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Beach Cafe in N.E. Scotland


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I am taking over the running and cooking in an idyllic beach cafe in Scotland. My question is what would you expect/like to find on the menu? Mostly breakfast and beverage trade at present.

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Depends. Are you intending it to remain mainly a beach caff - which presumably means you have a very limited season? Or to go off on a tangent.

If the former, then stick to the breakfast, beverage and "easy lunch" stuff. Good pastry/cake items should be an asset to the beverage sales. I'm presuming you havnt an alcohol licence? Any chance that the lunch stuff might use local produce - you may have great seafood around there.

John Hartley

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I agree - try to make it special to the area/Scotland, and hot soup would be most welcome even in summer. Scotland is good for soups...

For children, special hot chocolate would be good. One thing I hate from beach cafés is bad tea - polystyrene cups, tea bag left in.

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Interesting use of kippers!!! That did make me giggle but well worth a thought.

Don't want to go off at a tangent until I see where things are going but just want to up the game a little, we do have a limited license and an even more limited kitchen. Am thinking on the lines of 'proper' crab sandwiches and the like. We are open all year so heavy duty warming stuff will be needed I think.

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If you plan to serve sandwiches, I suggest you use good breads only. Nothing ruins an otherwise good sandwich better than thin tasteless bread.

By the way, where is your establishment located? We get up to the northwest(Durness area) with some frequency and occasionally go over to Thurso and Wick, which is what comes immediately to my mind when someone says NW Scotland but I understand it could also refer to the Aberdeen region as well.

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My Mother's kipper paste:

Fry a kipper in good butter until the bones separate from the flesh

remove ALL the bones carefully

Add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Season (pepper, no salt) and cook down on low heat stirring (and removing bones) until desired consistency

Serve on hot toast, crackers, in sandwiches etc

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With really good coffee (possibly in a few varieties), good bread, a good crab or salmon sandwich/salad, nice scones as a bonus, you'd have my custom :smile: (but probably I tend to overweight the importance of coffee as I'm Italian).

I live in Crail (Fife) and I note how the small cafes around here that do better are those that keep the menu short and simple and go for quality. (Actually, the simplest of them all is not a cafe but a shack down the harbour that only sells dressed crab and lobster, just caught, produce arrives at around 11.00, all gone by 1.30 p.m.).

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Funny. I was thinking of crail and crab, too - knowing though that it's way down the East coast. 30 years ago there was an aquaculture operation there growing crustaceans ? shellfish ? in seawater pumped up a 30-foot cliff. Still there ?

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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This has peaked my interest too.

The words shack & crab fire my mental klaxon.

(Man, you got any further directions to this seafood shed, am round those parts very soon?)

“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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This has peaked my interest too.

The words shack & crab fire my mental klaxon.

(Man, you got any further directions to this seafood shed, am round those parts very soon?)

It's very easy, Crail is a tiny village. Just follow the signs down to the harbour and it's on your left at the end of the road. In high Summer it opens every day, then only at weekends, and it closes sometime in September.

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... I'll ask the villagers about the history!

Cool :smile:

Lindsey - what's on the menu of the place, as is ? Where I grew up in central Perthshire is unrecognisable now - where before it was The Chippy, indifferent bar meals and one exceedingly-rare-for-the-time delicatessen, you can't now take a step down the high street without treading in mozzaprosciuciabaguettes. I'm guessing you have good ideas and good standards for bread (do you have a good supplier, or can you make your own ?) - what special things do you get locally ?

In later years we often passed through Helmsdale on the way to the North-west, but we did spend one or two family holidays around Elgin/Nairn. I remember gorse bushes that were the death of our kites, amongst the dunes behind Findhorn beach.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Give us some more information on the place - much passing trade, is it in a village, near a busy (?) road, whats it serving at the moment and is business good on the current menu. Have you got access to good local produce; any competition - what are they serving. Who are your target clientele? Are you open all day?

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More info: no passing trade as such, it sits on the beach literally at the end of a track but does have a boat yard/Marina attached so you really need to be going to the beach or coming to the cafe. The village of Findhorn is a very busy place and gets a high proportion of foreign visitors due to The Findhorn Foundation, many of whom are vegetarian. Business is pretty good at present but relies heavily on non repeat business in summer, very basic mostly frozen. Best sellers are the breakfasts and bacon rolls. Competition is where I work at present but that is a pub so there is room for both of us, we are serving fresh seafood mainly and the upper end of the market money wise. Target clientele in the winter, I would think, would be retired couples, day trippers to the beach, bird spotters. We are open from 9.30 to 5 at present. We do have great local suppliers and a bakery in the village which, however, is truly expensive so I will be searching for a good bakery in the nearby town of Forres, there are 3 all with their own speciality. We have good local cheeses, great but 'ordinary' vegetables, and fish of course.

My main problem is that the kitchen is very badly designed and tiny, I have one domestic 4 ring cooker with oven no grill, 2 griddles, 1 single and 1 double deep fryer of domestic use size so would not be able to deep fry a whole haddock!!!! 1 decent microwave and a soup cauldron. I may be able to make the case for better equipment but not for a wee while.

Blether - gorse bushes still there in profusion and still catching a goodly share of wee boy's kites LOL!!!

Edited by Lindsey (log)
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Hey Lindsey best of luck with your endeavor.

Incidentally... my wife is writing a historical novel set in 5th Century A.D. Pictland near present day Aberdeen... we have been researching the foods of Ancient Scotland and would love to be able to try some Oat Cakes, local beef soup using the endemic vegetables & other dishes that would be unique to that area. There is probably little chance a beach cafe could make it selling historic cuisine... but if there is any chance you could pull of such feat we would love to come eat at your place when we travel there next year.

Otherwise.. any suggestions for where we might find such foods & historic ales?

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Funny it's the same place :smile:

You're in the best position to judge whether there's room to change / add to your target market (price range).

The likes of Cullen Skink, Aberdeen beef & raspberries are what I'd expect you to be using to show off & make hay out of what's good locally, and to be "Scottish" for the foreign visitors. Seafood is of course dead right at a beach cafe, for both local & foreign audiences. What do you have on the menu that's "something different" for the locals ? Something Indian (e.g. tandoori sardines if you can get good fresh sardines) ? Something from South-East Asia (say, tom yam kun or tom kaa kun with proper prawns) ? Continental European dishes (I've a feeling raspberries would make a beautiful "cream", Normandy style, just as Elizabeth David does with strawberries in FPC) ? Sashimi when you've got top-class seafood (soy; fresh horseradish rather than tube or powder wasabi; spring onion for negi; turnip for daikon) ? Are you serving a good seafood gratin with good Scottish cheddar (freeze, microwave, finish with a gas torch ?) ?

I'm only a home cook - pros will have better advice on methods. I expect you have better ideas yourself.

With those opening hours and that set up, I would be offering a good range of soups - freeze well, easy to microwave, infinite variety, good eating and cost-effective. "Today's soup" takes up one ring on the cooktop ? And don't discount those "ordinary vegetables" - for all their being just carrots, onions and spuds, they'll be a world away from what's commonly sold in the big city.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Thank you all for the good advice, I will let you know how it goes. Blether I have to decide on a few really good specials for the locals. Sadly this area is full of very lazy chefs(if you can grace them with that name) who steal nearly every special idea I have had at my present job, very annoying.

EatNopales, you will find a huge range of oatcakes here, from hand made to factory made and every local baker makes his own version. There are a lot of very local breads with long histories and Beef soup in many forms is widespread. I take it you will be visiting Burghead the Pictish Capital? It is about 8 miles from where I will be so do pop in!!

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... Sadly this area is full of very lazy chefs(if you can grace them with that name) who steal nearly every special idea I have had at my present job...

So change it so often it becomes obvious who's the leader and who are the followers ! Good dishes aren't that hard to come up with, are they ? Not for someone like you.

PS those veggies will make great crudites, served with a choice of your house-made mayonnaise / garlic mayonnaise - and you'll be using all those shellfish and crustacean carcasses - even the customer-gnawed ones because boiling purifies them - for seafood stock for those gratins, and for infused oil for your special seafood-salad (sandwich) mayonnaise, right ? Let them figure that one out from scratch.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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