So I wrote an initial draft of this post and got one of my friends who’d accompanied me to one of the places to screen it first. He said it was fair and civil and directed me to a website where I could read his review (which was much more scathing) and coincidentally I was able to see other reviews of the two places below. After reading these reviews I’ve decided that actually the places should be named (I wasn’t going to originally) and also, clearly other people and bloggers have weird ideas about what constitutes good cake.
I don’t really like writing criticism. You’ll notice that this blog is more about my adventures in the kitchen than my adventures in dining rooms and I tend to only mention places that I like. This is because I am not a critic and certainly do not pretend to be an expert on cakes and pastries and the like. I’m just an avid fan. But as a fan I feel the need to share with you the experience I had of cake in Edinburgh. If for no other reason than to counter-balance the overwhelming number of reviews that lovelovelove these places.
The first cake avoidance took place at Loopy Lorna’s, in Morningside. I’d been to Loopy’s previously, in their other location, and it was nice. We sat outside, the service was good and the food was adequate. Loopy’s is now located in the Churchill Theatre and entrance is by way of the main theatre entrance which at certain times means you’re fighting a crowd. Loopy’s is child friendly. Now, I’m not saying that places that are child friendly cannot be good. I’m simply saying that my experience of child friendly places is that they tend not to be good. Firstly, this place was slightly grubby. In that we’ve-not-cleaned-the-floor-since-last-night kind of way. The tables didn’t feel quite clean and my wrists got sticky from resting against them. The service was awful. There clearly weren’t enough staff and there didn’t seem to be logical designation of tables. There was also that confusing do we pay at the till or will they come take the money question at the end. It took ages to get our order. When it came it was okay, nothing special, nothing amazing. Meh I think is the right expression. My soup was nice but not evenly heated so some parts were scorching and others warm. (If you’re going to heat stuff in the microwave, please remember to stir it.) The scone we ordered came taking up the entire plate so that butter was left on the table in those hideous pre-packaged bars found on airlines. Strawberry jam looked like ‘congealed blood’. That is never a good sign! But the cherry on top was the sight of the cakes on display. A long line of them took up space near the till and varied from layer cakes to rice crispy treats. The colour was what really got my attention. I’m all for colour, don’t get me wrong. But this was luminous pink and lime green and bright bright yellow that is so obviously food coloured it’s off putting. Mint chocolate bars had a layer of grass green (what I presume was buttercream) on top that looked as if the golf course had been misplaced. I had to step away. The cakes weren’t covered in domes which means they dry out in the air. It was sort of American style baking but in a bad way. Portion sizes were also overwhelming. I’ve noticed other reviewers think massive portions mean you’re getting your money’s worth but I’d argue not. A pastry or cake slice should be enough for one to eat comfortably, not enough to feed a family of four.
I didn’t think things could get much worse than that but they did. I met other friends for lunch a few days later on the Shore in Leith (which is my favourite place in Edinburgh – but I’m biased because I used to live there). For coffee he suggested we try Mimi’s which has been getting rave reviews everywhere. Now, the three of us are probably not the critics you want in your restaurant together. I know a little about cake. M grew up in Switzerland and thus knows about cake and A grew up in hotels and thus knows about cake and service. Together we can be supremely impressed but we do expect things that I suspect other, not-so-obsessed-with-cake individuals may not.
First impressions were ‘it’s like Changing Rooms took over Greggs’. The decor was very Cath Kidston but in a kitsch, not lovely kind of way. (Also, what is with the need for cake places to sell random mugs/aprons/paraphernalia. Concentrate on selling cake!) It all went downhill from there. Waitresses seemed to be plentiful but unhelpful. (We couldn’t work out where to order, no one seemed to want to seat us – and this was a busy day where seating options would have helped.) Cakes were displayed behind glass but looked surprisingly similar to those I’d seen the week prior which makes me suspect that either everyone in Edinburgh goes to the same training school or they were made by the same person – which seems odd as Mimi’s is supposed to be run by a master baker. The highlight in this cabinet was the Strawberry Sensation that was all hideous girly-pink with no strawberries in sight. Pink cake, mountains of pink frosting. Eeurgh. We gambled and ordered the only appealing thing to share – carrot and lime cake as well as a Benedict bar/Lamington cross (I’m still not entirely sure.) The saving grace was the coffee which was drinkable and strong.
The carrot cake was exceptionally large. The lime consisted of a few gratings on top and a candied piece as decor. The cake itself was nice but the icing lacked cream cheese and was far far too sweet. The other thing (I can’t describe it more specifically, was it a slice?cake?pastry?) was like butter and jam rolled in coconut. We couldn’t discern what it was supposed to be at all. I then saw the savoury side of the menu. Instead of perhaps sandwiches on lovely bread, some soup or a salad there was pub food. It seemed a completely bizarre option in what was supposed to be a cake place. Stovies? Hot pot? It was like someone had gotten confused halfway through and created something between a pub and a cake shop. I’m not sure. To crown it all were the pictures in the bathroom of people (I can only presume the patrons or staff) posing with cake. Too bizarre for words. We spent the afternoon lamenting that fact that we weren’t in mainland Europe eating Florentines. And insisting we couldn’t be the only ones who felt this way.