The bacon roll chronicles: The Howff, 16 Links Road, Port Seton

<em>Picture: Renata</em>
Picture: Renata

Every bacon roll has a story to tell. Where was it bought? Why was the purchaser there? Did it taste good, or could it have been better? What sort of premises produced it? What were the serving staff like? Would you go back?

All these questions, and more, will be addressed by Stuart Crawford as he follows his tastebuds on a sporadic tour of Scotland’s cured-pigmeat-and-bread outlets. What is out there to be found, what can be recommended – and what should be avoided?

It feels like ages ago now, but just before Christmas a kindly soul reversed his 4×4 into my modest saloon car outside the Co-op in Gullane. I was just sitting there stationary, minding my own business, having picked up the kids from school early because of the snow, when he slammed into me. He was obviously in a hurry, because he had overtaken in a flurry of spray and slush only a minute before.

I won’t bore you with further details, except to say that I was left with a car with a crushed grill, bent bonnet, and internal injuries. His vehicle was unscratched as far as I could see, and he wasn’t the type to be hugely apologetic for his error. Still, nobody was hurt. It’s just that it’s never the damage that’s most annoying, it’s the palaver you have to go through to get your car fixed thereafter, even when it is not (as it was in this case) your fault.

Be that as it may, I found myself six weeks later taking my bent but still driveable (just) motor to the coachworks to get fixed. Because of my age and status – well, that’s what I put it down to – I was able to temporarily swap my bent car for a shiny, new courtesy car which calmed my general irritation somewhat. It’s always fun to drive a new-ish car, so off I went in reasonably good spirits.

<em>Picture: Avlxyz</em>
Picture: Avlxyz
I decided to take the low road back to Gullane, the one that goes from Musselburgh along the coast via all sorts of wee ex-fishing and ex-mining villages. So much more interesting that the dreary A1 if you’ve got the time. It was mid-morning by now, and I was starving, having had but a meagre bowl of porridge for breakfast – with salt and sour milk of course, as all true Scotsmen do.

Driving through the village of Port Seton I spotted a bacon roll type of establishment opposite the Co-op. The Howff, it was called. The name conjures up all sorts of images of smoky dark corners and shadowy characters within. Indeed, the outward appearance of the premises is unprepossessing. But on entering, all doubts were dispelled.

The inside appeared to be spotlessly clean, and fully equipped with sofas, newspapers, tables and even a library for customers waiting for their orders. I was greeted most pleasantly by the lady behind the counter, and was impressed when my bacon was cooked while I waited rather than going dry in one of those heated-tray things much beloved of the bigger chains. There was plenty of it, as well: three rashers, I reckoned, which is generous. If I was being hypercritical, I would say that I prefer mine a bit crisper – but, hey, I could always have asked. The roll was fresh and generously buttered.

I could find little to fault in the Howff, and left well satisfied. I shall certainly visit again.

Marks out of ten
Accessibility (parking, shop entrance): 8

Premises (layout, busyness, time to be served, etc): 8

Staff (friendliness, efficiency): 8

The roll (freshness, taste): 8

The all-important bacon: (quantity, taste): 8

Price (£1.45, good value for money): 8

Overall average score: 8

In summary, well worth popping in if you’re peckish. Clean and spacious premises, pleasant staff and a well-above-average bacon roll.

Scoring guide: 10–8, worth making a detour; 7–5, good enough, but no great shakes; 4–2, only if you’re desperate; 1 phone the doctor.