When you’ve been baking for 103 years, you have to make sure things don’t start to go a bit stale.
That’s why Fisher & Donaldson have to keep on moving with the times. Thus, they’re launching their seventh branch – a new cafe – which, if all goes to schedule, will be opening mid this month at 197 South Street in St Andrews.
Although the dust sheets are still up and doors are in the process of being fitted, the venue already has a rather hip and contemporary look, with a French blue exterior, pale grey tiles, plants, stained glass and traditional signwriting by Thomas Paints. The gilded letters on the window read: “For the love of baking, since 1919.”
“It’s a beautiful shopfront very near the West Port Arch – the historical city gate – and we can’t wait to be open and welcome customers inside," says Chloe Milne, who is one of the co-directors and fifth generation of Fisher & Donaldson owners.
It looks very different from their traditional-looking, but charming Church Street takeaway, just along the road, with its pink sign, fleur-de-lys emblazoned awning and staff in tabards.
This coming launch will be their first stand-alone cafe, rather than the slightly more old fashioned bakery counter with tea room set up that they have in Dundee and Cupar.
“With a 100-year-old business, we have a lot of history, great recipes and products, but also some tired shops which could do with some love,” says Ms Milne. “We recently worked with LUX to do a brand refresh and after opening this new café in St Andrews, we are looking to roll out our new branding into some of our existing shops and cafes.”
The newest property was already part of their portfolio, but formerly operated under a different name.
“It’s been part of our family business for decades,” Ms Milne says.
"When another local bakery closed [G H MacArthur], my grandfather bought it and we continued to run it as one of our bakery shops, still under the name/brand of MacArthur’s.
“When we shut the doors in the first lockdown we chose to use the closure as a time for change and to finally open a café in St Andrews, something we have been longing to do – and have been asked for by customers – for a very long time. The old bakery counter was taken out and the space was completely gutted.”
This will be a casual venue, where guests can eat cake along with enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, but there will also be a few savoury options, like stovies and sandwiches, for lunch.
Of course, most customers will most likely be making a bee-line for Fisher & Donaldson’s cult bakes. According to Ms Milne, their current top three best sellers are, in reverse order, the strawberry Danish, which is topped with Fife strawberries and was awarded Best Viennoiserie (pastry) in Scotland at the recent 2022 Scottish Baker Awards.
At number two is the coffee tower – a choux pastry bun filled with coffee cream and topped by buff-coloured icing and a single chocolate button.
“My grandmother came up with the idea," says Ms Milne. “My grandfather never thought it would catch on, but relented and made it anyway, and the rest is history”.
Number one will be no surprise to bakery pop pickers. It’s the fudge doughnut. They almost can’t bake them as fast as customers eat them.
They even offer a birthday cake version, which is nine inches in diameter and can be cut into ten squishy and custard filled slices.
Ms Milne says: “They are as popular as ever. We make more now than we ever have – the love for them is strong to say the least. People say if you come to St Andrews, Dundee or Fife you have to have one, it’s the law.”
There are also a few new creations and adaptations in the pipeline. These are mainly to cater to those with specific dietary requirements.
“We’re currently looking at improving our gluten-free fudge doughnut to make it even tastier and closer to the real thing, and are also set to launch a new vegan savoury product soon, so watch this space,” Ms Milne says. “Our most recent new product is our new-recipe Florentines.
“My Dad worked to adapt the decades-old family recipe to remove any wheat from the ingredients, so our milk chocolate version is now NGCI (no gluten containing ingredients) and our dark chocolate one is also vegan. They are as good as the original, and [crime writer] Val McDermid approved”.
As well as the new place, these will presumably be served at this company’s Garden Cafe in Cupar. It’s outdoors, under a marquee and was opened two years ago, so they could adapt their offering to suit lockdown restrictions. However, it proved so popular that it’s back again this year.
Thanks to this, and other enterprises including a web shop, the business has survived the past couple of years relatively unscathed.
“The past two years have been tricky for our family in terms of managing huge change and constant flux in the business, but we have remained successful,” says Ms Milne.
“We have an amazing team of staff who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic and, without their hard work and our loyal customers, things could have looked very different”.
For updates on the new cafe, folllow them on Instagram @fisheranddonaldson