Afternoon tea at the Scottish Cafe at the Scottish National Gallery – Making an exhibition of myself

Don’t worry, I haven’t been misbehaving but as EdinburghFoody’s culture vulture,  I love nothing better that soaking up some culture in our city, followed by a spot of afternoon tea so what better excuse than to accept an invitation to the Scottish Cafe at the Scottish National Galleries, preceded by a visit to their latest exhibition, Beyond Carravaggio.

The perfect scone with Chantilly cream

The perfect scone with Chantilly cream

This summer exhibition is on until 24 September and is the first exhibition of works by Caravaggio and his followers – the so-called Caravaggesque painters – ever to be shown in Scotland. Caravaggio’s dramatic lighting and compositions, and his radically new approach to subject matter exerted a huge influence on a host of contemporary artists from all over Europe.

Having taken in the Caravaggio exhibition, I made my way to the Scottish Cafe. Sitting in a window seat, overlooking Princes Street Gardens, we were in for a wonderful treat of people watching and delicious fayre.

The Scottish Larder

The cafe and restaurant is one of Victor and Carina Contini’s ’empire’ so there is always going to be attention to detail.  In fact, even as you enter the restaurant, a large blackboard details where they source their various ingredients, paying homage to Scotland’s wonderful larder. Local and seasonal produce is the genuine article here and extra fruit, vegetables and flowers are apparently supplied by the Contini’s own kitchen garden.

The Scottish Cafe pays homage to Scotland's wonderful larder

The Scottish Cafe pays homage to Scotland’s wonderful larder

One of my complaints with afternoon tea, is that there is never enough savoury to sweet ratio but the Scottish Cafe has the balance just right.

I started with a glass of Prosecco, whilst my companion M, opted for the non-alcoholic cucumber and elderflower cooler, whilst we waited for our selection of fresh homemade sandwiches, Isle of Mull cheese scones with Scottish smoked salmon, warm fruit scones with jam and Chantilly cream and various sweet treats, served with tea.

Although my grandfather was a tea-planter in India, I usually opt for a peppermint tea. I liked the fact they use fresh leaves, rather than a tea-bag as I love the theatre of pouring tea from a tea-pot, using a tea-strainer but I felt the quality of the afternoon tea, deserved china tea-pots, rather than the industrial stainless steel one but that’s a personal preference.

The homemade bread used for the sandwiches was light and fresh and the quality of the fillings, egg, and pastrami and sourkrout was outstanding.

Afternoon tea at the Scottish Cafe at the Scottish National Galleries

Afternoon tea at the Scottish Cafe at the Scottish National Galleries

I loved the savoury cheese scone, which fellow blogger Nicki, who is always on the search for the perfect scone, would have been proud of.  My only complaint, was that it came with smoked salmon, which whilst I was assured was delicious, is no good if you have a fish and seafood allergy. No problem though, we just whipped it off, and let M enjoy a double helping.

The fruit scone was light and had a good helping of dried fruit.  Served with jam and Chantilly cream, rather my preferred clotted cream, it started a debate on what type of cream tea devourer we each were, depending on whether we put cream or jam on first.

Devonshire or Cornish Tea – which type are you?

In case you’re curious, the Devonshire method is to split the scone in two, cover each half with clotted, and then add strawberry jam on top. In Cornwall, the cream tea was traditionally served with a “Cornish split”, a type of slightly sweet white bread roll, rather than a scone. It is now rare to find this available commercially, so scones are more common. The warm roll (or scone) is first buttered, then spread with strawberry jam, and finally topped with a spoonful of clotted cream.

If you must know, I like mine the Cornish way, which probably comes from spending all my childhood holidays there.

The sweet treats included a small eclair, a coconut truffle and an almond cake and my favourite by far, a beautiful palate cleansing lemon posset, with a raspberry coulis decorated with the most intricate, edible flowers, which added another dimension and texture to this dessert.

After polishing off most of the savouries, I sadly didn’t do justice to the sweet treats, which were perfectly bite-sized but M declared the coconut truffles her favourite and I loved the posset.

The sweet treats - the lemon posset won me over

The sweet treats – the lemon posset won me over

This is creative food in a beautiful location and a good option for refuelling both the soul and the stomach but if you’re hoping to go during the Festival, I’d make a booking

Princes Street afternoon tea is served from 3pm and serves 2 – £32.
A fish and chips, mushy peas and chips High Tea is also served from 3pm – £30

The Scottish Cafe at the Scottish National Galleries
The Mound
Edinburgh  EH2 2EL

Telephone: 0131 225 1550
Email: thescottishcafe@contini.com

Instagram: continibites | Twitter:  @continibites | Facebook: theScottishCafe

Kerry dined as a guest of The Scottish Cafe

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About Kerry Teakle

Working in communications during the day, by night, Kerry is a self-confessed culture vulture and foodie, and can be found lapping up anything culinary or to do with the arts.

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