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Breakfast Soapbox!!

Prestonfield is a truly beautiful place. Owner James Thomson has the gift of creating a touch of magic here in the heart of Edinburgh, snug and sheltered in the lee of Arthur’s Seat. It is here we are indeed fortunate to have our Catering in Scotland Excellence Awards meetings and where we are treated to the most memorable breakfasts I challenge anyone to beat! Prestonfield is The Most Glamorous Hotel in Town according to The Independent and I wouldn’t argue with that!

As a Chief Inspector for a food guide in the 90’s, prior to creating Scottish Food Guide, I recall feisty debates with other hoteliers over breakfasts! In the first instance they really wanted you to judge their dinners – not lunch or breakfast - when head chef was on duty and local produce in evidence. In those days lunches could be 50% freezer van to microwave, and breakfasts…well!

Logistically it was impossible to send a dozen inspectors out to eat only dinners and ethically I wanted to see lunch and breakfast too. I could hardly tell tourists ‘they do a great dinner but beware the lunch and leave before breakfast!!’ Too often this was the case! I am delighted to report that whilst some still exist they are diminishing and you will not find them in Scottish Food Guide! SFG is quality assured and for every establishment accepted there are many that do not make the grade.

I drop in for a light meal or stay over and sample breakfast; I meet chefs, speak with producers and study menus. My recommendations can be minimalist design or couthy; 5 courses or a bowl of soup; award-winning chefs or accomplished home cooks, but all have the same fundamental criteria: honest local sustainable sourcing, cooked skilfully with great flavours and presented appropriately, a warm welcome, a high standard of cleanliness and characteristics making it special and memorable.

Breakfast is often the last meal the customer experiences before travelling onwards and can be wonderful with a little imagination: warm pancakes served under a napkin; local rolls fresh from the bakers; regional honey and preserves; local yoghurt (plain with options for adding reduces waste), butchers’ sausages and fresh eggs to order, smoked produce. You can even have tasty vegetarian one at Henderson’s as I did one morning when arriving early in town for a meeting. Simplicity can win, it need not be complex, just inviting and a wee bit creative – breakfast need not be boring! I could write a book on wonderful exquisite breakfast memories!

The Scottish Breakfast is famous and should remain so for all the right reasons, forever linked to generations of bakers out there creating brilliant breads, rolls and bakes. One such family business is Campbell’s Bakery in Crieff and Comrie. 7th generation, Iain is following the tradition with classic favourites and new twists, adding his own character and skills to their high street emporium. Iain and his wife Ailsa are heavily involved in efforts to regenerate Crieff town centre and have also created a Bake School that is proving very popular. Iain will be among the guest chefs cooking in Scotland’s Larder Live Cookery Theatre at the Royal Highland Show in June and I for one can’t wait to pick up some tips!

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