Birdhouse Cafe

In all my trips to Ballater, Braemar and the likes, I’ve never actually managed to stop in Banchory – a small but charming town on the main road between Aberdeen and the Highlands. So this particular Sunday, as I was on the go anyway, and with a gap in the schedule (just after golf, and before the Formula 1 Grand Prix on TV) I decided to make it my coffee destination.

Purposefully to squeeze in a wee bit more exercise into the day, I parked at the Falls of Feugh at the bottom of Banchory, and walked up to the high street in a 15min stroll in the gorgeous Spring sun. I knew I was heading for the Birdhouse Cafe, as that was the only place that caught my eye on my car journeys through the town. But I didn’t know what to expect upon arrival, and seeing it was a lovely weekend day I realised I might not get a seat in the small venue.

Ceiling decoration at the Birdhouse Cafe

Ceiling decoration at the Birdhouse Cafe

It did turn out to be more compact then expected, but I was in luck: with all other seats taken or reserved, there was one table free next to the window. Although there were some scrumptious looking treats on the counter where I was placing my order, I decided to only go for the mocha, and once I paid I quickly went to safeguard my space.

That’s when I could appreciate the quirky but charming decor of the place – as well as the world outside the window, and the magazine selection to the left of my seat which made my (short) wait for the coffee more pleasant.

Mocha at the Birdhouse Cafe

Mocha at the Birdhouse Cafe

But when the mocha arrived, I was a bit concerned – it was huge (never a good sign in my mind!). I tasted it, and my suspicions were confirmed: under the thick froth, the concoction was rather milky and lacked the punchiness of either the cocoa or the caffeine. There was more sweetness closer to the bottom of the cup (were I struggled getting to due to the size of the drink), which suggested real chocolate being used, but stirring it did little to improve it. Somehow I got through the cup and was glad I hadn’t had anything to eat with it – I was stuffed!

Having said that, the staff were very friendly and the venue was great for a relaxing stopover, so I actually enjoyed my time at the Birdhouse and would definitely recommend it for first-timers!

Mocha: £2.50

Verdict justification: A very pleasant cafe, but the coffee needs a bit more character!

Birdhouse Cafe’s Facebook page

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Pavilion Cafe

3My quest for seeing more of Scotland in 2017 continues, albeit sill in a limited range from Aberdeen… My latest trip took me to Montrose – a coastal town between the City and Dundee, which I had previously visited twice – both times on a murky, cold and wet day.

This time, it was a glorious early afternoon, and the coastal route looked mesmerising – even if the drive was a bit hazardous considering the freezing temperatures and ice on the roads. In fact, the trip was worth even just that stunning panorama of the sea shimmering in blissful sunshine…

And that blinding shine continued in Montrose where the low winter sun made it difficult to figure out which way the curious road system was going; however, finding Pavilion Cafe, where I was meeting my dear friend currently living in Forfar, proved pretty straightforward.

Once I reached Melville Gardens, the Pavilion was impossible to miss – it looks like a pavilion after all. As I entered, the place was mobbed (no surprise considering it was Saturday lunchtime), but my friend managed to negotiate two seats at a 4-person table, next to another pair of “girlfriends”, also seemingly catching up on recent affairs.

Mocha at Pavilion Cafe

Mocha at Pavilion Cafe

The waitress arrived straight away to present to us an extensive menu of the day’s soup, quiche, special mains and desserts… out of all that the deli platter caught our ear and – seeing that we had both had a wee breakfast earlier – we decided to share it.

We also went for the coffees at this stage, which arrived quickly after we placed our order; it’s a good job I was immersed in a conversation as my disappointment probably didn’t show as much – a mocha served in a tall glass doesn’t fill me with confidence. Also, the colour of it was quite pale, so I wasn’t expecting a punchy brew; and, sadly, I was right – the coffee was a bit on the weak side, not offering much cocoa sweetness and resembling more a sweetened latte rather than a mocha.

Which was a great shame, because the venue was very warm and welcoming, with huge dose of character and bursting with life; the staff were friendly and easy going but also attentive; and the food was lovely, offering something for everyone’s taste, and more.

Even though I wouldn’t rate the coffee the highest, I would certainly recommend paying the Pavilion a visit – I know I will, even if it’s just for one of the extensive selection of scrumptious looking homemade cakes…

Mocha: £3.00

Verdict justification: So-so coffee but a lovely venue for a quick snack or a longer catchup with friends 

Pavilion Cafe Facebook page

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