Category Archives: Eating out

Afternoon tea

I’ve been craving some ‘posh’ afternoon tea for a while. Contrary to what people might believe about me, I don’t tend to do the touristy and extravagant stuff when on home ground, so not only do I not do afternoon teas, but I don’t know where to go.

When Pippi came to Edinburgh this week, she needed a tea companion, and she’d heard of Colonnades at the Signet Library, and wanted to try it. And while pretty expensive, it was about the lowest price of all the places I found online.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

The library is just off the Royal Mile, next to St Giles Cathedral, and they have two-hour sittings throughout the afternoon, so you can treat it as lunch if you start early enough. And you need the two hours. I reckon they couldn’t serve all that food faster if they tried.

Colonnades at the Signet Library

Soup in a coffee cup to begin with. Then silver cake stands with around six savoury things plus a couple of sandwiches. A second stand for the cake, meaning six sweet things and two scones with jam and clotted cream. As your arteries begin to clot I recommend a discreet doggy bag if you feel you can’t manage it all. All this can be washed down with tea, or coffee, and the optional champagne, which I’ve never understood how it goes with afternoon tea.

Once you’ve reached the end, you are rescued by a cleansing sorbet.

And I recommend a trip down the many stairs to see the toilets.

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Regular

I read an article, probably in the Guardian, on eating the same thing – in the same place – all the time. I believe it was seen as odd.

Now, most of us tend to eat the same thing for breakfast every day, with little concern for nutritional variety or boredom. We just do. And if you’re the type to eat breakfast out, then that is the meal where variation is not required. You can pop into the same café every day of your life if you want to.

And can afford to, obviously. I’d say that having the money to pay for meals out in restaurants all the time is what matters. Not going to the same restaurant every time, nor ordering the same dish. Or not having to order, because staff bring it without being asked.

I don’t have the money, and I like being at home. But I can see the attraction in being a regular somewhere.

In fact, I used to be a regular in an Italian restaurant in London many years ago. Not every day, as I didn’t live there. But every time I was in London I ate there; sometimes several times a day. Once I discovered this place and realised I felt comfortable there and that the food was just right, and affordable, it became my home from home.

I believe this is what we need. We don’t want to trawl round looking at new places every time. I made ‘friends’ with the staff, and got acquainted with many of the other regular diners, some of whom ate out every day because they had no cooking facilities where they lived, often in rented rooms. It’s no different from drinking in your local [pub].

‘My’ restaurant is no more. It was housed in a narrow in-fill between larger properties, and the time came when land in London became so valuable that it had to go, and it has been replaced by a run of dreadful shops. I miss it every time I walk past, and if it was still in business, I’d eat there every time I’m in London.

Torbrex Inn

We left our builders to their own devices and disappeared off for Sunday lunch out today. Son and Dodo were visiting for the weekend and had hinted that a meal out would be nice. (I trust it’s not my cooking?) As usual, Son had money off deals going, and we chose between two old feeding grounds, deciding on Torbrex Inn.

It’s conveniently close and getting there is literally a walk in the park. This is such a rare thing nowadays that you should grab the opportunity to have a pleasant walk instead of always getting in the car.

The Inn at Torbrex

They had their Christmas menu up, and even Son who can be hard to satisfy, felt it looked good beforehand, and we all said how much we’d enjoyed it once the meal was over. (I’ve not had anything else to eat since…)

The Resident IT Consultant was pleased to have an opportunity to order turkey, while Son and I both had the nut roast. Smoked and deep fried cheese for starters was good, as were the puddings. The others had Christmas pudding – obviously – while I grappled with a very nice cheesecake, and ended up not being able to eat all of it.

Nicely presented food, and friendly serving staff. Clean pub surroundings with just the right amount of tasteful Christmas decorations, and a furry white cat outside.

And then a walk home again, allowing us to feel we could walk off some of those calories. Ten, maybe even twenty?

From cake to Cecil

The whole thing began with cake, but I forget quite how we ended up on the subject of homemade versus bought cake, and the effect of certain television programmes. But when we really should have been tidying books, we got lost in odd – and old – memories, much to the surprise and interest of Daughter.

It was my madeira cake – back in 1982 – which led us to my old friend No Filmstar. It was he who admired my cake so much he reckoned it had to be an M&S cake. For some reason Daughter required more information, and slowly, step by step, we arrived at the sculptor Cecil Thomas.

At first I couldn’t remember his name, but the Resident IT Consultant knew we’d looked him up before, in a past where there was no Google. But with the few facts we had, Daughter eventually found him and his impressive work and reputation.

Having known so little back then, it was interesting learning more. I met No Filmstar soon after Thomas’s death in 1976, and whereas he was mentioned now and again, I never knew any real facts. No Filmstar was one of the somewhat strange individuals hanging out in Queensway, back in the day when the young witch began witching.

So we moved sideways from the sculptor to the other people, including Dulcie and Mrs MacLean, and I remembered more about Mrs Hop and Cyril with the guinea pigs, and the old couple with the dog, and I realised what an odd life these people had, eating out every night, because they hadn’t the means to cook where they lived (most likely just a room). It seemed a bit glamorous then, but now I feel mostly sorry for them.

It’s the idea of being so ‘posh’ that you don’t go to work – other than charitably – but live ‘frugally’ off an inheritance, which inevitably dwindles as you go, that seems strange.

As always, I wish I could get the photos out, but I stuffed them all in a box when we moved, so can’t easily find individual ones, and the last letter I received in connection with these people I threw out a couple of months ago…

Except, Dulcie the 1st, who was eventually replaced by her niece Dulcie the 2nd, recently caused Bookwitch to receive a contact email from someone who could turn into Dulcie the 3rd, if her name wasn’t something else.

And I know none of this makes sense. I’m merely reminiscing. There was a Russian spy – whose name I forget – in there too.

Old fogeys at Fästningsterrassen

They don’t want old fogeys like me and GP Cousin at Fästningsterrassen in Varberg. And to be perfectly honest, we don’t want them there either.

I like new edgy architecture as much as the next person, and unlike GP Cousin, I thought the new, rusty metal lift looked pretty good. I suspect Hamlet himself would have liked it, had he seen what’s been done to his castle.

What’s more, now that I’ve visited, I can – almost – see how you could achieve most of what the new management want, while keeping the fogeys mostly satisfied as well. Or at least not making them wish they’d died before seeing the ruins of this cultural heritage.

Because that’s really the point; ruining a traditional setting that ought to have been protected by law. I don’t mind poncy new restaurants wanting to fleece their customers by charging twice as much for food and drink than it warrants, or doing so in newly designed premises. If I feel like being fleeced, I can totally see myself going some place like that.

What I object to is that they were allowed near one of the most beautiful places on the Swedish west coast, that they were allowed to strip it down completely, and then that they didn’t even get a decent design job done in the ruins. So far, there is no paving down where people expect to sit. It’s been two years since the old place closed, and heavy diggers sitting around is not the look you want when fleecing.

The toilets… Yes, a definite improvement on the old portaloo behind the stage. But if that architect had thought a little, there could have been space made for the toilet paper dispenser and the waste bin and the customer. You know, without the need to hold your breath and cross your arms in front of you.

I admit, the prawn sandwich was as great as always. Great in size, and great for flavour. Great in price, as well, obviously. The cake was bought in, and not local. It seemed identical to what you find in many other overpriced cafés. Fogeys notice this kind of thing, whereas I suspect the preferred beautiful young customers wouldn’t have a clue and couldn’t care less.

Friendly service, even towards old fogeys. I might visit once a year, for the view, and for the prawns. And I wish them well. I’d hate for my beloved Fästnings-terrass to have been ruined for no good reason.

A stab at design

Benny is no more. Don’t worry. He’s not dead (at least I hope not), but the place that was named after this man whose name was not actually Benny, has now changed. Not beyond all recognition, but enough.

It doesn’t do pizzas. Even though the post-Benny pizzas were never as good, nor the place as nice to visit, they were pizzas. Now it is tea and coffee, sandwiches, cake and savoury pies. The place has been spruced up (but they are still intending to close for the next four weeks to decorate…), and it is selling souvenirs. Seasidey things, and hoodies and t-shirts with the [now] correct latitude/longitude printed on them.

Stabbe Design hoodie in Atlanta

We had been forbidden by Daughter to visit without her, but when I saw on Facebook this morning that it was today or not at all, we were given reluctant permission to go. So we had a tea and a coffee where we used to have pizza.

This closing your business is clearly a Swedish thing. 17 years ago we noticed Benny’s was being done up, but with an opening date just after we’d gone home. And when we returned at the end of the summer, he’d gone on holiday and it was already closed. I think we are doomed as far as this geographical spot is concerned. If and when we come again this year, they are bound to have closed. Again.

But they accepted my old, almost extinct, 50 kronor note as payment, which was generous of them.

And we’ll be back. Next summer, or perhaps the year after, depending on how our dates coincide. We weren’t hungry enough to eat anything, which is why there is no report on how good anything tasted. It looked nice and tasty.

(Stabbe Design)

(And a wee bit of googling had me back on my own blog, as it seems I have already – very briefly – blogged about the owner of this new café. I still haven’t had time to read the book… Sorry.)

Encounters

Over a meal out the other week we got talking about what famous people we had come across in the wild. Apparently meeting them through ‘work’ like blogging, did not qualify. You had to just happen upon them.

Various semi-famous people were mentioned, but the discussion felt a bit lacklustre. What’s a Jeremy Paxman in Blackwell’s or an Alistair Darling at airport security? I mean, really? The best Son came up with was flying with Gordon Brown. Daughter didn’t even think to mention her own flying with Pilou Asbæk.

I felt I had something to add, but it took me a while to remember Agnetha Fältskog at Heathrow (as we have a flying theme). Jan Malmsjö in the post office might not count, as I worked there. But Daughter found someone from one of those shows I never watch at our former post office. Or was it the greengrocer’s?

We came to the conclusion that the winner was the Resident IT Consultant’s cousin who volunteered the fact that she had danced with John Travolta.

(The niggling feeling that I was forgetting someone, finally matured when I remembered my Cliff Richard and Cilla Black encounter at the theatre. But they don’t beat Travolta, since I didn’t dance with either of them.)