At the point I arranged to do a food review of The Twa Sisters Berryfields Tearoom I hadn't yet decided I was going to give Veganuary a bash. However, a quick Facebook message confirmed that me being egg and dairy-free would be no problem. "Our soup of the day is always vegan", owner Kathy told me, "and usually one of our specials is too".
I have sampled the breakfast (the cooked breakfast comes with Clootie McToot dumpling) and coffee a couple of times since Kathy took over running The Berryfields last summer.
The last time I had visited the sun was still shining, so I was looking forward to seeing the new interior and trying out the full lunch menu. Kathy initially took over the restaurant with her sister Liz and they made some changes to the interior and the menu but strived to maintain the tearooms warm and friendly atmosphere.
When I come inside from the January cold I am greeted by the warmth from a wood-burning stove and the smell of fresh baking and coffee. Looking around I see a wee bit of a DC Thomson theme, with black and white prints of Pa and Ma Broon and Oor Wullie. As a youth raised on the antics of Wullie, Fat Boab and Granpa Broon, so I'm definitely down with the decor.
My mum, the original lady who lunches, arrives fashionably late and Kathy brings out our starter. We are both having the Sweet Potato soup and it has a lovely creamy consistency and is brimming with flavour. It has satisfying, almost 'Cream of Tomato' quality and really sets me up for the main course.
I'm brought out a rather splendid looking cherry tomato tart with rustic chips and a side salad. My mum Norma has opted for Swedish meatballs and chips, which looks like a high-end version of a certain Scandanavian furniture retailers food court favourite.
My tart is filling, tasty and beautifully presented. I'm a big fan of rustic chips (I call them 'Jenga' chips) as they are the perfect middle ground between chip shop ships (too soggy and slug-like) and french fries (can be nice and crispy but prone to rapid cooling).
The tart itself has a wholewheat spelt crust and is jam-packed with sumptuous roasted veg including tomatoes and aubergine. It is crazy filling and I'm beginning to regret my big breakfast.
I'm all about journalist rigour though, so I heroically make room for a dessert. Since going vegan I think I've been suffering from what doctors call a pudding deficiency. I've not really missed meat or eggs at all but I have been struggling to find a decent alternative for desserts and very rapidly tired of dark chocolate.
So when Kathy presents us with a beautiful Sundae consisting of vegan whipped cream, vegan ice cream and vegan Clootie McToot dumpling it felt kind of like that bit in 'The Wizard of Oz' when things turned from black and white into colour. It felt like a world of flavour (and calories) was about to open up to me.
The Sundae was stupendous, the vegan clootie tasted just as good as the real thing, as did the cream. The ice cream was noticeably different from dairy ice cream but still pretty damn good. I'm usually more a starter and mains kind of guy but I'm really glad I got the chance to try this Sundae and I definitely see another one in my not too distant future.
As well as serving up all the aforementioned deliciousness, Kathy at the Berryfields is the holder of the key to the historic Abernethy Round Tower. Dating from the 11th century, the tower is one of only two such towers surviving in Scotland—the other is at Brechin- and it is protected as a scheduled monument.
Before heading home I decided to climb it. Despite moving to Abernethy over a year ago it is something I have never got round to doing, I was always waiting on a sunny day but when the sunny days came I always had other things I needed to do.
Kathy provided the key, an impressively medieval-looking and weighty hunk of metal that looked like it would require the worlds largest key-ring, and I set off. There are over 100 steps (the perfect way to burn off that pudding) to the top and the descent ends by climbing a pull-down steel ladder.
It's worth it though. Whenever I'm on holiday I like to find the highest building in the city and get my bearing. However, the views are usually compromised by mesh wire, glass, or annoying tourists taking selfies. Here though you have a completely unencumbered 360-degree view and the only noise I can hear is the wind blowing through the saltire flag above me. It's a pretty cool way to spend a contemplative 5 minutes.
I'd wholeheartedly recommend The Berryfields Tearoom to locals and day-trippers alike. Make a day of it, have lunch, check out the amazing Museum of Abernethy (open from May) or go for a walk in the woods and take in 'The Devils Well' and 'The Witches Graves' (folklore has it that a supposed Abernethy coven was strangled, burned and buried here). If you get the no.36 bus out from Perth you could even have a few scoops in The Crees before you head back!
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