We went on a quest to find the best scones in Edinburgh, and found them at a charming cafe in the New Town.
When you think of a food that defines Edinburgh, scones top the list. Well, some people may think of haggis, but really, the less said about that, the better 😉. (However if you must, check out our Haggis Taste Test.) But back to the scones. They are an Edinburgh institution. You can find them just about anywhere; virtually every cafe, tea shop or coffee house will have them on the menu, and markets carry prepackaged versions. Noted Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith even dedicated a title of one beloved 44 Scotland Street novels to them (The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.)
Scones in Edinburgh are a good news/bad news scenario. Yes, you can find them everywhere—that’s the good news. But that’s also the bad news . . . it turns out there are some real clunkers out there. But for you, dear reader, we did the research. We explored the city in search of the best scones in Edinburgh, and finally found the hands-down winner!
What makes a good scone?
First, texture. If a scone has the proper texture, everything else—aroma, appearance, and, most importantly, TASTE—naturally follows. A good scone should be slightly firm on the outside, with a delicate crispy crust (it shouldn’t be spongy or squishy—this isn’t a yeast roll). Inside, it should be tender and crumbly, with what bakers would call a “crumb.” Create that texture and you’re onto a winner.
Second, the best ingredients. A good scone must be made with . . .butter. Anything less and you haven’t given your poor scone a fighting chance.
Armed with these two requirements, we purchased scones from bakeries and supermarkets, popped into coffee shops and cafes, and even stuck out our pinky at a few afternoon teas. We had some fair scones, a few lousy hockey pucks, and even a few good ones. But then we found the best scones in Edinburgh, and everything else paled in comparison.
The best scones in Edinburgh
Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Bon Papillon, an art gallery/framing shop and cafe on Howe Street, home of Edinburgh’s best scones! Bon Papillon is run by business and life partners Ingrid Nilsson and Stuart Allan. Ingrid is the artist and oversees the gallery; many of the works on the walls are hers. Stuart, a professional chef, is in charge of the cafe—and the scones.
Stuart makes his scones by hand (no mixer!) daily. Even before tasting one of these beauties I knew it was going to be a winner. It was a feast for the senses. Lifting it, I could feel the slightly firm crust, and upon breaking it open I was rewarded with a gorgeous crumb texture and a delicate butter aroma . . . aaaahhhh. The rich brown exterior gave way to a golden yellow inside, further testament to the buttery goodness within.
My mouth was already watering by the time I had my first taste, and my fingers, eyes and nose hadn’t let my tongue down—this scone was delicious! The crust provided just a tiny bit of crunch, the interior was crumbly and moist (without being chewy or gummy-a sure sign of overmixing), and the taste was buttery and slightly sweet. All this deliciousness and I hadn’t even added any of the jam or freshly whipped cream provided on the plate! [Full disclosure, the whipped cream did NOT got to waste.]
I was a happy girl, we had found a winner! Michael announced he’d be purchasing 2 or 3 more to takeaway—a sure sign that he loved them as well (he hadn’t finished most of the scones we tried elsewhere.)
Stuart with a tray of his freshly baked sultana scones
Scones at Bon Papillon
Unlike many cafes and tea shops that only offer one, or maybe two, varieties, Stuart Allan makes multiple flavors. He bakes them fresh each day, typically making 6 varieties: 4 sweet and 2 savory. (The savory versions are a delicious accompaniment to the salads or homemade soups for lunch.) We shared a blueberry scone on our first visit (there would be many more trips before we left Edinburgh); the seasonal specialty was bursting with fresh fruit. On the other hand, the “standards,” such as plain, sultana, and cheese are available every day. Stuart makes other flavors, like a savory scone with herbs and sun dried tomatoes or a sweet raspberry scone, according to seasonality or his creative whim.
Bon Papillon’s scones are large, about 4 inches in diameter, and an excellent value. At £3 each, they make a delicious snack or light meal. Stuart and Ingrid serve sweet scones with strawberry jam and either butter or whipped cream; savory scones come with butter and a carmelized onion jam or savory pickle. The cafe also offers house made salads and soups, along with a large selection of teas and espresso drinks.
If you are traveling to Edinburgh, I recommend visiting Bon Papillon for a cream tea or light meal (with a scone!). Enjoy your scone amid artistic beauty, and you may even decide to take home some of Ingrid’s work. It will be a beautiful way to remember the day you tasted the best scone in Edinburgh.
Bon Papillon is located at 15 Howe Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TE
They are open Wed-Sun, 9am to 5pm (Closed Monday & Tuesday)
After you’ve fortified yourself with Stuart’s scones, consider visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, or checking out the National Museum of Flight. Or explore the neighborhood of the 44 Scotland Street novels.
We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here.