I was due to meet a friend who lives in Angus and for our rendez-vous we tend to pick a location in between hers and mine. Having been forced down the cake+coffee route for breakfast last time at Balmakewan, where Covid caused chef shortages, we decided to try something new (new to me at least) and my friend suggested Charleton Fruit Farm, near Montrose.
This weekend the Farmer’s Market was due to be on; knowing this, I called a day in advance to book – that was not a problem.
I congratulated myself on arrival, as the place was very busy indeed – the dry (albeit overcast) Spring weather probably contributing to the families’ destination choice for Saturday breakfast.
Our timing was on point as we met in the car park at the same time and walked to the entrance, with an A-board asking us to wait there, and a choice on our hands whether to eat indoors or out. There were people moving in all directions: visitors, kids and cafe staff alike; eventually someone saw to us – but when I said we had a booking, they said they’d come back to us in a second.
Another staff member – with a manager’s feel about her – asked if she could assist and I repeated my booking notice. The lady instantly responded that they had no reservation in my name (without checking, so there probably weren’t many bookings that day) and wondered if I had maybe called a different fruit farm, Castleton perhaps? I confirmed that I called the right place and had spoken to a gentleman who advised the booking was successful – but since there were plenty of tables available outdoors we all agreed it was not an issue and were invited to take any place we fancied.
The eagerness to sit outside was quickly dampened when the temporary sun went back behind clouds – so I was looking forward to a hot cuppa to offset that not-so-wise decision.
Unfortunately, the ordering process was not as smooth as one would desire, especially considering there were quite a few assistants in aprons running about. After some five minutes of sitting engrossed in conversation, we got handed the menus, plus a board with that day’s Pancake Specials.
My friend decided to go for one of those: a Banoffee Stack; I opted for the box-standard pancakes with bacon and maple, and both of us (to my surprise) requested a mocha.
Our order begun arriving after 10min, with the Special Stack. The waitress probably didn’t think it strange that we had nothing else on the table as she would have walked away oblivious if we hadn’t asked if the rest of the order was on its way. She looked a bit confused, then advised she would go and check.
Another 5min – in which my friend didn’t know what to do with her (admittedly, impressive looking) Stack, other than take a photo of it – our coffees arrived, which cheered me up when I saw the latte art on top (and a chocolate Flake on the side – how neat!) Before this new waitress disappeared, my friend enquired about my pancake order. This waitress returned soon after to advise these pancakes take a bit longer as they come from the kitchen. A couple of minutes later, the first waitress returned, to tell us the same thing.
The place would benefit from a bit of process and a bit more training, I thought. But hey, post-Covid staff shortages are a real thing… Right?
With nothing else to occupy myself – and my friend torn between politely waiting, and hopelessly watching the Banoffee Stack melt before her eyes – we agreed to just dive into what was in front of us. You didn’t have to tell me twice.
My coffee was gone in a couple of minutes. It was of the perfect drinking temperature – warming, but not burning, nor threatening to turn tepid in your hands. It had the right balance of sweetness and caffeine, and a silky mouthfeel. There was still some undissolved chocolate on the bottom of the cup, but when I stirred that in, the taste didn’t really change, meaning all the real flavour was captured from the beginning.
When my breakfast finally arrived I ordered a flat white on the spot to replace the now non-existent beverage – but it took well over 10min to be served, by which point I’d hoovered up the pancakes and most of the bacon (even though the amount of fat on it was disproportionate to the meat). The second coffee was also very enjoyable and more-than-drinkable – it was gone in a flash.
Verdict? I think the time references above reflect my frustration with the place. The coffee was really good – but not worth the wait (especially before the first meal of the day!). I will not be rushing back… but it does look like a fun place for the kids, where the parents can at the least enjoy a very good beverage (eventually).
To find out more about Charleton Fruit Farm, visit their website.
Very good coffees, spoilt by disorganised service.