OK. I’ll be honest. My ideal day at the shops would not be in and around my home town of Glenrothes. It would be in Edinburgh. It would maybe start in Morningside, with a bit of a browse round the charity shops, probably not buying much because they know the value of the stuff they’re selling, and then hopping on the 11 or 16 (perchance after a coffee at Cafe Blush) to Leith Walk, to its funkier mix of retail, such as the Chinese supermarkets, little artisan furnttiture places, Elvis Shakespeare, the legendary music and book shop, and perchance a pasteis de nata at the Portugese cafe, Casa Amiga.
However, current retrictions mean we can’t get anywhere near Casa Amiga, far less see Daughter and Heiress and The Boyfriend and stay over at the flat, so we decided to do a bit of local shopping, partly as we’d heard of a new Spanish shop (Spain being also verboten to us this year, obviously) and partly as a result of explorations the previous weekends.
One thing we needed was stewing lamb, to cook ahead some spiced lamb and beetroot stew for the freezer. The beans were disappointing, the tomatoes not bad, but it’s been a good year for the beetroot, as Elvis Costello nearly sang, so off to our neighbourhood centre, the Glamis, to buy the necessary from Alex Mitchell.
Alex Mitchell’s shop is kind of a local legend. People come from far and wide – and even Kirkcaldy – to buy their meat there. The meat is better quality than the supermarket, and, while it’s not super cheap, it’s worth it. The shop is always busy, and as I approached I realised we were too late: there was a queue, to use the Redoubtable Mrs F’s phrase, like an execution. Around 15 deep, not moving in the 5 minutes or so my restless soul allowed me to wait.
Instead, we moved on to our next destination. I hope the citizens of Thornton, a village half way between Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy, won’t mind me saying it’s not the first stop on most tourists’ itinerary. Long bypassed by the main road, it’s a Lowland Scottish village in the classic style, which is to say a long straggle of houses along a main street, with some shops randomly strung out amongst them.
Previously there wasn’t a particular reason to make the diversion en route to Kirkcaldy: but during lockdown, one of the fish and chip shops (Thornton boasts two of them) has started a side line in fishmongery. Scots are pretty conservative in the type of fish they eat, so hats off to the Fish Hoose for selling monkfish, scallops, and sea bass as well as the more traditional haddock and salmon. Great value, and the owner is a cheery character with a welcoming manner (he threw in an extra bit of monk for us, which considering the price of what used to be fed to the cat is plenty generous!) We’ve been three times now – it’s becoming a tradition. FB page here.
Although we didn’t go this weekend, there’s also a nice wee cafe in Thornton called Serendipi-tea also worthy of support (see pic, left). However, we did get our stewing lamb at Thomson of Thornton – haven’t cooked it yet, but the staff were very pleasant, it was good value, and there wasn’t a queue like an execution.
Then on to our ultimate destination – the new Spanish food shop in Kirkcaldy’s Victoria Road, Los Buenos Amigos. We’d heard about this a few weeks ago from a pal, but hadn’t quite got as far as trying it out. Run by a lady from Elche, which is in the Valencia region (lots of palm trees, I seem to remember, as we passed on the train), it understandably specialises in that area’s speciality, paella. We tried the chicken one, which came in a portion big enough for us to share for lunch: delicious! Unfortunately they were still waiting for deliveries of spices and chorizo, but the cooked food they had on offer all looked great. We also tried the tortilla de patata, my favourite Spanish breakfast. This was excellent, too: that combination of the waxy potatoes and still-gooey egg is a great way to start a Sunday.
Honourable mention also for No. 91, the cafe next door, which had just opened up that very morning, and to which we were sent while the paella finished cooking (this could be the start of a great symbiotic relationship netween these two places). Obviously family-run, it’s got a great atmosphere, with rustic wood tables and distressed brick wall decor. We managed to resist the bakery on offer, but only just – we’ll definitely be back!
All of these places are within 8 miles of our house, and are all small, locally-owned businesses deserving of support – at any time, but especially at the moment with this damn bug hurting local trade. Fife isn’t Edinburgh, but it’s got a lot of people really trying to make things work.
Feel free to add comments below with other recommendations, by the way. Or on Facebook, if that floats your particular boat.
(Incidentally, I didn’t receive any inducements from these places to mention them. No, not even the monkfish. That’s not how this blog rolls.)