gabling:

The crow-stepped gable is a very useful form of architecture for people who need to climb up onto a roof, giving secure stone steps up from standard ladder height to the top of a building.

If you fancy climbing up a few crow-stepped gables, but find you’re a bit nervous about the height and steepness, you’d be well advised to pop across the border into England for a bit of practise first. Apparently roofs like these tend to be steeper in Scotland, so that snow can slide off more easily.

Although the idea of stepping up them does entice me (and has done, ever since I first saw Mary Poppins climb up a crow-stepped gable made of smoke in the Disney movie) my fear of heights prevents me from actually trying it out. I prefer to enjoy them safely from ground level.

The tearoom we proposed to take afternoon snacks in is next-door to a shop full of wooden items shipped in from Asia, and fancying a little look around the goods on display, we popped in.

There were a lot of elephants. Here are some carved into a table-top:


There were two almost life size elephants in one part of the shop. I thought it might be nice to buy one, put it into a trailer attached to the back of my car and tour around the country with it.

These ones were sitting at the door ready to welcome people into the shop. Those two small things at the front on either side of the little elephant are, believe it or not, carvings of elephant rumps, for sale at £1 a go. I did consider buying one, I must admit.

Before leaving, my delightful assistant purchased a very well-priced magazine rack made from teak:

Only a few steps from the shop full of wooden elephants was the tearoom we were headed for. The building is a wooden structure that doesn’t give anything away from the outside.

The sun had come out a bit, which was very nice, but it was still too cold to sit out on the balcony (and a bit noisy, due to the proximity of the road):

The first time I visited this place, I had no idea from the outside how nice it was going to be inside:

And I certainly wasn’t expecting such impressive facilities:

Most of the tables in this tearoom have marble tops, and there are fresh flowers in vases. When I ordered a slice of cake, a very nice fork was brought with the napkin:

There was a tempting selection of cakes and biscuits on display. I opted for the chocolate cake while my assistant asked for a slice of coffee walnut cake. We both had decaf coffees, mine a latte and hers an Americano:

My chocolate cake was attractively decorated with milk and white chocolate shavings, and nicely finished on the edge:

My assistant’s coffee cake was beautiful, and reminded me of a lump of rock with sparkly bits in it (alas, despite doing a year of geology at university I cannot for the life of me think which rock it reminded me of). The top was decorated with chopped up walnuts and glittery edible gold flakes:

As with my slice, attention had been paid to the edge:

My latte, as seen in a previous picture, was served in a tall glass. My assistant’s Americano, on the other hand, came in a stylish cup and saucer with a spoon to match the fancy fork:

Since there’s a bit of an elephant theme to this post, I’m going to sneak in one more. I bought this one for a friend a few years ago, and he’s been named George. He’s quite big and is meant as a doorstop (although I believe my friend keeps him on the bed). He’s filled with sand and his outer material is silk.

He really is a most charming and delightful little fellow.

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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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If you happened to read last week’s Tearoom of the Week post, you may recall that it was a tearoom within an antique shop. I don’t want you to think I’m resting on my laurels and just mooching about in antique shops when I should be doing serious tearoom research, but I’ve plumped for another antique shop-tearoom combo this week.

I realise that choosing such a similar type of tearoom again suggests I may be distinctly lacking in imagination, but the trouble is it was an excellent tearoom and my favourite tearoom experience of last week.  (Incidentally, I really don’t know why the marriage of tearoom and antique shop should be such a perfect match, but it does seem to have something going for it.)

Here’s a shot of the front door and entrance area of the shop:

This antique shop and tearoom is only a few miles from where I live, and I’ve driven past it many times, observing the signs advertising tea and cakes, but never darkening its doors….until 2 days ago. As for why it’s taken me such an appallingly long time to visit, I really don’t know, it’s a puzzle. I think I had an idea that it might not be up to much, that the signs trying to lure me in were only empty promises. Why I should think this, goodness only knows, but I’m afraid I can’t offer any other explanation for my behaviour.

I was favourably impressed on entering the shop, not only because it had a very nice feel to it, but because such a warm welcome was extended to me and my glamorous assistant. I hadn’t been too sure if we’d actually get a cup of tea because the sign on the door said that the tearoom was only open until 3 pm and by this time it was about 2.45 pm. However, when I questioned the lady in the shop about this she exlaimed very merrily that the tearoom was certainly still open and they would be delighted to serve us with some refreshments.

In order to reach the tearoom we had to pass through another room that contained a grand piano, among many other interesting items:


Many tearooms sport PVC table covers (easy to keep clean, which I suppose is why they have them), but this is the first time I’ve seen them covered in pleasing farmyard birds:

There were several tempting looking cakes and traybakes on display, but I thought the plate full of dark brown cake modelling a bit of walnut on each slice looked particularly appealing. I wasn’t sure what it was, although whatever it was I was sure I would like it since I’m quite partial to a walnut. When I asked the waitress ‘What’s that cake with the walnut on it?’ and she replied, ‘Walnut cake’ I was completely convinced it was the cake for me:

It was extremely good – moist, flavoursome, sweet, cakey and absolutely stuffed with crushed up walnuts:

I washed it down with 2 cups of excellent decaf coffee, which came in a cafetiere. If an eatery in Scotland doesn’t have the sort of Italian-style coffee making apparatus popularised by places such as Starbucks and Costa, when you ask for a decaf coffee you do sometimes get granulated instant coffee from a jar. I have nothing against coffee out of a jar but I was very pleased that the decaf coffee in this tearoom was of a higher quality and exceptionally smooth in taste, just the way I like it. I don’t know what type of coffee it was but it reminded me of Taylor’s Lazy Sunday.

One unusual feature of this tearoom is that every table has its own unique hand bell, that can be rung if you want to alert a member of waiting staff, or perhaps just make a bit of a racket (I did ask the lady in the shop about the bells and she said people often picked them up out of curiosity and when she went to help them they explained that they hadn’t meant to ring them). The one on our table reminded me of a ship’s bell:

The bell on the table next to ours had a small pheasant perched on top of it:

But perhaps my favourite one was the little windmill:

After a most relaxing and enjoyable afternoon refreshment, we had a look round the antique shop, and were encouraged to pop across the courtyard outside to another part of the shop that was entered through a separate door. Inside, I was surprised to find one whole room laid out like a bedroom (but without a bed):

I didn’t purchase anything in the shop, although I was very tempted by a desk (in the first photo next to the front door). If I can gather up the cash for it I might just go back and see if it’s still there later on in the year, but I’m quite sure I’ll be back for the tearoom alone very soon.

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