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Baern, Fife, review - is this the perfect East Neuk cafe?

This cafe is situated in Bowhouse – the home of various producers and a monthly market weekend

Published: August 6, 2022
Categories:
Food: 
9/10
Ambience: 
9/10

I could watch the swallows all day.

At least, I think that’s what these birds are, doing their death-defying plunges and loop-the-loops - better than any Edinburgh Festival Fringe circus act - outside the window at this new cafe. They could be swifts, or housemartins, though there’s no time to examine their bellies or tails for taxonomy purposes, since they insist on 163mph at all times.

I don’t want them to migrate back to Africa. Please skip the Sahara, stay, and continue to show off.

Mind you, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t cope with a Scottish winter. Neither can I, these days.

I’m eking out the warmer season with a visit to this four-month-old venue. The double-level space is cool and stripped back, with all the heated activity taking place in the open kitchen, where you can see the young owners, Hazel Powell and Giacomo Pesce, beavering away in aprons.

It’s open from Thursday to Sunday, 10am until 4pm, but they’re also doing a pop-up Summer Nights Series, if you want to visit them in the evening. See their Instagram @baern_cafe for upcoming dates.

Although the lunch menu is casual, it’s elevated, and dishes are made with seasonal and hyper-local ingredients, foraged nearby and sourced from East Neuk Market Garden or the other resident businesses at Bowhouse, including Scotland the Bread, Butchery at Bowhouse and brewery and taproom Futtle.

Every item on their printed food list reads like poetry to me. Others must think so too. It was only 12.45pm and they were already sold out of the scone (St Andrews Cheddar/Basil/Tomato Leaf) and one of the pastries (Onion/Fennel/Smoked Ricotta).

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I felt under pressure to beat the other customers to the creme de la creme. I’m pretty sure the salad (£8) was one of those.

Until this revelation, I was a closet pickled egg fan. I loved the bright purple version that was served on top of this dish, as even its onion-seed-speckled yolk had turned raspberry-coloured, through some kind of crazy alchemy. Better than anything you’d get in a chip shop jar. There were also long and bendy green beans, leaves, and beautifully seasoned halved Charlotte potatoes, plus a zingy and fragrant butter yellow mayonnaise that may have had the billed elderflower ingredient in it.

Beautiful, as was the incredible mahogany pastry, which was filled with chorizo, patatas bravas and purple sage (£5), and came with a tiny but mighty bright green blob of wild garlic mayonnaise. If Greggs is the nadir, this was the zenith. I felt burly after eating it, like I wanted to build something. Maybe a house for the swallows. Or a whole city.

Their daily plate option was rillettes (£9), with a jar of fat sealed shredded pork made from Butchery at Bowhouse’s Tamworths. This came with three square slices of conker-coloured sweet rye bread, and a small bowl of pickled Jerusalem artichoke and cucumber.

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Our focaccia order (£3) was unnecessary greed, but I don’t care. YOLO. There were five airy struts of olive-oil-saturated loaf that had been sprinkled with smoked sea salt and came with a hot dipping sauce made of rocket.

The food was so amazing that we started to get possessive of the dwindling cakes we could see on the counter. People kept coming in and getting them to takeaway. I dashed up before anyone else could come in the door. I thought about blocking it with my foot, but resisted.

Sadly, the customer in front of me bagged the last white chocolate and meadowsweet brioche, but we were now the proud owners of a golden oregano and gooseberry friand (£3.50). It was a beautiful thing - sticky and buttery inside, and piped with a slinky S of toasted Italian meringue. My best friand forever. There was also an oatmeal raisin cookie (£4), which was complex and fruity, rather than overly sugary, with blackcurrant, dark chocolate and meadowsweet.

The coffee - from Fife-based roasters, Modern Standard - is great too. We had two flat whites (£3 each) and lingered to watch the birds for a bit longer. If Baern started to give them some crumbs, I’m pretty sure they’d shelve their migrating plans this winter.

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I would too, if I was them.

Bowhouse

St Monans

East Neuk

(www.bowhousefife.com)

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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