The Seaview Cafe

Wemyss Bay

AS SOON as I see the steak pie coming out I realise my mistake. Never, ever order half portions of anything anywhere. I was distracted, though – my car being parked at the station across the road without a ticket. No change. No cashline.

“Will I get a fine?” I ask the waitress, just after she touches down two gargantuan plates of the McCaskie’s Full House to the couple sitting across from me.

She doesn’t get any further than “hmmm” before I realise the answer is going to be yes. By then everyone in here has swivelled towards the plate-glass window in the expectation of a man in the fluorescent jacket pouncing on another dumb tourist.

I’m not saying Wemyss Bay has anything of the Twin Peaks about it, but I’ve only been in here five minutes and everybody somehow seems to know everyone else. In a good way.

Anyway, by the time I’ve moved the car the McCaskie’s Full House at the next table has been largely consumed. Gone are the rashers of McCaskie’s own cured bacon, gone the in-house black pudding, the fruit pudding, too, only one of those sexy, skinny little pork sausages, some toast and a forlorn egg remain on the two aircraft carrier-sized plates.

I’ll be honest. I consider ordering it myself. Less than £8 for a full breakfast is probably cheap given the ridiculous prices commanded for what is usually a plateful of the cheapest cack from the cash and carry. And how often do you eat at a cafe owned and supplied by the industrious butchers right next door?

But I don’t. It’s only lunchtime. Instead I scour the menu for some of those sausages I saw when I wandered through the connecting door to the butchers; they’d be nice with a couple of fresh eggs. Maybe one of those beef olives? Uh-oh. Can’t get the sausages unless in a full house, can’t get the beef olives at all.

Steak pie, then. And given McCaskies’s boast about their crisp shell scotch pies, and given I once spent a student summer stamping out very similar shells in a bakery in Oban, I’ll have that too, I say. Actually, make it a half steak pie. Don’t want to, ahem, look greedy.

Fast forward to the present and here’s my steak pie. But hang on, this isn’t a pie. It’s a plate of stew with one of those little squares of puff pastry on the top.

They wouldn’t sell you a steak pie kit next door with a square of pastry in a separate bag, so why do it here? If it wasn’t for the fact that the pie filling, the stew itself, is lovely, with a light non-gelatinous gravy, flecks of meat through it, the steak being universally tender and properly seasoned, I would moan.

OK, the promised green beans are actually carrots that look like they have been chopped with an axe and the mash is a monolithic slab but hold on, one that is made of real potato and that tastes like real potato and has not been pushed and pulled through a MasterChef sieve until it is the consistency and taste of wallpaper glue, so I stifle the complaints.

The pie is great. You can’t make a proper scotch pie if you don’t hot-stamp the shell out first to make it crisp. Even better if you are bold enough to season it strongly and add enough white pepper to give the whole thing a banging flavour.

There’s a no frills, no spills rhubarb and ginger pie to follow, all deep, thick, crumbly pastry and thicker sweetly-spiced filling, at just over £4.

I like this place. Travel round this country nowadays and about the only places that hang on to genuine, uniquely Scottish tastes are the local butchers. Most small places still have one. More of them should have a cafe attached.

Oh, and yes, I took some sausages home. They were excellent.

The Seaview Cafe

Shore Road, Wemyss Bay (01475 521733)

Menu: Chicken broth, freshly made scotch pies, steak pies, steak frites. It’s a butcher’s cafe. There really should be more of them. 3/5

Atmosphere: Plain vanilla decor, bustling, with a door to the butcher, and a view across to the station and ferry terminal. 3/5

Service: Friendly, relaxed and one of those places where you feel everyone kind of knows everyone else. 4/5

Price: The McCaskie’s Full House is reasonable, if not cheap, at £7.49. Desserts £4.25, mains around a tenner. Steak frites £12.95. 4/5

Food: We should celebrate these simple, straightforward places. Great steak pie filling, excellent scotch pie. Could be more ambitious. 6/10

Total: 20/30