Savour the Flavours

Wherever Falko goes, the eating public can never get enough of him. His Edinburgh shop only had two small tables, but as well as stocking up on artisan bread and craftsmanlike cakes, people want to sample his wares on the spot. So when he took over the old Goose Green bakery, which occupied attractive premises on Gullane's busiest corner, and added home-made, seasonal ice creams and a civilised range of teas and coffees to the bakery backbone, the lure was irresistible. A token bracing walk along Gullane's sandy beach, followed by a very long lingering afternoon tea, had never been more appealing.

Then the dark winter days closed in, the lure of ice cream (even his memorably fragrant East Lothian strawberry one) waned, and although the prospect of milky hot chocolate and a towering slice of lovingly-made, authentic Black Forest cherry cake was enduringly appealing, the mind automatically turned to matters savoury. Falko's clientele was looking to him to stray beyond his professional territory and give them yet another excuse to spend more money and linger longer. Bluntly put, eating something savoury supplies the alibi to get stuck into the cakes thereafter, without looking as if you have a diet disorder.

Last weekend his Gullane café-tearoom was heaving. A real fire crackled away in the fireplace. Regular reinforcements of fresh loaves from the bakery behind - nutty granary, sticky rye, puffy pumpkin, hazelnut and raisin, oatmeal and more - only just kept up with the constant queue of retail customers. A permanent gaggle of customers surveyed the tantalising delights of the cake counter. Tables were filled instantly as soon as they emptied. This was my first chance to try out the new savoury additions to the menu, and I wasn't disappointed. There aren't many - this is what you expect from a bakery-focused outfit - but they are really good. An undersold "onion cake" was reminiscent of the Alsace flamenkuchen. A thin, brittle bread base had been topped with softly sweated, melting onions and flavoured with smoked bacon and caraway seed under a moist lid of baked cream. It was fantastic, refreshingly different, and quite a bargain at £2.80.

A more major savoury option, a classic Weiner schnitzel, constituted stunning value at £7. Here were two tender pork escalopes supplied by the butcher along the road, coated in a rustling golden crumb. Beautifully cleanly fried, partnered by thick lemon slices and a salad of waxy potatoes coated in a mustard and oil-based chive dressing, it acted as a reminder of how wonderful this overlooked dish is when done well.

Of all Falko's sumptuous cake range, I am most fond of the plainest-looking ones which, unlike most British equivalents, taste even better than they look. I find it hard to look beyond the helter skelter piles of buttery, cinnamony baumkuchen, or tree cake - a confection so skilled to make that it forms part of the German konditormeister's professional exam.

When I spot it, I also snap up the moist, rye flour-based Schwabian fruit bread with its luscious glazed fruits and toasty nuts. A tiny piece of Linzertorte - hazelnut pastry with a sticky layer of raspberry jam - is truly satisfying. Falko's Sachertorte is as good as you'll find in Vienna's top coffee houses and though overwhelmingly in the Germanic baking tradition, he makes a good fist of more Gallic-style tarts, such as his apricot frangipane and lemon.

On Sunday though, my eyes were led to a six-inch high (or so it seemed) hazelnut sponge with alternating layers of whipped cream, hazelnut cream, vanilla and chocolate alcohol-soaked sponge under a smooth surface of home-made marzipan. It fulfilled its promise, as did the simple shortbread capped with another generous layer of whole almonds bound by a honey and butter syrup.

Falko's is beginning to look like the celebrated Betty's Tearoom empire in Yorkshire, where there is always a queue out the door. It is already a local institution.

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