- Food & Drink
Last week I swapped London’s swelter for the low skies and sweet air of Scotland. There was a lot of talk, before we set off, about how this was going to be a week of relaxation, balance and health. What the ‘health’ bit would involve was unclear, but vegetable juices, cleanses and sobriety were mentioned.
This was all lies, of course. We didn’t mean a word of it. Holidays are an opportunity for many things, but not temperance. There were walks, true. But they were mainly in the direction of food. Sometimes something specific, like lobster rolls. Sometimes it was just with a vague idea of eating in mind. We walked towards tea and cake. Coffee and cake, Whisky and cake. Cake.
Consequently, I ate a lot of delicious things. These are my favourites.
1 Coffee at Artisan Roast, Edinburgh
The first thing I did when I got to Edinburgh was go to Artisan Roast for a coffee and a think about how much coffee we needed to take with us to Fife. I was introduced to Artisan Roast last year, on a tour of Edinburgh’s gin dens, and I bought a bag of their Kenyan Kii Peaberry coffee home. Citrus bright and spring green, I barely got a cupful of it due to my family cottoning on to how good it was. So I figured life owed me another bag.
I also bought a bag of their Ethiopian Adado Natural because I was worried it was going to rain all week and we’d have nothing to do but sit in, drink coffee and go mad. In the end, it was long walks and sunshine. We still got through all the floral, berryish Ethiopian coffee and quite a whack of the Kenyan, though, so I wasn’t far wrong.
2 Pickering’s & Tonic, The Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh
My opening drink at The Gardener’s Cottage. It gets its own entry for two reasons. Firstly, Pickering’s is fast becoming my favourite gin. An über London dry that sparkles with spice, it makes a rare G&T. Secondly, for the garnish: a grassy sprig of lovage, nipped with celery and curry leaf flavours. It matched the warmth and freshness of the Pickering’s and was a sensitive bit of strewing that demonstrates why I love The Gardener’s Cottage.
3 Dinner at The Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh
We added a night onto the start of our holiday just so we could have dinner at The Gardener’s Cottage. ShedLikesFood wrote up the meal we had here, so if you would like to read about it in droolling detail, please head to her blog straight away.
I’ll be briefer: The Gardener’s Cottage is my favourite restaurant. As we ate, we ran our fingers around our plates to make sure we didn’t miss a molecule of sauce. And when our final course appeared – a desert we hadn’t expected – we cheered. Go there for dinner.
4 Fish Supper, Anstruther Fish Bar, Anstruther
When I told people from Anstruther I was going on holiday there, the first thing they said – every single one of them – was: “You have to go to the Fish Bar for fish and chips.”
On our first night we had two fish suppers (haddock and chips) with mushy peas and buttered buns on the side. We ate them on the harbour, sat on polished stone slabs, and rhapsodised over how light, crisp and greaseless the batter was.
On our second visit we split a box of battered Pittenween prawns and chips, with extra bread and curry sauce. Little crunchy balls of seafood deliciousness, I’d go back just for them. And chip butties. God, chip buttes are good. Go and make yourself one right now.
5 Katy Rodgers Yogurt
Our first walk, from Anstruther to Elie, was a walk with a specific food purpose in mind: Ardross Farm Shop. We hiked there in the sunshine to pick up vegetables, fruit (all part of our clean, healthy eating plan), oxtail, giant meringues and miscellaneous dairy products. Katy Rodgers Rhubarb Yogurt was an especially good buy.
A creamy yogurt threaded with rhubarb, we ate it on French toast, with poached gooseberries and just out of the tub. It’s available in Waitrose, which is good news for anyone who doesn’t want to walk the Fife Coastal Path in order to lay hands upon it.
6 Tablet at Crail Harbour Gallery, Crail
When you order a pot of tea or cup of coffee at the Crail Harbour Gallery Tearoom, they bring you a square of tablet to go with it. It looks so innocent. A nub of fudge with seams of sugar running through it.
But just one bite and you will be its slave, wondering how many more pots of tea you can manage in order to get enough of that good sweet stuff. They sell bags of it by the till. Buy as many as you can and be ready for the comedown when you finally run out.
7 Lobster Rolls & Cooked Lobster, The Lobster Store, Crail
Another walk with a purpose with was our stroll to Crail, where The Lobster Store lives. Run by the Reilly family, who catch, prepare and sell lobster and crab on the harbour side, it’s a shed for seafood fans.
We had lobster rolls on our first visit. Soft, fresh morning rolls, well buttered and spread with fragments of lobster swimming in Marie Rose sauce. We ate them with bags of salted crisps and watched the gulls flap around the boats. On our second visit we bough a £15 cooked lobster and ShedLikesFood turned it into into lobster noodles soaking in a broth made from the roast, crushed shells.
8 Cream Pancakes, GH Barnett & Sons, Anstruther
The bread mafia, aka GH Barnett & Sons, seemed to be in every village we stopped in. Over the course of our holiday we bought bread, butteries and morning rolls from them, but it was the cream pancakes we loved most. Two flannel pancakes stuck together with stiffly whipped cream, we covered them in strawberries and ate them after dinner on the only rainy day.
9 Tunnock’s Tea Cakes
I knew our holiday eating had got out of control when we decided to buy all the Tunnock’s snacks we could find in the corner shop and try them all to see which one is best. It had been prompted by a Twitter debate: are you #teamwafer or #teateacake?
I am #teamteacake. Unlike the Wafer, you can taste the chocolate in the Tea Cake. More importantly, you can nibble it off till you get to the sugar rush mallow and crunchy biscuit base. The wafer just tastes like stale wafer.
ShedLIkesFood disagrees and some people on Twitter had mentioned Snowballs and Caramel Logs. We tried them all in one diabetic session. The Snowball is a feat of engineering. The Caramel Log an extra sticky version of the Wafer, and the Tea Cake is still queen of the snacks.
10 Lunch at Craig Millar @ 16 West End, St Monans
We hadn’t meant to go for lunch. We’d meant to catch a boat to May Island and menace some puffins. But we hadn’t booked and the boat was full, so we walked along the cliffs to St Monans. In our fleeces and walking boots, we wandered into what looked like a pub and wondered if they had room for four.
There was a set menu for £18, two courses for £22 or three for £26. I started with a smoked haddock and cheese tart: a crisp circle of pastry topped with a fluffy round haddock. My main was a meaty slab of cod cooked with butter beans and chorizo, with a honeycomb topped panna cotta wobbling in at the end for dessert. It was superb. One of those meals that you linger over, feeling yourself relaxing until you’re nothing but a puddle of happiness.
Jelly-legged with food, we walked back along the cliffs, taking in deep breaths of the antiseptic sea air and marvelling at the way our bodies shook after a week of eating. I’d picked a week in Fife because of the food, and Fife did not let me down.
May do the vegan juice cleanse detox thing now, though.