High Street, Perth
Philip has a gig in Perth this morning, and I’ve come along for the ride. Why not? We’re quick to seize any opportunity to explore our adopted country, and – although we’ve worked in this area before – we haven’t spent any time in this lovely historic town. So we set aside the afternoon, and hope that it won’t rain.
We’ll need to eat of course. A google search quickly reveals Effie’s as the go-to place for lunch, so we decide to follow the crowd and see what makes this place so popular. It’s not difficult to work it out. Effie’s is a fine example of a family run business: a quirkily decorated vintage tea room that is immediately appealing, with waiters who are chatty and eager to share their story. There are old photos of ‘Effie’ on the tablecloths – all beehived 1960s glamour – and our waiter proudly tells us she’s his mother, and she’s currently in the kitchen, presiding over the apple crumble.
But we’re not thinking about puddings… yet. I order the macaroni, which is bigged-up on their website. It’s great, exactly what mac’n’cheese should be, indulgent and generous and strongly flavoured. It’s not elegantly presented – this is a long way from fine dining. It’s comfort food: big portions, no pretentions, home-cooking by the best home cook. The macaroni comes with a side salad, which I eat, and a handful of crisps, which I don’t – not because I’m being virtuous, but because I’ve also ordered a side of handmade chips, and there’s a limit to how many carbs I can consume. The chips are perfect, a far cry from the bland frozen fries a lot of cafes seem content to serve. Thick and crispy, hot and fluffy – honestly, they’re great.
Philip wants to try the chicken and ham pie, but he’s too late, the last one’s been sold. He opts for the steak pie instead, and is very pleased with what he gets: soft, tender beef in a rich, succulent gravy, topped with a mound of flaky pastry, as light as air. This comes with carrots and peas and more of those marvellous chips. We’re full up. But how can we come to a place like this and not sample the sweet offerings?
Our waiter is back again, pressing us to try the crumble. And the carrot cake, he tells us, is famous, made by ‘Alison’ from a secret recipe she won’t even divulge to the family. We decide to sample both. We tell him we’ll be sharing, and he not only brings us an extra fork for the cake, but splits the crumble into two small bowls. It’s details like this that make the service so good.
The apple crumble is great. Effie comes out of the kitchen to ask us what we think. It’s truly delicious. I mean, it’s just a crumble, but the fruit is cinammony and sharp, the crumble crisp and sweet. The custard is creamy and rich with vanilla.
But the carrot cake is the star of the show. I’ve never had one like it. It’s moist and delicate and oddly light – not at all dense, like this cake often is. The frosting is a revelation too, silky smooth and not too sweet.
But oh my, we’ve eaten too much. And it is raining – of course it is. But we’ve no choice really but to spend an hour walking by the river Tay, getting gently soaked. We’re far too stuffed to drive home without exercising at least a few of those calories away.
And we certainly won’t need dinner tonight.