If you like hiking and outdoor landscapes, you’ll probably want to go to Aviemore, a small town near the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland. And if you do go to Aviemore, you’ll definitely want to eat at Mountain Cafe.
I’m gonna start by saying that the most memorable pancakes I’ve ever had were from Mountain Cafe. I actually can’t get them out of my mind… even 9 months later! Back in September, my sister came to visit me in Scotland and we spent a weekend in Aviemore quadbiking, hiking, and ziplining. I had read about Mountain Cafe and decided that it would be our destination for our first breakfast in Aviemore. Dressed in our outdoor attire, we went to Mountain Cafe for breakfast. Little did we know that our taste buds were about to be spoiled!
From the outside, Mountain Cafe is a hidden eatery that sits above a mountain sports shop. You might even walk past it and not look twice. But once you enter the shop, you’re likely to see a line up of eager diners meandering down a set of stairs. These people know that Mountain Cafe is where it’s at! And I’m telling you now, the food is worth the wait!
Mountain Cafe is owned by Kirsten Gilmour, who is native to New Zealand. Kirsten brings her Kiwi roots into the menu to create a sort of Scottish-Kiwi fusion that is vibrant and compelling. The restaurant is casually decorated and bright and it seats about 30 people at a time, so a line up assembles quickly. To the left of the entrance, there is an impressive sweet table which boasts a selection of homemade cakes, tray bakes, and scones that will tempt you to be gluttonous. And I promise that they will win the battle! More on the desserts to come!
My sister and I started with coffee and a blueberry lemon white chocolate scone (yes, we have starters at breakfast sometimes!). This scone was luscious – it was soft, buttery, and flavourful! The combination of flavours worked really well, and with a layer of fruit jam on top, this scone got our appetites ready for the main event! We were off to a good start.
I’ll forewarn you that the breakfast options are wide and varied, so you might have a tough time picking just one. The menu certainly has all your breakfast needs covered with muesli, granola, ciabatta French toast, porridge, caramel drizzled banana bread, fruit salad, pancakes, and traditional and veggie fry ups. I zoned in on the pancake selection because I bloody love fluffy, maple-drenched hot cakes (if they’re not maple-drenched, you’re doing it wrong). The Kiwi style pancakes with syrup, stewed rhubarb, strawberry, orange, and mascarpone were an instant winner for me. It was like there were flashing arrows pointing to that menu item, imploring me to get it! DONE!
Oh my god, these pancakes were AWESOME! I seriously can’t rave about them enough! First of all, they looked stunning! The most visually appealing pancakes I’ve had. Secondly, look how giant that portion is! I’ll admit that I didn’t finish the entire plate (despite my most valiant efforts! To be fair, that buttery scone was already taking up valuable stomach space, but #noregrets). Thirdly, all the flavours came together brilliantly – the pancakes were fluffy in texture, the stewed rhubarb was sweet and summery, the orange slices were refreshing, and that mascarpone was to die for! This was an impeccable flavour explosion and I was losing my mind. Plus, the pancakes were served with a little pot of maple syrup for my own pouring pleasure – just how I like it! One of my pet peeves is when pancakes or waffles aren’t served with enough maple syrup. Blasphemous! I can happily report that the Canadian in me was very happy with the maple syrup portion. My description will never do these pancakes justice, but I hope that my enthusiasm for them is palpable. You should definitely treat yourself to Mountain Cafe pancakes, but they may just ruin you for life. They’ve certainly amped up my expectations of all pancakes everywhere.
My sister decided on the all day breakfast which consisted of beef sausages, black pudding, bacon, plum tomatoes, field mushrooms, beans, hash browns, and a fried free range egg served with toast. This was another monstrous portion! I tried all of the components and they were – as is to be expected – really good. Needless to say, when we left Mountain Cafe, we were on cloud nine!
We were so happy with our breakfast that we decided to return to Mountain Cafe the next day for lunch before returning to Edinburgh. Because we’re smart foodies, we ordered two different dishes and halved them. We opted for the steak melt flatbread and the venison burger. The flatbread was overflowing with grilled steak, emmental cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and red onion with sides of seasoned fries and a slaw. The venison burger was made up of two meat patties, cranberry jam, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes with fries and slaw on the side as well. So. Much. Meat!
We were absolutely stuffed after these plates, but we couldn’t resist the call of the cakes! We decided to share a slice of carrot cake and it was decadent! That cream cheese icing and moist sponge cake went down a treat! And the size of the cake slices at Mountain Cafe is meant to satisfy your sweet tooth for days. Ok, now we were officially full to the brim, but incredibly happy!
Fast forward to June when a friend and I were in the highlands to climb Ben Nevis (super cool by the way, you should do it!). We took a scenic route to get back to Edinburgh and passed through Aviemore. My first thought was of course to get a late lunch at Mountain Cafe! Unfortunately, the cut off time for the breakfast menu had passed, but the lunch menu is also impressive so it’s still a win. We both decided to get salads (mainly so we’d have room for cake afterward. Strategies!). I loved the sound of the fig salad which was a blend of roasted cardamom oranges, oven baked fig, fresh fig, caramelised carrots, mandarin slices, sugar snap peas, crushed pecans, feta chunks, baby spinach, and a honey orange dressing. I loved the creativity that brought these ingredients together. It was a beautiful summer salad and the flavours complemented each other seamlessly. No guilt when eating this meal! My friend opted for the Cajun chicken salad with raspberries, green pepper, sugar snap peas, sweet potatoes, and mango. I tried the chicken and the seasoning on it was unreal!
Of course, dessert was in order. The sweet selection changes regularly, but you’ll see flavours like Victoria sponge, hummingbird cake, lemon drizzle, chocolate beetroot, red velvet, orange white chocolate, mocha, cheesecake, millionaire’s shortbread, and Kiwi treats like Anzac cookies and lamingtons. You’ll probably deliberate while standing in front of the dessert table, but no matter what you get, it’ll be gooooooood. We tried the lemon drizzle and the red velvet cakes and they did not disappoint! Moist, rich, sweet, topped with icing – everything you want in a slice of cake!
This post is already massive so I’m going to stop here (plus I think the pictures do a lot of talking too!). Just know that Mountain Cafe is fantastic and you should absolutely go there to eat all the foods! The dishes are composed with care, the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, the menu options are scrumptious and inventive, the baked goods are made in house, and you’ll leave incredibly happy and full. It won’t be long before you’re craving another meal at Mountain Cafe. Plus, where else are you going to get Scottish food with a Kiwi twist? Point proven.