Ottawa’s specialty British biscuit café boasts a range of sweet scones — the kind you spread with jam and enjoy with tea. The restaurant’s trademark sconewitches are sandwiches with scones in lieu of bread, while mealwiches are savoury sconewitches for the hungriest scone lover.
Meghan Rowberry, 32, one of the Albert Street location’s cooks, has been whipping up scone creations for almost six years.
The idea for a scone-centered eatery was born by owner Heather Matthews, nearly seven years ago. With legions of fans for her fabulous scones, Matthews thought everyone should enjoy them.
“If that’s all you do, you better do it well,” Rowberry said of the shop’s specialization.
I arrived at lunch time and ordered one of the trademark sconewitches: a slab of goat cheese, spread of pesto, fresh tomato and spinach packed between a feta, herb and onion scone.
When customers enter they are greeted by a painting of chefs with a witch in their midst.
The shop is canteen-style, with the order station and open kitchen in the back and the cash register, coffee and cutlery at the front counter.
The seating area is filled with natural light from the floor to ceiling front window, and is small enough to be cosy, with chairs for about 20 (guaranteed to be unavailable on weekends).
At around noon there was a steady stream of customers as nearby office workers swung by for a midday meal. All of the tables were taken, but were considerately traded off to waiting customers after scones were devoured.
Due to the packs of Scone Witch devotees, the scones are now baked at a kitchen in Vanier and delivered fresh each morning to the Albert and Beechwood shops.
A synonym for my sconewitch would be “heaven.”
The goat cheese was refreshingly generous – so rare at too many eateries – and was complimented by just enough pesto. The tomato was juicy, and the spinach crisp, reinforcing the restaurant’s whole and fresh foods approach.
This particular sconewitch is not for the faint of heart. You have to love goat cheese. Adore it, not just enjoy it. The cheese dominated to sconewitch, with extra left over for my salad ($6.99).
The feta scone, despite it’s name, did not taste of cheese, but of the herbs and onion. The pastry was divine: heavy in the hand, dense with a crunchy exterior and a flaky inside. It was hard to restrain myself from devouring it in a single gulp.
I opted for a side of garden salad of slightly wilted greens, baby tomatoes, and kalamata olives, which came with the perfect amount of honey mustard dressing.
Since it would be a crime to test a scone shop’s tasty treats without dessert, I also chose the currant-ginger sweet scone “to go.” As one of the most popular scones, it didn’t make it out the door.
The currant-ginger pastry had a crispy shell and a flaky interior to rival the feta scone, but with a more muted taste. The currant flavour was prominent, with pieces of ginger scattered throughout and offering a refreshing zing ($1.90).
Almost as important as the scones, in my addicted opinion, is the coffee. Strong and bold, the quality was of the coffee shop variety and the perfect compliment to the sweet scone ($2).
The name “Scone Witch” has a dual meaning – for the cafe’s trademark sandwiches made with scones, but also for kitchen witches – an old tradition of hanging witches in the kitchen for luck.
The staff are witches of all tasks, not just those in the kitchen.
They take orders, prepare the food, serve and clear tables, all with a smile. On a regular weekday, there are three staff members in the shop – during my visit, Rowberry and her colleague Jeff Helberg were cooking and Artem Barry was singing at the cash, liberally using “wunderbar!” with each transaction and filled cup of java.
The regulars return for their “love of the scone,” and the staff’s banter, Rowberry joked.
But I suspect the quips are reserved for the rare moments when Rowberry and Helberg aren’t creating tasty delights.