Helmi's, Rothesay: Perfect Patisserie
I work in Argyll, across three different towns. I'm often to be found in Dunoon, Helensburgh or Rothesay. Friday is my Rothesay day at the moment and so we have a semi-established tradition of Cake Friday! Well, you gotta celebrate the coming of the weekend! I say semi-established because I'm now on my own on Fridays. However, this Friday presented me with an opportunity - I knew there'd be some other colleagues in the centre and so it seemed the perfect time to revive Cake Friday and the perfect excuse to pop into Helmi's!
Helmi's is in Rothesay, on Bute. It was opened in June of this year by Bashar Helmi and his son-in-law Mohamed Helmi, and it has become a firm favourite among locals and visitors alike. Bashar manages the shop while Mohamed creates all the cakes - Mohamed ran a patisserie in Syria for 16 years (I must say, he doesn't look old enough!).
The shop itself is so pretty - the candy pink frontage stands out in the line of shops (Bute Fabric's Atelier is nearby, also with a fab frontage!) and inside the decor is really well chosen. You can sit in and enjoy your cake but as I had several hungry colleagues waiting for something tasty to go with their morning cuppa, I got mine to take away.
Both Bashar and Mohamed were in the shop - Mohamed was serving and when I asked if I could take a photo of the trays of cakes for my blog post, he immediately rushed to the display cabinet for some red velvet cake that he wanted in the shot! I also asked if he'd mind talking me through the different cakes so that I could choose a selection for the office. Mohamed is absolutely charming, friendly and incredibly passionate about his cakes - he told me about each of the cakes, which one was his favourite (red velvet, in case you're interested) and which had been most popular in the shop (recently, it's been the pumpkin cake). It was a hard choice as they all sounded incredible but in the end I selected red velvet (well, I kinda had to!), carrot cake, pumpkin cake, vanilla and strawberry sponge, almond, and chocolate fudge cake. Mohamed told me the different prices and explained why some cost more than others - ultimately, it's understandably down to the time required as well as the ingredients. I was happy to pay for what was clearly a quality product - my six (mahoosive!) cakes came to £13. Oh, and as I left, Bashar offered me a tiny Battenberg slice, covered in chocolate as a wee freebie - a tasty wee nibble!
These are no ordinary cakes - I enjoy baking (Mohamed was keen to know if I baked!) but it would take a lot of effort for me to achieve anything approaching this sort of quality. This is proper patisserie, serious baking. All the cakes are identical and clearly made with such skill and precision. Crucially, they are absolutely delicious! I took these back to the office and, because they're so generously sized, I cut them all in half to share out amongst everyone...and put them on a plate next to my colleague so I didn't eat them all! The first one I tried was the vanilla and strawberry one with the pink curls of chocolate on top - it was so light and fluffy, light as a feather, and with a lovely, delicate strawberry flavour. I also had to have a piece of the red velvet - Mohamed is right, it's great! The thing that amazes me with these cakes is that although their size is substantial, they're not dense or stodgy - they're surprisingly fresh and light. Often, these days, cakes are absolutely smothered in excessive amounts of overly sweet buttercream - no so with Mohamed's cakes. These are properly balanced with just the right amount of buttercream that is as light as the cakes and isn't overpowering.
All of the cakes found a good home and I washed an empty plate at the end of the day, safe in the knowledge that Cake Friday had been a success! I heartily recommend Helmi's to anyone - you will find the friendliest, happiest service, and the most beautiful cakes made with care and pride. What an asset to Rothesay! This is a serious treat and one not to be missed. Next time I plan to take a friend and sit in.
PS: - you should see the celebration cakes they make! Incredible! Find them on Facebook for more photos and information.