Larder THE GUIDE TO THE FOOD & DRINK OF AYRSHIRE & ARRAN
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With miles of unspoilt coastline and acres of farmland, it’s no secret that Ayrshire is famous for its award-winning Scottish food and drink, such as quality Ayrshire bacon, Ayrshire potatoes, freshly caught seafood, locally brewed beers, deliciously creamy cheese and even creamier ice cream, to mention just a few. When exploring this stunning region, you can experience the finest natural produce that Ayrshire has to offer by dining in the restaurants and cafés, visiting local producers and enjoying a trip to one of the farmers’ markets. As well as the fine Ayrshire food and drink on offer, you can sample the stunning coastal views at many of the restaurants and hotels. Take time to delve into the region’s rich heritage at the many popular attractions from captivating castles and ancient standing stones to stately country houses and memorable museums. So whether you are seeking the fine-dining experience of a Michelin-starred restaurant, the chance to improve your cookery skills or simply enjoying fish and chips at the harbourside or participating in a whisky tasting, Ayrshire and the islands of Arran and Cumbrae really do have something to satisfy all tastes. We hope you enjoy our region! Ayrshire & Arran Tourism Team
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PHOTO: TASTE AYRSHIRE
Introduction The Ayrshire Larder Part of The Larder series of food and drink publications thelarder.net Editors Donald Reid, Jay Thundercliffe Editorial assistance Mercy Breheny, Claire Ritchie, Claire Sawers Writing & research Rowan Anderson, Steven Dick, Hannah Ewan, Kelsey Farrell, Rachel Gillon, Erica Goodey, Tiff Griffin, Malcolm Jack, Laura Muetzelfeldt, David Pollock, Keith Smith Design & Production Simon Armin Map Ayrshire & Arran Tourism Cover Taste Ayrshire Publishers Robin Hodge, Simon Dessain Larder Project Director Peter Brown ©2015 The List Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of The List Ltd.
s one of the most productive agricultural regions of Scotland, with its long coastline
along the Firth of Clyde and a lush, attractive interior, Ayrshire is a landscape laden with food and drink for you to discover. Alongside the region’s famous golf courses, historic sites and grand buildings, you can discover its well-known dairy, beef and seafood, but Ayrshire is also dotted with farmhouse cheesemakers, bakers, beekeepers, market gardeners, brewers, chocolatiers and smokehouses. This guide aims to tell the story of Ayrshire’s food and drink in its richness and practical detail. It tells you about the food grown, made, landed and reared in Ayrshire, and just as importantly where to find it, from local farm shops to contemporary restaurants. Independently selected to reflect the contemporary food culture of Ayrshire, this is a guide to help you find, appreciate and enjoy great local food.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This guide has been developed by The List working in partnership with the Ayrshire & Arran Tourism Team and with support from Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other food champions in the area including Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association, Ayrshire Food Network, Ayrshire College, Slow Food West of Scotland and Ayrshire Farmers’ Markets Association. The editors would like to thank Ros Halley, Val Russell and Howard Wilkinson for their commitment to and support for the project.
This first edition published by The List Ltd 14 High Street Edinburgh EH1 1TE Tel: 0131 550 3050 list.co.uk Reprinted 2015 with minor alterations
Extensive efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this publication, however the publishers can accept no responsibility for any errors it may contain.
The editorial content of all guides in The Larder series, including Ayrshire Larder, is independently researched, written and produced by The List. These are consumer-oriented guides to local food and drink and all the businesses and organisations are selected by The List on the basis of their editorial merit and relevance. No entry in The Larder’s national and regional guides pays to be included. The Ayrshire Larder 3
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What’s in the Ayrshire Larder? There’s a lot packed into these 48 pages. Here are a few of the highlights
Ice Ice Baby
Cream of the crop
With so many ice-cream producers in the area, every day can be sundae. See page 23 for more.
Widely considered to be the queen of the dairy scene the brownand-white Ayrshire cow produces some of the finest milk in Scotland. See page 6.
Can you dig it?
The Ayrshire spud is far from humble. Find out what’s so special about these lauded tatties on page 18.
Local chefs select their favourite produce from the area. See panels from page 26.
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Buy the best of Ayrshire at a farmers’ market or head to a local food festival. See page 46.
Check out the best spots to sample local produce, whatever your style, location or budget. Listings begin on pages 35.
Pick of the picnic spots Shake out your picnic blanket in the grounds of a castle or choose a stunning coastal view. See page 45.
Where to Buy
A comprehensive round-up of the food grown, farmed, made and landed in Ayrshire. See pages 21–23.
From butchers and bakers to farm shops and fishmongers, our listings start on page 26.
Where to Buy
Where to Eat
Farmers’ Markets & Food Events
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How Now Brown and White Cow The iconic Ayrshire cow helps supply the region with fresh ice cream, cheese and milk. Malcolm Jack explores some of the region’s dairy delicacies
he famous brown-and-white Ayrshire dairy cow isn’t anything like as ubiquitous a sight as it once was, dotted across rolling green Ayrshire pastureland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Progressively interbred with and usurped by the more productive and thus much more common black-andwhite Holstein cow, even if they’re to be commonly found elsewhere in the world from Finland to New Zealand, Australia and Malaysia, they’re the rare breed these days in their native land. But don’t assume we’re soon to see the back of these distinctive bovines. Originally known as Dunlop and later Cunningham cattle and first recorded on an official basis in the
1870s, the indomitable Ayrshire’s pre-eminence in its heyday led to the formation of the Ayrshire Cattle Society in 1877, a body which in the 21st century still endeavours to keep the breed at the forefront of modern dairying. Favoured for their hardiness, efficiency, good temperament and above all superior milk – so good it stands up to blind taste-test scrutiny against its leading rivals – you’ll still find certain Ayrshire farmers standing steadfastly by the Ayrshire as a breed. ‘Traditionally she has higher components within her milk, higher fat and protein,’ says Hugh Woodburn, founder of the Woody’s Ice Cream brand and keeper of a large herd of Ayrshires at Killoch Farm near Galston.
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‘Market research has proven for her milk to have a superior taste to that of the black-and-white cow.’ Woodburn began making ice cream approximately 12 years ago, during a crisis for dairy farming in the UK when profits slumped and many farmers were forced to diversify to survive. Producing around 50 different flavours of fresh ice cream in small batches, often bespoke to order, Woody’s has become a well-respected and recognised brand in an increasingly competitive ice-cream market in Ayrshire and the west of Scotland. The majority of Killoch Farm’s milk is still sold to a dairy on a daily basis, but it keeps enough back to manufacture about 40–50,000 litres of ice-cream annually. Hugh recently handed over the running of Woody’s to his daughter, Jill Woodburn, allowing him to concentrate on, ahem, milking the most valuable asset of their business. ‘We have all the products on hand,’ says Woodburn to explain Woody’s ice cream’s freshness USP. ‘The cows are milked at six o’clock in the morning and it’s pasteurised at nine o’clock the same morning and it’s ice cream the next day. There’s no transport links, and we eliminate a lot of contamination and heating problems by keeping it all on farm. Not many ice-cream producers can do an on-farm process like that.’ As owner of Dunlop Dairy cheesemaker, Ann Dorward keeps a herd of 30 Ayrshire cattle at her farm near Stewarton in Ayrshire and similarly finds them to be perfect for her small-scale business, hand-making a range
of farmhouse cheeses including traditional Ayrshire Dunlop – a cheddar-like style that was recognised with European PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status in 2015. ‘We’re not going for quantity of milk, we’re going for quality,’ she says. ‘I’m producing the milk just for my cheese, I’m not pushing out every litre to sell to a tanker every day. So we’re not looking for fast yield out of these cows. We’re also looking for ones that can produce milk off a lower diet,’ she continues, ‘and that’s what the Ayrshires were good for back in the day. Because our farm’s a bit higher up here and it’s a wee bit less productive than some places, we’re looking for a cow that’s a little bit hardier.’ For a business of Dunlop Dairy’s size, producing only as much cheese as it can sell either direct-to-customer through its own on-farm shop and tearoom, or via select local shops and delis, buying in Ayrshire cattle’s milk from another supplier isn’t really an option. ‘It’s economies of scale these days,’ Dorward explains. ‘If we’re buying in milk, it’s coming from a big pool, and it’d be very difficult for us to get small quantities of Ayrshire milk from one farm. So it’s cheaper for us to keep our own Ayrshires and work within our means. Also because they’re our cows and we’re doing the work, we know what they’re eating, what stage they’re at and everything about them. We’ve got the whole food chain.’ ■ woodysicecream.co.uk; dunlopdairy.co.uk The Ayrshire Larder 7
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Land of Milk and Honey, and Besides the scenery, the prospect of a breakfast of Ayrshire bacon, sausages, black pudding and ha
yrshire farmers have the perfect ingredients for producing top-quality, flavoursome meat. Mother nature provides the ideal conditions for farming; a mild climate, coupled with high rainfall ensures animals are grazing on lush pastures. With a rich and successful farming heritage, too, some might say Ayrshire is the ideal land of milk and honey. The field-to-fork cycle works well, thanks to a close collaboration between the farming community, hospitality sector and retail market. Additional drive and enthusiasm from organisations such as the Ayrshire Food Network, a consortium of major hospitality and food businesses, means that sourcing local produce is made easy. Clearly, there is some joined-up thinking going on. Local beef, lamb and pork products are widely available and Ayrshire residents are justifiably proud of the regionâ€™s ability to be largely self sufficient. From farms to smallholdings, thereâ€™s a rich and diverse range of livestock being reared and good-quality meat being produced. At Nethergate Farm in Dunlop, Arlene
and Thomson MacKenzie have been successfully farming rare and heritagebreed cows, pigs and sheep since 2005. Both speak passionately about the animals they breed and are rightly proud of them. At their 47-acre farm on the hills above Dunlop, they rear a range of native Scottish and primitive cattle including White Park cows alongside Tamworth, Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback rare-breed pigs. These breeds are particularly well suited to rough grazing and foraging, and therefore thrive in Scottish weather. They will happily stay outside even in the coldest of winters. With their strong desire to preserve sustainable-farming methods, the MacKenzies are an excellent example of a field-to-fork success story. The addition of an on-site butchery is a natural extension of their determination to provide the very best meat to their customers. Alongside traditional cuts of meat, the couple produce their own top-quality sausages and bacon; popular within the areaâ€™s hotels as key ingredients in the traditional Scottish breakfast.
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and Square Sausage
> AYRSHIRE BACON: A CURE FOR ALL ILLS
g and haggis is another big draw, finds Rachel Gillon
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but as B&B owners in the area will attest, it’s also an essential and unique selling point. Many visitors look forward to a hearty breakfast before heading out to explore. Of course, the area’s speciality pork products, the famous Ayrshire bacon, sausages, black pudding and haggis are favourites. Naturally, local butchers and producers are keen to ensure their meat is gracing the area’s best establishments. At Thomson’s Square Sausage in Craigie, managing director Janie Thomson attributes the popularity of the traditional Scottish square sausage on the breakfast menu to the company’s handmade production methods and the consistent high quality using carefully sourced Scotch beef. It’s a similar story for the area’s haggis and black pudding producers. The opportunity in Ayrshire for serving a uniquely sourced local breakfast has been embraced by the the members of ABBA, the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association. They lack no imagination when it comes to breakfast.
ABBA is committed to serving the best Ayrshire produce to guests, so menus are punctuated with references to local producers and suppliers. Offerings include local free range eggs, alongside haggis, square sausage and black pudding. There’s been collaboration between ABBA and Kilmarnock-based Cook School Scotland to help members with cooking and food presentation skills and this can be seen in the high standards and choice of breakfasts being served to guests. As part of 2015 Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, ABBA is also working with students at Ayrshire College to develop a flagship Ayrshire breakfast. There has been a suggestion to create an Ayrshire continental breakfast using artisan pork and venison charcuterie and cheeses. An ideal option for this would be the new range of top-quality pork and venison charcuterie from Kilmarnockbased company Scottish Charcuterie. It would surely be a great choice for visitors and a perfect Scottish twist on the continental style.
When it comes to a traditional Scottish breakfast, there’s one product that stands out – Ayrshire cured bacon. Traditionally, it is produced from Great White premiumgrade Scottish pigs and unlike other bacons, the skin and bones are removed before curing. It’s the only distinctive bacon cure in Scotland and curers are quick to defend their methods against any impostors. The curing method, which begins with immersing the pork in brine, removes any trace of water, producing a rich and flavoursome bacon that fries perfectly with no milky or watery residue. The cured bacon is rolled and is quite distinctive with the fattier streaky rolled around the leaner back bacon. It’s the bacon of choice for butchers and chefs throughout Scotland with many favouring it over Italian pancetta. (Rachel Gillon)
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Shellfish Love Far more than just fish and chips awaits, explains Erica Goodey, when sustainable langoustines and lobster are on the menu
hen asked to think of seafood from Ayrshire, you would be forgiven for being transported to a bench beside the seaside, fish and chips in hand, the sweet, steamy waft of vinegar and newspaper filling your nostrils while seagulls squawk overhead and salty air licks at your cheeks. Yet Ayrshire produces much more than the humble fish supper. This fruitful coastline has always been home to a vigorous fishing industry, which in the past, shaped many of the coastal communities including Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Troon. If you’d visited one of these towns in the 1800s you would probably have seen a harbour bustling with hundreds of boats. You may even have seen a brawny fisherman’s wife hoisting up her skirt and carrying her husband through the
shallow waters to plonk him on his boat so that he would stay dry during his long day at sea. Now that’s devotion for you. In those days, herring, salmon, cod, hake and skate were in abundance in the Firth of Clyde, and would be hauled in by the netful to be sold at the fish market in Ayr, and could then be sold on as far away as England, Ireland and France. These days, however, dwindling fish stocks stacked up with government quotas, regulations and bans, mean that the majority of Ayrshire’s catch is made up of shellfish. The fish that do come from these waters are mainly made up of the small amounts of legal by-catch from langoustine trawlers. Langoustines are in abundance in the Firth of Clyde and many trawler boats visit the coast all year round to harvest
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these succulent, tasty little beasties. Once caught, the majority are packed on ice and either exported to the markets and restaurants of locations such as Paris and Milan, or rather less glamorously, sent to food processing plants. Two thirds of all the world’s langoustine are sourced in Scotland, many coming from the Firth of Clyde. However, much to the disappointment of the owner of Fencebay Fisheries, Tom Campbell, they’re not all eaten here. ‘It’s all about the freshness,’ says Campbell, who explains that the longer the crustaceans are kept after being plucked from the sea, the more the sugars and proteins break down - rendering them tasteless. ‘You can’t beat langoustines fresh out of the sea, boiled up in a pot of salty water. The taste is immense. You can’t get that out of a supermarket.’ Campbell’s business comprises a small trout farm, a smokehouse, a farm shop and an award-winning restaurant, the Catch at Fins. He firmly believes that fresh fish is far superior to chemically laden, processed foods that have a longer shelf life.
Someone else who preaches this belief is Tom Bryson, the owner of HQ Shellfish. He has fished in the Ardrossan area since he was a young boy. ‘We go out and catch lobsters to order, so our lobsters come out of the sea and go straight to the restaurant that day,’ says Bryson. He and his brother have taken the art of fishing back to how the fisherfolk of Ayrshire’s past used to do it: fresh from the sea to the plate, and with a deep respect for the ocean. His mother even watches her sons working in the harbour from her living-room window. Having scuba dived in the area, he has seen for himself how the langoustine trawler nets ‘destroy the seabed’, which in turn destroys everything else. ‘If you fish the sea to a certain level and only take what you need, and put things back, like pregnant female lobsters, then the sea will be there to fish forever,’ he says. It’s an extraordinarily refreshing ethos to hear from a businessman. And one that, if adopted more widely, could keep this beautiful coastline alive. ■ fencebay.co.uk
> FISH & CHIPS
Ayr’s long coastline lends itself to the traditional fresh Scottish chippy. All the big towns are well-served, for example Irvine with Enzo’s (72 Ayr Road), where they fry local haddock in beef dripping for a distinctive ‘west coast taste’. The newer Marco’s (34 Caldon Road) is Enzo’s sister outlet, while the Ship Inn sells takeout fish and chips through the Wee Catch (120– 122 Harbour Street). Other favourites include Troon’s Wee Hurrie (Harbour Road), sister chippie of the Wee Fry in Glasgow’s Bearsden, Graziano’s Harbour Café (37 Knockushan Street) in Girvan and Ayr’s 50-year-old Dino’s (49 Maybole Road). On the Isle of Arran, Hooked and Cooked (The Pier, Brodick) runs a regular chip shop in Brodick and also a chippy van, which regularly tours the island, with stops announced on Facebook in advance. ■ downiefish.co.uk
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Salad Days Meet Robin Gray, former chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant, now chief herb-grower on Arran. Laura Muetzelfeldt gets a tour of the polytunnel where it all happens
obin Gray doesn’t have a website. He doesn’t need one. In fact, as he explains, checking on it would only take him away from his work. There is no sense of hard sell about him and a quick Google confirms this: he’s hard to find. Buyers come to me, he tells us. He’d love more of the island chefs who order leaves, vegetables and fruit from him to pay him a visit. You see, as well as being a chef’s gardener, he is also a chef. His mellow temperament deceives, and knowing that he used to work in Raymond Blanc’s two Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons forces you to look again at the man with the warm smile and grey
hat, pulled down as insurance against the cold February air. For years, Gray grew herbs and leaves illicitly on a small, south-facing patch overlooking the sea on the Isle of Arran. He tried to contact the owner, but the plot wasn’t for sale. However, through an introduction by a friend, he met the owner – as luck would have it – just as he was thinking about selling. If you’ve ever eaten in the Ubiquitous Chip, Gandolfi or Stravaigan in Glasgow – or Auchrannie and the Drift Inn on Arran itself – you can thank fate for this fortuitous turn of events. Visit his polytunnel on the outskirts of Whiting Bay and it quickly becomes clear why
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> JOINED-UP THINKING
some of Glasgow top restaurants choose Gray as their supplier of leaves. Inside the tunnel – a protection against the Scottish weather and local rabbits – there is a pleasing sense of chaos and order. Plants grow randomly from holes in sacking, stretching towards the sea in carefully delineated rows. Lowered walkways mean that Gray and any co-workers can walk up and down the different plant beds; before this adjustment, more work was created as the compacted soil had to be turned over every year. Coat hangers mysteriously hang from the struts that run along the top beside, less puzzlingly, various sets of work gloves. The sea is visible through a small square window at the far end and the smell of seaweed, spume and wet sand permeates. Some chefs swear the proximity of his plant bed to the sea makes his leaves taste salty, but he is quick to dismiss this. Despite his affable appearance, there is an air of unassuming logic about him. To accelerate the first crops of the year, he has installed heated beds; rather than attempt to describe the taste of a certain plant, he will bend and pick some for you to try. He is keen to trial new seed variations and you get the sense that this willingness to try new things, and his continuous energy to try and better what he does, is one of the reasons he is where he is today.
One of the main difficulties he faces is the west-coast climate. However, the shakily drawn coastline of Arran throws up an advantage to offset this. Preparations for the next year begin when September storms bring up ‘wreck’ seaweed on the same stretch of beach visible from his polytunnel. Gray gathers it and mixes it with manure to make compost. This is then turned into the soil and one of the reasons his small windswept sweep of land is so productive. The isolation of being on an island creates challenges but, with its heightened sense of community, also offers solutions. The main problem is the cost individual businesses face shipping products off the island. The answer: pool their resources and ship many products in one van. ‘Taste of Arran pick up, pack and take to restaurants,’ says Gray, mentioning the website he uses to distribute leaves and other products. ‘Clubbing together,’ as Gray calls, it is both an acquired and instinctive solution. He also has plans to be involved in a community project that islanders are trying to get off the ground. They have secured 18 acres of land for a community garden and he has offered to help by giving advice on one of the things he does best: doing up the beds.
Arran’s food producers are an interconnected lot. Arran Fine Foods uses whisky from the Isle of Arran Distillery in its Arran Malt Whisky Marmalade. And the distillery sells chocolates made by James of Arran using its cream liqueur, Arran Gold. Every year, the distillery hosts the Malt & Music Festival. Robin Gray, of Robin’s Herbs, caters for the opening-night dinner and supplies leaves, while the Arran Butcher creates pork, whisky & apple sausages. The distillery café menu lists Creelers’ smoked salmon, Wooleys’ oatcakes and local cheese. On Arran’s west coast, Bellevue Creamery makes Island Cheese. Taste of Arran distributes this and other local produce. Through the website, it sends cheese, oatcakes, mustard and beers all over the UK. Other distributors take the products as far afield as Dubai. (Laura Muetzelfeldt)
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Tiff Griffin takes a look at Ayrshire’s brewing history and the award-winning microbreweries in operation today, adding chocolate and mint to the mix
t its peak, Ayrshire boasted six private breweries. Almost all fell into decline by the mid twentieth century in the face of increased competition from larger operators. Renewed interest was sparked in the 1980s by the Lugton Brewery, located near Beith, which, although now long-closed, put Ayrshire brewing on the map once more. This history is being kept alive by a handful of craft brewers, including the Ayr Brewing Company, Ethical Ales and the Arran Brewery. In Ayr Brewing’s Rabbie’s Porter and Arran’s Guid Ale, they have signature brews that reference Ayrshire’s most famous son and a regional tradition dating back hundreds of years. The Ayr Brewing Company is a micro-brewery based in the town itself and is perhaps less wellknown to UK drinkers than its island counterpart. Its prowess is evidenced by a number of SIPA awards and the CAMRA Scotland Champion Porter title won by Rabbie’s Porter. Hops arrive at the Ayr site to be mashed and brewed under the watchful gaze of master brewer Anthony Valenti. It’s a family business where the hard work happens in a small space adjacent to
the Glen Park hotel owned by brother-in-law and business partner Paul Rossi. ‘It just seemed like the right time to do it, though obviously you never know for sure,’ says Valenti. Since opening in 2009, the operation quickly picked up enough interest to become a fulltime concern, and is now producing around 40 casks a week. The range is based on flagship traditional porters and IPAs. It also includes the more contemporary American-style golden blonde HipHopopotamus. Seasonal beers include the quirky Mint-Chocolate Porter in which mint essence is added to the base brew. According to Valenti, it proves especially popular at Christmas. He likes to blend the artisan craft of the process with modern community; some of the one-off brews result from conversations with customers and fans. He’s justifiably proud of his achievements, pointing out: ‘To have brought a working brewery back to the town after an 80-year absence is a wonderful thing for the town and the region.’ ■ arranbrewery.co.uk; ayrbrewingcompany.com; ethicalales.com
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The leading online guide to the
Food and Drink of Scotland
Independently selected by our award-winning editorial team with over 2,500 entries covering: • cheese makers, smokeries, fruit growers, brewers, distillers, ice-cream makers and more • butchers, bakers, fishmongers, farm shops and farmers’ markets • restaurants, bistros and cafés Geo-coded so you can select places close to where you are and designed for use on smart phones and tablets.
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Haggis’s Poster Boy Rachel Gillon traces the longstanding relationship between Ayrshire and haggis, thanks to the region’s most famous son, Robert Burns ew foods unite people in celebration on the same night of the year across the world quite like the haggis. While treated with curiosity, and even suspicion, by those unfamiliar with it, the haggis is also loved and lauded. Indeed, the haggis has transformed the annual celebration of the life and works of poet Robert Burns into a traditional, often dramatic Scottish theatrical production. According to Jo Macsween, author of The Haggis Bible, the reason that haggis is so closely associated with Scotland at all is firmly down to Robert Burns and his eight-verse ‘Address to a Haggis’, first published in 1786. ‘It is by no means his greatest work,’ comments Macsween, but ‘something he whipped up as a bit of
light-hearted entertainment for his hosts while staying in Edinburgh’. But even if his tongue was firmly in his cheek when he wrote it, she adds, Burns ‘unwittingly elevated haggis from its humble origins to something iconic; and, without him, there would be no high feasting on haggis in January.’ The first recorded Burns supper took place on 21 July 1801, the fifth anniversary of Burns’ death, when nine friends met in Alloway. Then, as now, the ‘Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’ Race’ was honoured by the Address and toasted, no doubt, with some local ale and a few drams. Within a few years and with a shift of date to Burns’ birthday of 25 January, this simple tribute became a globally recognised annual celebration
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Water of Life (and poetry)
> MADE IN SCOTLAND, FROM GIRVAN
No Burns supper is complete without Scotland’s national drink, and the island offers the perfect accompanying dram
t’s no surprise that the land of Robert Burns is synonymous with the love of good whisky. The area is home to one of the country’s few remaining independent whisky distillers, Isle of Arran distillery, and the local connection makes it a popular choice of whisky at Burns celebrations. Established in 1995, Isle of Arran Distillers has a core range of single malts, blends and limited-edition bottlings including the Devil’s Punchbowl and a cream liqueur called Arran Gold. It is its 14-year-old Arran Malt, however, that Ayrshire whisky expert, Robin Russell, of Robbie’s Drams in Ayr, recommends as a local whisky to serve with haggis. With its flavours of chocolate, orange and spiced tea cake, Russell says it makes for a perfect drink for toasting Scotland’s national poet. In an area steeped in history about Burns, who himself was fond of a dram, it’s fitting that Isle of Arran Distillers is patron of the World Burns Federation. In recognition of this and as a toast to the great man himself, the distillers have created a Robert Burns Collection. As a former exciseman in an area famous for its illicit whisky trade, Burns might well have penned an ode to this. (Rachel Gillon)
and forever cemented the relationship between Ayrshire and the haggis. Unlike modern-day Burns suppers, neeps and tatties played no recorded part in the first gatherings, and given the relatively late introduction of the turnip to Scotland, it seems unlikely that the ploughman poet ever enjoyed the trio of meat and two veg on his plate. Haggis recipes vary from butcher to butcher and each claims a shroud of secrecy on their particular combination of offal, oatmeal, fat, onions, seasonings and spices. Traditions are valued, yet as Burns himself knew, haggis is a democratic dish uncomfortable with conformity and rules. We can only speculate what sharp-witted references Burns might make to current
haggis trends such as, haggis pakora, pizza or nachos. A new event at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway near Ayr gives tourists the opportunity to take part in an Express Burns Supper. Over the course of an hour, it’s possible to experience the traditional meal within Burns Cottage, with a recital followed by a dram. There’s also a growing popularity for bespoke weddings at the Museum and Burns Cottage with, of course, haggis on the menu. For many, haggis may be the best
possible comfort food, humble ‘hamely fare’ as Burns himself puts it, but thanks to the Bard it’s also the pride of Ayrshire and, indeed, Scotland.
The gin widely recognised for blazing the trail for Scotland’s – and indeed the UK’s – current gin renaissance is firmly rooted in Ayrshire. William Grant & Sons, the familyowned distillers who pioneered the single malt industry when they bottled and marketed Glenﬁddich in the 1950s, started producing Hendricks Gin at their grain distillery in Girvan in 1999. Launched two years later, it demonstrated to the world that, beyond the legally required juniper, gin was a blank canvas for creative concocting. Using two separate stills, and distilling in batches of under 500 litres, their infusion of crisp cucumber and rose petal, plus the kooky marketing and medicinal bottle, has proven to be a revolutionary milestone in gin history. (Jay Thundercliffe) ■ hendricksgin.com
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One Potato Two Potato
A milder climate in Ayrshire helps grow some of the UK’s finest new potatoes. Malcolm Jack hears why the ‘Ayrshire early’ may even qualify for protected status ew things say spring quite like new potatoes, and Ayrshire ‘earlies’ – the first tatties to come in to season in Scotland every year – are widely considered to be among the finest in the UK, possessing a smooth, sweet, creamy taste and texture unlike any other. So much so that a co-op called Girvan Early Growers has made a bid for PGI status (Protected Geographical Indication) for the Ayrshire early, with the hope of putting them in the company of Stornoway black pudding and Arbroath smokies, not to mention the likes of champagne and parmesan cheese, as a product protected from imitation by EU regulation. Potatoes have been grown in Ayrshire since around the 1850s, and the early harvest was once a massive enterprise employing thousands of men and women from the south-west of Scotland and beyond. ‘Towards the end of the 19th century there would be huge amounts of migrant workers every year who went there – the tattie howkers as they were known,’ says Michael Jarvis from Albert Bartlett and Scotty Brand, part of the Girvan Early Growers co-op. ‘In 1910 there
were a thousand tattie howkers just in the Girvan area alone. They would put on special trains from Ayrshire that transported the potatoes all around the UK.’ Potatoes grow better and faster in Ayrshire because the sea is warmed by the Gulf Stream, meaning a milder climate and less frost than occurs inland, while loose, sandy soil allows the potatoes to expand more easily than in clay soil. They’re usually on shop shelves from around May until July. Announced at the Royal Highland Show in 2014, the PGI bid is currently being subjected to UK government and European Commission scrutiny, and they’re hopeful of a favourable decision before the end of 2015. ‘I’m pretty confident it’s going to go through,’ says Jarvis. ‘PGI status recognises that some of the characteristics and the taste of a product derives specifically from where it is grown and produced. And I think that definitely applies in this case. Put simply, you won’t get a potato tasting quite like an Ayrshire potato from anywhere else.’ ■ scottybrand.com
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How does your garden grow? Once, their spoils were the preserve of the landed gentry, but now, as Keith Smith discovers, ‘lost’ walled gardens are providing fruit and vegetables for all
hether it’s the visitor-centre chefs looking to showcase a property’s delights, or nearby residents eager to learn about and practise sustainable eating, the demand for locally grown, good-quality produce has led to some interesting projects aimed at reinvigorating and reusing these largely forgotten spaces. At Dumfries House in Cumnock, the restoration of the five-acre walled garden, which for years had been a derelict dumping ground, has been a particular highlight of the estate’s transformation. One of the biggest of its kind in Scotland, the garden now supplies produce to the estate’s restaurant, café and shop, and is also home to the one-and-a-half acre education garden (see feature, page 20). Over the water in Arran, Brodick Castle’s eighteenth-century kitchen garden is undergoing a restoration of its own, as part of the National Trust of Scotland’s multi-million pound upgrade of the castle grounds. As well as utilising part of the site to grow fruit and vegetables, both for the castle’s café and for visitors to take home, a further section of the lower
walled garden is being opened up to public use as allotments. ‘I’d love to see the walled garden thriving again,’ says head gardener Tim Keyworth. ‘Much of the area had been overtaken by brambles and other invasive vegetation and we’ve already done a lot of the clearing work. Given the keen interest there is in gardening at the moment, I am sure there will be people on the island who would savour the chance to grow produce on such an historic site as this.’ The Brodick Castle estate is also home to another gardening-related initiative, run by local support organisation Arran Community and Voluntary Service. Having taken on an overgrown plot near the property’s Shore Lodge in early 2014, it has renovated the site to create a community garden which offers opportunities for people to build confidence and skills by participating in shared group activities. It’s an example of just how much the purpose of these gardens has changed over the years; as well as now filling the pots and bellies of the wider community, they’re playing an important part in it’s emotional and cultural well-being too. ■ dumfries-house.org.uk; nts.org.uk; arrancvs.org.uk
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Food For Thought
From careers in hospitality and agriculture, to pioneering scientific studies, Keith Smith finds out more about food-related learning and research in Ayrshire and Arran
ens can be clumsy fliers and tend to bump into things, which is why smart perch design can reduce any risk of injury,’ says Vicky Sandilands, senior behaviour and welfare scientist at the Avian Science Research Centre. Whether it’s improving the digestive efficiency of broilers (meat chickens), or understanding the spread of campylobacter in chicken flocks to reduce food poisoning, her team is leading the way in poultry welfare, diet, nutrition and food safety. The centre is part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), one of the region’s largest educational providers in the food industry. Students at the Ayr campus can take courses in agricultural science, horticulture and countryside management. At the other end of the food chain, aspiring chefs can study full-time at Ayrshire College, learning their trade in one of two training restaurants. The college has also partnered with the Turnberry Hotel to provide workplace-based modern apprenticeships – a first for the region. Likewise, the Belling Hospitality Centre at Dumfries House provides hands-on hospitality experience for 16–24 year-olds not in education,
employment or training. It has a state-of the-art teaching kitchen and adjoining restaurant, as well as specialist bartender and barista stations. Elsewhere on the Dumfries House estate, the Pierburg Building and Kauffman Education Gardens give schoolchildren an introduction to healthy eating and food growing, while a model farm, set up in partnership with Morrisons, develops sustainable farming techniques. Part of the remit of the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve, one of the first of its kind in the UK, is to develop a greater understanding of sustainability, countryside management and food production. ‘Promoting and encouraging learning opportunities will be an important part in the success of the Biosphere project,’ says Nic Coombey, community and learning officer at the UNESCO-established initiative. ‘The purpose of the designation is to recognise somewhere as special not just because of it’s natural diversity but because people care for the environment through conservation and sustainable development.’ ■ ayrshire.ac.uk, dumfries-house.org.uk/education; gsabiosphere.org.uk; sruc.ac.uk
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Ayrshire Food Round-up
An Ayrshire Menu
Looking for a taste of Ayrshire? This round-up by Jay Thundercliffe introduces you to what’s grown, reared, made and landed in the region Further details on many of the businesses shown in bold can be found listed in the Where to Buy section of this guide, with full references for all at thelarder.net
FRUIT & VEG he importance of Scotland’s first potatoes each year to see sunlight is being backed up by a PGI application to have the Ayrshire ‘earlies’ name protected (see feature, page 18). Girvan Early Growers Ltd is a cooperative of farmers and companies, including the mighty Albert Bartlett and Scotty Brand, dedicated to getting their spuds – often regarded as the UK’s best – out the ground as soon as spring is sprung. Over on Arran, Robin’s Herbs ships its herbs, salad leaves and other vegetables (see interview, page 12) to some of the best restaurants on the mainland, including Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. Another Arran producer is Arran Fine Foods, whose range of mustards, preserves and chutneys can be found across Scotland and beyond. GC Growers by Girvan, provides seasonal, Ayrshire-grown veg to local outlets and farmers’ markets, where you’ll also find stalls of homegrown fruit and veg, along with eggs, chutney and other items from Rhone Cottage. Prestwick’s grocer WA & E Grant supplies veg boxes, delivered free in the surrounding area, or for collection from their shop. For organic produce, Drumullan Organics produces fruit and vegetables on its farm near Girvan. EverythingChilli, based in Fenwick, creates a range of sweet and savoury preserves featuring the spicy pepper. Alison Stokes’s Splendid Soups and Such specialises in quality homemade soups as well as preserves and chutneys made on the Auchincruive Estate near Ayr.
BEEF, LAMB, GAME AND OTHER MEAT yrshire’s fertile rolling fields are prime farming land, producing beef, lamb and pork of exceptional quality. Dalduff Farm is a butchers dedicated to local meat, including lamb from Ballantrae and pork from Ardrossan, creating top-quality cuts and other meaty ready meals from its farm shop and kitchen. Other producers rear their own such as Nethergate Larder (see Chef’s Choice, page 33), whose rare-breed pigs and cattle on its farm near Dunlop go into top-quality sausages and bacon made on site, and Auchengree Farm, whose farm shop stocks produce from the farm and homemade pies and sausages. Also farming and butchering is Cairnhill Farms, and its retail arm We Hae Meat, which rears its cattle and pigs in the Girvan Valley and sells its meat and other products online and at Dowhill Country Fayre farm shop in Turnberry. Another company dedicated to all things pork is Robertsons Fine Foods, run by the great-grandsons of the founder, they deal in the whole pig from green and smoked bacon to ribs, houghs and whole backs. Thomsons Square Sausage needs little explanation about the much-loved Scottish breakfast item it produces (see page 8). West of Ochiltree is Tarelgin Farm Foods & Smokehouse, producing all manner of traditional meats, haggis, sausages and smoked products – watch for its mobile smoker at farmers’ markets and events. JW Kay & Co has been
From the top: Lime Tree Larder, James of Arran, Aye Love Real Food, Wooley’s of Arran
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Ayrshire Food Round-up
From the top: Woody’s Ice Cream, Ardtaraig Fine Foods, Dowhill Farm, Arran Fine Foods
farming near Straiton for over a hundred years, producing beef and lamb from its blackface sheep. Another blackface specialist is Glenkiln Farm at Lamlash on Arran (see Chef’s Choice, page 29). Cedar Cottage Country Foods are stalwarts of the local farmers’ markets with their meat selection including Highland Beef and meat pies. Braehead Foods near Kilmarnock has grown from a small game supplier to provider of produce to some of the country’s top chefs, from game gathered on estates around Scotland to meat, poultry and purpose-made sauces, stock and terrines. Its offshoot, the Scottish Charcuterie Company, produces a range of salami and air-dried meats made from Scottish ingredients (see page 8). Aye Love Real Food can be found at farmers’ markets and other events selling its rare-breed pork and haggis and black pudding Scotch eggs (see Chef’s Choice, page 33), using free-range eggs sourced from Corrie Mains Eggs, near Mauchline. Another egg producer is Scotlay Eggs, which sources its freerange eggs from various producers as well as the chickens on its own farm near Maybole. KellyBronze Scotland near Stewarton is home to the award-winning bronze turkey breed, with all birds hatched and reared on its 50-acre farm and supplied to butchers and customers across Scotland.
FISH & SHELLFISH ith over 100 miles of coastline, the waters around Arran and off Ayrshire’s coast are teeming with seafood. Much of it is some of the finest shellfish – particularly langoustines, while oysters from the island of Cumbrae also carry a strong reputation. Fencebay Fisheries (see feature, page 10), based in Fairlie, has a farm shop and hosts a farmers’ market, while producing smoked goods in its smokehouse from the catch from local waters. HQ Shellfish (see page 10) are Ardrossan-based fishermen, catching lobsters, crab and mackerel. Creelers sell smoked and fresh fish from their
smokehouse on Arran, while Ardtaraig Fine Foods is a long-standing specialist supplying a range of Scottish gourmet products including traditionally smoked Scottish salmon, fresh oysters and various hampers and gift boxes.
BREAD, CAKES AND CHOCOLATE cotland’s sweet tooth is well catered for in the region. The Dessert Depot and sister operation the Handmade Cheesecake Company have won Great Taste Awards for their range, while Baking Sinsations offers various cakes ranging from cupcakes to wedding cakes from its base near Coalhall. Mary’s Marvellous Munchables’ range of home-baking and preserves can be found at farmers’ markets in the area. For discerning cake-eaters Petrie Fine Foods produces vegetarian and glutenfree products, including festive cakes and puddings, as well as savoury items. Wooleys of Arran has been baking on the island since the mid 1800s and produces a range of speciality oatcakes. With all the family helping out, Creative Chocolate offers a range of luxury treats from its base at Stewarton. All That’s Delicious produce cookie mixes and tablet near Kilwinning, and from the farm near Kilbirnie, Lime Tree Larder produces a range of confections as well as its ice cream (see page 6), and has workshops to help you make your own, while Threepwood Fayre sells handmade chocolates and sugary confections at various markets and events. Hotelier Costley and Costley creates handmade chocolates for sale at its patisseries. Over on the island is the Arran Chocolate Factory, whose tradename James of Arran offers a range of sweets for the discerning chocolate fan.
ew regions can offer the farm to cheese fork – or ice-cream spoon – that Ayrshire does, thanks to
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Ayrshire Food Round-up
Scottish Charcuterie Company
the region’s famous brown-and-white cows, officially named the Ayrshire (see page 6). At Dunlop Dairy near Stewarton, Ann Dorward uses milk from her small herd of Ayrshire cows to make cheeses including traditional Ayrshire Dunlop. Also using its own Ayrshires is Barwheys Dairy of Maybole, whose unpasteurised milk goes into its hard cheese (see page 39). On the island, Arran Dairies Ltd produces unhomogenised milk from cows grazed on the grasslands of southern Arran. As well as milk and cream, it also produces ice cream (see page 6). Arran is also home to some potent cheesemaking with the family-run Island Cheese Company whose range of cheeses under the Arran Cheese Shop banner are a common sight in delis and farm shops across the country, while the Bellevue Creamery produces Arran Blue, a Great Taste award-winner, and a brie, Arran Mist. Another Arran-based cheese producer is Torrylinn Creamery which creates Isle of Arran cheddar, including a Dunlop variation, utilising milk from three local farms.
WHISKY, BEER AND OTHER DRINKS pirits have a strong presence in the region, with William Grant & Sons’ Girvan and Ailsa Bay distilleries producing lowland grain whisky as well as Hendrick’s gin (see page 17). The Arran Distillery is a rare independent operation, producing single malts, blends and a cream liqueur at its distillery and visitor centre at Lochranza. Beer lovers can enjoy a taste of the region thanks to the Arran Brewery and the Ayr Brewing Company (see feature, page 14), both of which have been decorated with multiple awards. Ethical Ales, based at Roddenloft Brewery near Mauchline, are the most recently established local craft beer producers, with products including Hoppy Daze pilsner and Stag Do stout. Away from the alcoholic creations, Roundsquare Roastery, based above a coffee shop in Ayr, hand-roasts the coffee beans that it sources from Direct Trade family-run farms around the globe.
> AYRSHIRE ICE CREAM TRAIL
For an area with such a rich history in dairy farming, it’s little wonder ice-cream making is booming. In the north west there’s Nardini’s of Largs, and also Geraldo’s on Largs High Street, the Lime Tree Larder near Glengarnock, Sorbie Farm Dairies outside of Ardrossan and Wester Highgate Farmhouse Ice Cream near Beith. In the countryside further south you’ll find Woody’s icecream at Killoch Farm, Galston, Ayrshire Farmhouse ice-cream near Mauchline, and Costley’s ice-cream at Souter’s Inn in Kirkoswald. In Ayr, there’s the veteran Italian family gelato dynasties Renaldo’s and Mancini’s, while Kilmarnock has one in the form of Varani’s. You can even get a good locally made lick of ice-cream across the Firth of Clyde on Arran, where Arran Dairies operates out of Brodick. (Malcolm Jack)
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Map of Ayrshire
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Where to Buy
WHERE TO BUY
Lime Tree Larder
In addition to the shops listed below, Ayrshire produce can be found at local farmers’ markets (see p.46) or obtained directly from producers featured elsewhere in the guide. Entries are grouped into six geographical areas based around the main towns running approximately north to south in Ayrshire. Within each area entries are sorted alphabetically.
AROUND LARGS Auchengree Farm Meikle Auchengree Farm, Glengarnock KA14 3BU 01294 834625 Mon–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat 9.30am– 5pm, Sun 11am–4.30pm.
>ONLINE LISTINGS Extended write-ups of all venues, with individual location maps and links at each entry, can be found at thelarder.net Accessible on all devices including smartphones and tablets, thelarder.net features additional listings within Ayrshire and search functions for food and drink venues across Scotland.
Since early 2014 Auchengree has been under the new management of Ann and Trevor Beckett who previously farmed south of the border. The proper butcher counter sells their own lamb, beef from John Scotts of Paisley and pork from Robertsons of Saltcoats. It’s all butchered to order, and the shop also stocks cheese, eggs, chutneys, preserves, oils, homemade pies and baking.
The Bosun’s Table Largs Yacht Haven, Irvine Road, Largs KA30 8EZ
See main entry on p.35.
C Fayre 25 Aitken Street, Largs KA30 8AT 01475 672102, cfayre.co.uk Tue–Sat 8.30am–5.30pm. Closed Sun/Mon.
A traditional family fishmongers where owner John Watson has been greeting regulars by name since 1987. The fish counter is well stocked with haddock (dyed and undyed, whole and fillets) plus smoked salmon and trout pâté. The large pile of Arbroath smokies is particularly appealing, and
the haddock is hand filleted on the premises daily.
Fencebay Fisheries Fencefoot Farm, Fairlie KA29 0EG
See main entry on p.35.
Lime Tree Larder Auchencloigh Farm, Kilbirnie KA25 7LJ 01505 685258, limetreelarder.co.uk Fri/Sat noon–5pm. (Sun–Thu: phone in advance.)
This smartly converted byre houses an impressive kitchen and visitor area dedicated to the art of chocolate. Kids on a party or ladies on a hen do can enjoy a hands-on lesson covering the geography and the history of the product before making and tasting chocolate harvested from places like Venezuela, Ghana and the Dominican Republic. They make 100% cocoa bars, favoured by diabetics, which is used in the production of homemade ice-cream (other flavours include passion fruit and blackcurrant).
Nardini’s The Esplanade Café, 2 Greenock Road, Largs KA30 8NF
See main entry on p.35.
Sugar & Spice / Geraldo’s Ice Cream 26-28 Main Street, Largs KA30 8AB 01475 675200, sugar-and-spice.co.uk Mon–Sun 9am–10pm.
Run by mother and daughter Caroline and Toni Dawson, this chocolate shop on Largs main street has a large selection of confectionery including biscuits, old-fashioned sweets, slabs of branded chocolate and gift-wrapped boxes, in addition to a shelf of wine. The chocolate counter is supplied by the Arran Chocolate Factory topped up with selected Belgian makers. Geraldo’s ice-cream (named for Toni’s father) is made on the premises and often incorporates sweets from the shop.
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Where to Buy
AROUND IRVINE Brownings the Bakers • 35 Bridgegate, Irvine KA12 8BJ 01294 276160 • 147 High Street, Irvine KA12 8AA 01294 273198, browningsbakers.co.uk Both branches: Mon–Sat 8am–4pm. Closed Sun.
See main entry in Around Kilmarnock, p.29.
The Jar Troon 33 Ayr Street, Troon KA10 6EB 07934 565055, thejartroon.com Mon/Tue & Thu–Sat 10–6pm. Closed Wed/Sun.
A recent welcome addition to Troon’s plethora of tea shops, this supplier takes whisky seriously. Entering the woodpanelled shop is a bit like walking into a sherry cask, and often the friendly owner David Iain Grant will be on hand to advise, or even pour samples. There’s a very good selection of single malts,
unusual expressions and even Japanese producers. For the well-heeled there is a cabinet of collectors’ items with price tags to match. Regular tasting sessions are held on the premises, often led by visiting master distillers.
The Kandy Bar 2 Hamilton Street, Saltcoats KA21 5DS 01294 463804 Mon–Sat 8am–5pm. Closed Sun.
This independent high street bakery with two branches in Saltcoats as well as in West Kilbride and Kilwinning, is best known for its Scotch pies and morning rolls. The former won the Scotch Pie World Championships in 2014, and the morning rolls were deemed to be Scotland’s best in the Scottish Baker of the Year awards 2014/15. Having grown from a small sweet shop selling handmade confections, they also make bespoke celebration cakes and a full range of pies, biscuits, cakes and treats.
THE LABELS YOU CAN TRUST For guarantees of farm assurance, taste and quality, it has to be Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork.
Look out for certified Scotch Butchers Club members throughout this guide by looking for the Scotch rosette. To find your local member, visit www.scotchbutchersclub.org
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Where to Buy
Robertsons Fine Foods 88 Princes Street, Ardrossan KA22 8DQ 01294 463936, robertsonsfinefoods.co.uk Not open to the public; stockists listed online.
Dunlop Dairy (page 30)
Established in 1870 and still owned and run by the Robertson family, Robertsons Fine Foods is all about pork: fresh, cured, raw, cooked, smoked or unsmoked. Traditional bacon is something of a flagship product, with 21 different products in that line alone. Green and smoked ribs and houghs are available, as are whole backs (green and smoked) and cooked meats such as gammon, ham, black pudding and haggis.
Sorbie Farm Dairies Sorbie Farm, Ardrossan KA22 7NP 01294 605013
Now run by Alan Hogarth, this traditional dairy, previously owned by father and grandfather, has the motto ‘From Cow to Door in 24’. They’ve been producing milk since the 1950s and now, instead of selling to large buyers, they bottle on the farm and deliver in glass bottles on an old-fashioned milk float.
R Stalker & Son 9 New Street, Dalry KA24 5AH 01294 832174 Mon/Tue & Thu–Sun 6am–4pm; Wed 6am–1pm.
Stalkers are a family butcher offering advice and unusual cuts of meat on request. With an emphasis on technique, they have regular trainee butchers, and Ronald Stalker acts as a judge in national training competitions in Scotland. Stalker is so dedicated to quality that he has a smallholding to raise his own beef.
ISLE OF ARRAN The Arran Chocolate Factory / James of Arran Invercloy, Brodick KA27 8AJ 01770 302873, jamesofarran.com Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. (Jan–Mar: closed Sun.)
The Arran Chocolate Factory, trading as James of Arran, has been producing handmade chocolates for 15 years. They use chocolate containing no less than 54% cocoa solids, and supply retailers and corporate customers throughout Scotland. Chocolates and sweets can be ordered from their online shop. The shop uses cream from Arran Dairies, and for chocolate-mad visitors, the viewing window offers lots of Willie Wonka inspired fun.
Arran Fine Foods The Old Mill, Lamlash KA27 8LE 01770 600606, arranfinefoods.com Mon–Fri 9am–5pm; Sat/Sun 10am–4pm.
Arran Fine Foods have operated from their small factory for nearly 40 years, when they first started producing mustards from a tiny kitchen on the island. Now owned by Patterson Arran Ltd, over time their product range has developed to include relishes, chutneys, preserves, marmalades and salad dressings, all of which are available from the factory shop. The famous Arran mustard features on nearly every menu all over the island, and their ‘Provenance’ range uses local products.
Creelers Home Farm, Brodick KA27 8DD
See main entry on p.39.
Isle of Arran Brewery Cladach KA27 8DE 01770 302353, arranbrewery.co.uk Apr–Oct: Mon–Sun 10.30am–5pm. (Nov–Mar: phone ahead.)
Established in 1999 and set in the shadow of Brodick Castle, ales are produced here in a micro-brewery using traditional production methods. A compact visitors’ centre allows you to watch the process, with tasting included in the price of the tour. The beers are now widely distributed across Scotland but you can buy gift packs from the shop or website. Arran Dark won World’s Best Dark Brown at the World
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Where to Buy
Beer Awards 2012 and Arran Blonde is the best-known of their range.
Isle of Arran Cheese Shop
Afton Glen Meats
Home Farm, Brodick KA27 8DD 01770 302788, arranscheeseshop.co.uk Mon–Sat 9am–5pm; Sun 10am–4.30pm.
8-16 Cross Street, Galston KA4 8AL 01563 820343 Mon–Tue 7am–5pm; Wed 7am–1pm; Thu–Sat 7am–5pm. Closed Sun.
The Island Cheese Company is a familyrun business established more than 20 years ago at the home farm of Brodick Castle. They produce 5,000 waxsealed, flavoured and deluxe cheddars a week, for sale in their shop at the farm, through farmers’ markets, mail order and a number of other outlets including delicatessens and restaurants throughout the UK.
Torrylinn Creamery Kilmory KA27 8PH 01770 870240, firstmilk.co.uk Apr–Oct: Mon–Sat 10am–3pm. Nov–Mar: closed Wed & Sat.
Opened by King George VI in 1947, the Torrylinn Creamery on the southern tip of the Isle of Arran still crafts its cheese by hand. Owned by First Milk, Scotland’s largest dairy farmers’ co-operative, it is home to Isle of Arran cheddar (isleofarrancheese.co.uk). Made using milk from three local farms, variations include Isle of Arran dunlop and an extra mature cheddar, which are sold through supermarkets. The Creamery has a mini visitor centre and an on-site shop.
Wooleys of Arran Invercloy, Brodick KA27 8AJ 01770 302280, wooleys.co.uk Mon–Sat 7am–5pm. Closed Sun.
Wooleys have been in Brodick as long as anyone can remember. Their oatcakes find their way to the deli-counters and restaurant tables of Glasgow, Edinburgh and beyond. To islanders and island visitors though, it’s a popular local bakery offering fine baking to match their famed oatcakes. Haggis pies, steak slices and bridies all use locally sourced Arran meat, while recent additions to their range of loaves include speciality breads such as rosemary and olive.
‘We must be doing something right,’ comments Afton Glen Meats’ owner Iain Holloway, who took over the shop of ten years’ standing on Cross Street in Galston two years ago. He bases this modest statement on the fact that customers travel from all over the local area to shop with them, and in particular to pick up one of Afton’s homemade steak pies, of which the shop can sell hundreds in any given week. Don’t expect anything fancy here, but sausages, burgers, mince and plenty of those pies are all done to the same consistently good standard upon which their reputation was established and continues to grow.
Borlands Deli 1/5 Main Street, Stewarton KA3 5BS 01560 482883 Mon–Fri 8.30am–4pm; Sat 8.30am– 3.30pm. Closed Sun.
Dawn Borland’s busy deli is situated right in the centre of Stewarton and is a hub for those looking for a takeaway lunch of sandwiches, homemade soup and home baking. The shelves and chiller are well stocked with local produce such as icecreams, ready meals from nearby Dalduff Farm, Scottish smoked salmon and cheese from Dunlop Dairy.
Brownings the Bakers Block 1, Bonnyton Industrial Estate, Kilmarnock KA1 2NP 01563 522685, browningsbakers.co.uk Mon–Fri 6am–2pm. Closed Sat/Sun. • Other branches in Kilmarnock, Stewarton and Irvine.
Brownings the Bakers, the largest bakery in the west of Scotland, is at the heart of baking in Ayrshire. Its doors opened in 1945 and today it’s still a family business with the founder’s son, John Gall, at the
CHEF’S CHOICE GARRY NOBLE ON GLENKILN SPRING LAMB
‘I’ve tasted lamb from across Scotland and I have to say that I’ve never had better than Kenny Bone’s Blackface spring lamb from Glenkiln Farm. It’s produced right here in Lamlash, where it’s also hung and then we actually butcher it ourselves on the premises. It couldn’t get any fresher and it’s great to be involved from so early on the process right through to when it hits the plate. Blackface lambs are well-known for their rich flavour and are also well-suited to life on the hills so Arran’s geography brings out the best in them as they can feed on the greenest grass high up on the hills. We have it on the menu whenever it is available: either as a confit shoulder, a rack or best end cut. The result is always a wonderful dish.’ ■ Garry Noble is head chef at the Drift Inn, Lamlash (see page 39).
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Where to Buy
helm. Brownings has eight shops across the region with a factory shop and large bakery supplying the wholesale market and hospitality industry. Along with all the traditional bakery favourites, Brownings makes the famous Kilmarnock football pie, ‘The Killie Pie’, which boasts its own Facebook page. Fenwick Fine Foods
Catrine House Coffee Shop, Ice Cream Parlour & Farm Shop Mauchline KA5 5JY
See main entry on p.40.
Corrie Mains Farm Sorn Road, Mauchline KA5 6HN 01290 550338, real-free-range-eggs.co.uk Mon–Sun 8am–8pm (honesty box).
Jim and Anne Smillie supply top quality free-range eggs to customers throughout the central belt of Scotland. Established in 1996 with 800 hens, the flock has increased to 20,000 and has been joined by ducks, geese and quails. The birds are kept in small colonies and are allowed to forage freely on the farm during daylight hours and roost at night in traditional wooden houses. Eggs are available from the farm seven days a week and at farmers’ markets in Ayrshire and Glasgow. Goose eggs are available on a seasonal basis from February to June.
Dunlop Dairy West Clerkland Farm, Stewarton KA3 5LP 01560 482494, dunlopdairy.co.uk Mon–Sun 9am–5pm.
Anne Dorward has been making her award-winning cheeses since 1989, reinvigorating a traditional 17th-century recipe for Dunlop cheese on her West Clerkland farm. Using milk from her own Ayrshire cows and a mixed herd of Sanans and Toganberg goats, Dorward produces a range of eight cheeses including the traditional Dunlop cheddar, which at the time of going to press was on the brink of securing PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status. All the cheeses are vegetarian and can be bought
in the farm shop or sampled in the rustic tearoom where a range of sandwiches and the ploughman’s lunch showcase the farm’s main product.
Fenwick Fine Foods 28 Main Road, Fenwick, Kilmarnock KA3 6AH 01560 601105, fenwickfinefoods.co.uk Tue–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat 10am–4pm; Sun 11.30am–4pm. Closed Mon.
Despite being just a few minutes from the busy M77, Fenwick Fine Foods has all the appeal expected of a welcoming village café and delicatessen. As well as the varied selection of sandwiches and soup, there are platters offering Scottish smoked salmon, house pâté, cheeses, olives and crusty bread. The deli reflects owner Graeme Colville’s support for small artisan Scottish producers. Local produce includes cheeses, eggs, honey and café manager Mrs B’s chilli jam.
Mamita’s Coffee House 37 Bank Street, K ilmarnock KA1 2ER
See main entry on p.40.
Nethergate Larder Nethergate Farm, Dunlop KA3 4BU 01560 480461 Mon–Fri 8am–3pm. Closed Sat/Sun.
On the hills above Dunlop, Thomson and Arlene McKenzie rear small herds of rare-breed pigs, lambs and cattle. Their choice of native and primitive breeds, including White Park cattle, Tamworth, Gloucester Old Spot and Saddleback pigs along with Badger Face sheep, are recognised for their hardiness and thus are particularly well suited to the Scottish climate. The McKenzies’ commitment to animal welfare at every stage and the addition of an on-site butchery ensures they provide a fully traceable farm-to-fork service to their customers.
No. 1 Avenue Larder 1 Avenue Square, Stewarton KA3 5AB 01560 486890 Mon–Sat 8am–5.30pm. Closed Sun.
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This shop has all the charm of a rustic French delicatessen, with counters dedicated to rare-breed pork, lamb and beef from the owners’ Nethergate Farm in nearby Dunlop. Alongside the top quality meats, there are steak pies, pork pies, sausages and bacon, all made with Nethergate meat by owner Arlene McKenzie to an exacting standard. Although all the meat is prepacked for sale, the owners will happily supply orders to customer requirements. There is also a selection of Scottish cheese, local eggs, honey and rapeseed oil along with a range of pottery and tableware.
Pollok Williamson Family Butchers 21 The Foregate, Kilmarnock KA1 1LU 01563 522086, pollokwilliamson.co.uk
See main entry in Around Ayr, p.33.
Varani’s Forum Café 37 High Glencairn Street, Kilmarnock KA1 4AE 01563 525982 Mon–Sun noon–9pm.
Famous for its low-fat ice-cream, Varani’s was opened in 1937 by the uncle and father of current owner, Ricardo Varani. Along with the classic vanilla ice-cream, there are another 49 flavours on sale every day. These change regularly to meet customer demand and Ricardo is always developing new concoctions to add to the range. Unusual flavours such as Bakewell tart, red cola, lemon meringue pie and Scottish macaroon sit alongside original favourites raspberry ripple, mint choc chip and strawberry.
Wm Allan & Son 1 High Street, Stewarton KA3 5BP 01560 482526, allanthebutchers.co.uk Mon/Tue 8am–5pm; Wed 8am–1pm; Thu–Sat 8am–5pm. Closed Sun.
Alasdair McFarlane is the fifth generation of his family to be in charge at this traditional and friendly family butcher which has been supplying the local area, including hotels and restaurants, since
1903. Quality Scotch beef, pork and lamb are sourced from local markets and McFarlane makes his own steak pies and sausages.
CHEF’S CHOICE KEITH BRAIDWOOD ON LOCAL LOBSTER
Woody’s Ayrshire Glen, Killoch Farm, Galston KA4 8NL 01290 553524, woodysicecream.co.uk Mon–Fri 8.30am–5pm. Closed Sat/Sun.
Killoch Farm in the heart of Ayrshire is home to Woody’s ice-cream. Jill Woodburn and her family produce more than 50 varieties of ice-cream, fresh fruity sorbets and almost fat-free frozen yoghurts. Made daily in small batches, with creamy milk from their herd of Ayrshire cows, Jill says this ensures customers get the freshest ice-cream with a handmade touch in every tub. Scottish-themed flavours include Crunchie McCallum and sticky McNab, although the range also includes traditional favourites such as rum and raisin, vanilla pod and choc mint chip. Although there’s no farm shop, customers are welcome to call at Killoch Farm to pick up a tub. Further afield in the Ayrshire area, the products are stocked in local Spar shops, Dobbies and several tearooms.
AROUND AYR Ardtaraig Fine Foods Riverslea, Annbank KA6 5HX 01292 521000, ardtaraigfinefoods.co.uk Not open to the public; online only.
Strictly an online and mail-order business these days, Ardtaraig Fine Foods – based in a crook of the River Ayr near Annbank – is a small familyowned company of 35 years’ standing specialising in creating gift packages or hampers of the finest fresh Scottish produce for shipment Europe-wide. The business sources from across the country, including Arran cheeses, Argyll venison, smoked salmon, kippers, rainbow trout and oysters.
‘We recently discovered HQ Shellfish, literally on our doorstep selling lobster caught from Ardrossan to Portencross, which is eight miles from Braidwoods. Two brothers with their dad’s boat started catching lobster in homemade creels then when one of the fishermen from that patch decided to pack it in they decided it was time to take it seriously. Now, three years on, they have 150 creels and are hoping to expand into langoustine and diving for scallops. We get them twice a week very much alive and kicking, and the boys much prefer to sell locally than export commercially. Keeping it simple we just grill them with a drizzle of Montpellier butter.’ ■ Keith Braidwood is co-owner/chef at Braidwoods, Dalry (see page 36). For more on local seafood see page 10.
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Corney & Barrow 8 Academy Street, Ayr KA7 1HT 01292 267000, corneyandbarrow.com Mon–Fri 10am–5.30pm; Sat 10am–5.30pm. Closed Sun.
J Pieroni and Sons
>ONLINE LISTINGS Extended write-ups of all venues, with individual location maps and links at each entry, can be found at thelarder.net Accessible on all devices including smartphones and tablets, thelarder.net features additional listings within Ayrshire and search functions for food and drink venues across Scotland.
London, Edinburgh, Hong Kong and, yes, Ayr. The south-west Scotland branch of this high-end international wine merchants might look like the odd one out on paper, but in fact this premises with its magnificent 250-year-old cellars – formerly Whighams of Ayr until a merger with Corney & Barrow in 1994 – is one of the longest-established wine merchants in the UK, set up in 1766 to supply the many great houses and estates in the surrounding area. Knowledgeable staff will help you negotiate a head-spinning range of clarets, burgundies and New World gems to find something suited to your taste and budget, and can also assist with bottle storage, wine tastings and event supply.
of locally reared beef, lamb and pork. Steaks, chops, mince rounds and pies are all available alongside homemade frozen meals including luxury lasagne or beef olives in onion gravy. They will deliver around the west of Scotland, or customers can pop in to the Maybole farm shop or buy from the Dalduff counter at nearby Dobbies. Catering is available.
Dobbies Farm Foodhall Old Toll, Ayr KA6 5JJ 01292 294750, dobbies.com Mon–Sun 9am–6pm.
The Farm Foodhall situated within Dobbies Garden World on the western edge of Ayr has an extensive food range including fresh vegetables, a wide delicatessen section, biscuits, jams and chutneys. Adding significantly to the local flavour, Dalduff butchers of Maybole have a concession within the site, selling their range of fresh farm meat, sausages, burgers and pies.
Costley’s Patisserie & Chocolatier
WA & E Grants
158 Main Street, Prestwick KA9 1PB 01292 473773, costleyspatisserie.com Mon–Sun 9am–9pm.
30A Main Street, Prestwick KA9 1NX 01292 476117, grantsofprestwick.co.uk Mon–Sat 9am–5pm. Closed Sun.
The Costley and Costley group includes a string of hotels, bars and restaurants around Ayrshire, as well as two patisserie-café-restaurants in Prestwick and Kirkoswald – the latter, previously called the House of Burns, reopened as Souter’s Inn in January 2014 after a major fire. Chocolates can be bought online for postal delivery; cakes, ready meals and ice-cream can be bought online and collected from either patisserie. Hand-made at Prestwick, chocolates come in crowd-pleasing flavours: sea salt caramels, coffee & Baileys truffles, passion fruit centred or hazelnut praline.
With some seven decades in the business, Grants are expert providers of fruit and vegetables to the wholesale and retail trade across Ayrshire and beyond, as well as serving customers in their Prestwick shop. They sell fruit and veg from the local area when in season with ties to many local growers, as well as stocking products and ingredients from Ayrshire and Arran’s many food producers, including oatcakes, preserves, cakes and more. Recent accolades include picking up the top national award in the fresh produce category at the Scottish Independent Retail Awards 2015.
Dalduff Farm Shop
Crosshill, Maybole KA19 7PU 01655 740271, dalduff.co.uk Mon–Fri 8.30am–4pm; Sat 8am–1pm. Closed Sun.
25 High Street, Maybole KA19 7AB 01655 883444 Mon–Fri 7am–5pm; Sat 7am–4pm. Closed Sun.
Originally a sheep farm with a handful of crops, Dalduff is best known now for its farm kitchen and shop offering a range
Jane’s Delicatessen in the heart of Maybole village stocks a variety of Scottish food including many products
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sourced locally in Ayrshire and Arran. They bake French bread and pastries every day, adding to a range of foodstuffs from around the world. They specialise in locally produced meats and cheeses, and they can create bespoke hampers for a special gift or cater for functions.
Kirkmichael Community Shop and Jock’s Café 24 Patna Road, Kirkmichael KA19 7PJ 01655 750499, kirkmichael.org.uk Mon–Fri 7.45am–5.30pm; Sat/Sun 8am–4pm.
An impressive community effort, this not-for-profit grocer, general store and café is run by Kirkmichael for Kirkmichael – or more accurately by Kirkmichael volunteers for locals and visitors to the conservation village. Locally sourced products include honey and jams, Dalduff meat, Glenlochrie free-range eggs, Barwhey’s cheese, Woody’s ice-cream and seasonal fruit, vegetables and plants from the village gardens. Bulk orders are taken for all of the above, as well as general groceries. The café runs a menu of very reasonably priced homemade cakes, light lunches and snacks, to eat in or take away, all baked on-site by café manager Isi Nimmo. It’s a wonderful find, and a helpful pit-stop to know about just off the A77.
Mancini’s of Ayr 11–15 New Road, Ayr KA8 8DA 01292 263058, mancinisicecream.co.uk Mon–Sun 10am–9.30pm.
Scots-Italian company Mancini’s has been in business for more than 100 years and four generations, trading out of the same shop at 11 New Road, Ayr, continuously since 1925. Among around 200 varieties of dairy and non-dairy ice-cream and fresh fruit sorbets, plus various Italian frozen desserts, experimental flavours can include such intriguingly named inventions as Sexy Chocolate, Blushing Bride and Toffee Rippled Earthquake Crumble. Drop in on Burns’ Night and you might even get to sample haggisflavoured ice-cream.
J Pieroni and Sons Ltd 47 Peebles Street, Ayr KA8 8DP 01292 265532, pieronis.com Tue/Wed 8am–4pm; Thu/Fri 8am– 4.30pm. Sat 8am–1pm. Closed Sun/Mon.
A double-winner at the 2015 Scottish Independent Retail Awards, Pieroni & Sons was started as a family-run fishmongers by the current owners’ grandfather in 1948. Over the years it has grown to employ around 40 people as a wholesale importer and exporter of whole or processed white fish, fresh or frozen, and shellfish. They’ve also begun smoking their own premium-grade salmon and haddock. The shop next to their processing premises in Ayr town centre offers a range of products aside from seafood, including poultry, game and a wide selection of frozen goods.
Pollok Williamson Family Butchers 23 High Street, Ayr KA7 1LU 01292 611528 Unit 4, Glaisnock Shopping Centre, Townhead Street, Cumnock KA18 1EL 01290 420391 27 Mount Oliphant Crescent, Ayr KA7 3EN 01292 611558, pollokwilliamson.co.uk All branches: Mon–Sat 7am–5pm. Closed Sun.
Operating for 38 years as a local family butcher owned by Stewart Duguid, Pollok Williamson is a well-recognised name on the Ayrshire food scene with four stores in the area. They’re famed for their pies, and particularly for their haggis – one of the best-loved to be found in Burns country, which sells around the UK and as far afield as France. They also do a significant trade online.
Renaldo’s 98 Sandgate, Ayr KA7 1BX 01292 265956, renaldos.co.uk Mon–Sat 9am–9pm; Sun 10am–9pm.
An Ayr institution based at the top of the Sandgate since the 1920s, old-school family-owned Italian ice-cream shop
> BEER AND WHISKY FESTIVALS
Ayrshire Beer Festival Hosted by Troon Concert Hall, usually in October, the CAMRAendorsed event has been in action for over 15 years, showcasing beers from across the local area and Scotland. ■ ayrshirebeerfestival. co.uk, @TroonBeerFest
Whisky an’ a’ That Festival Held in Ayr Town Hall in June, local whisky merchant Robbie’s Drams (see p.34) hosts a selection from more than 30 whisky suppliers, with opportunities to purchase rare bottlings and new releases, with talks from experts. ■ robbieswhisky merchants.com
Arran Malt & Music Festival Taking place at the Isle of Arran Distillery in June, Highlights include The White Stag dinner, folk musicians and a ceilidh on Saturday evening. There are also talks, masterclasses and a ‘survivor’s lunch’ on Sunday. ■ arranwhisky.com; arranevents.com
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Dowhill Country Fayre
Renaldo’s continues to thrive in an increasingly competitive market under the stewardship of husband-and-wife team Linda and Silvio Galli. Their traditional vanilla gelato, made with full-cream milk and no additives or preservatives, remains their flagship product. If it’s a lick of something more exotic you seek, their flavours can include red cola, bubblegum and creamy McCallum crunch.
Robbie’s Drams 3 Sandgate, Ayr KA7 1BG 01292 262135, robbieswhiskymerchants.com Mon–Sun 10am–10pm; Sun noon–10pm.
Founded in 1984 and re-launched in 2003, Robbie’s Drams is one of Ayr’s leading whisky shops. It’s an independently run family business stocking hundreds of single malts, blends, grain whiskies and bourbons from all over the world (but mostly Scotland). They do monthly special offers, collectors’ items, limitededition bottlings, closed and silent distillery bottlings, their own range of single-cask bottlings and everything in between. A good sample of Robbie’s very discerning inventory is always available to browse in their web shop. Owner Robin Russell also founded and continues to organise Ayr’s annual Whisky An’ A’ That festival.
Tarelgin Farm Foods & Smokehouse West Tarelgin Farm, Coalhall KA6 6NF 01292 590590, tarelgin.com Mon–Sat 8am–4.30pm; Sun 10am–2.30pm.
Started by two partners with 80 years of farming and butchering experience between them, Tarelgin’s shop offers an antidote to the major supermarket experience. Set in 280 acres of lush green pasture three miles west of Ochiltree, they create all their products – including sausages, black pudding, haggis and steak pies – on-site in their purpose-built premises using quality local ingredients and traditional methods. They also have a smokehouse where they smoke their
own fish, meat and vegetable products. Smokehouse and butchery taster packs are available, as well as bespoke gift hampers.
AROUND GIRVAN Dowhill Country Fayre Dowhill Farm, Turnberry, Girvan KA26 9JP 01655 331 517, dowhillfarm.co.uk Mon–Sat 9.30am–4.30pm; Sun 10am–4.30pm.
Located just off the A77 on the southbound approach to Girvan, Dowhill Country Fayre shop offers a wealth of locally sourced supplies. As well as an array of chutneys, crackers and Ayrshiremade chocolates, this smartly presented venue also sells homemade frozen ready meals including lentil soup, chilli and lamb casserole. The chilled section is well stocked with fresh local meats, pies, terrines and cheeses while the fresh vegetables, grown onsite, look hearty and wholesome. See entry in the Where to Eat section, p.43.
AD Rattray Whisky Experience and Whisky Shop 32 Main Road, Kirkoswald KA19 8HY 01655 760308, adrattray.com Apr–Sep: Mon–Sat 10am–6pm; Sun noon–5pm.
Located in the quiet village of Kirkoswald, the distinctive smell of whisky is apparent throughout the venue. With a working sample room and private collection on display, there is plenty to learn and for those intent on starting their own collection, there is an impressive selection of distillery branded and specialist malts to buy, including limited-edition casks to bottle on site. Whisky tastings are available from £20 per person, with staff on hand to offer expert advice.
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WHERE TO EAT Listings of Ayrshire’s best options for eating out, including daytime cafés, takeaways, casual bistros and formal restaurants. Entries are grouped into six geographical areas based around the main towns running approximately north to south in Ayrshire. Within each area entries are sorted alphabetically.
AROUND LARGS The Bean and Leaf 6 The Promenade, Largs KA30 8BG 01475 670066, thebeanandleaf.co.uk Mon–Sun 9am–4.30pm.
A modern, family-run café and restaurant in the centre of Largs, the emphasis here is on all-ages friendliness in an informal, homely atmosphere. Cooked breakfasts until noon are followed by lunches and light bites. Their local sourcing includes the west coast and Ayrshire gammon served with caramelised pineapple or a fried egg, as well as fish straight off the boat in Largs.
The Bosun’s Table Largs Yacht Haven, Irvine Road, Largs KA30 8EZ 01475 689198, bosunstable-largs.co.uk Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat/Sun 8am–5pm.
This informal café serves breakfasts, lunch (burgers, baked potatoes, gammon steaks and locally landed haddock are favourites) and milkshakes and ice-creams for the sweet-toothed and the younger shipmate. On Friday and Saturday evenings during the summer the service becomes more bistro-style, making a feature of local seafood and steaks, while the deli sells meats, cheeses and regular provisions through the week.
The Catch at Fins Restaurant Fencebay Fisheries, Fencefoot Farm, Fairlie KA29 0EG 01475 568918, fencebay.co.uk Thu–Sat noon–3pm, 6-9pm; Sun noon–3pm.
Fencebay Fisheries is a food chain in its own right. There is a farm shop selling a range of foods produced by local Ayrshire farmers, fishermen and country folk. Their smokehouse produces a number of smoked goods, utilising the local waters for their harvest of fish and seafood. At their restaurant, The Catch at Fins, head chef Gary Brown serves up highlights from the waters including hot and cold seafood platters, fishcakes, classic fish and chips and oysters. Prices are reasonable given the quality and freshness of the seafood, demonstrating that the minimal journey from sea to service is a pay-off for diners.
Nardini’s The Esplanade Café, 2 Greenock Road, Largs KA30 8NF 01475 689300, nardinis.co.uk Restaurant: Mon–Thu noon–9.30pm; Fri/Sat noon–9.45pm; Sun 12.30– 9.30pm. Café: Mon–Sun 9am–9pm.
Established in 1935 and refurbished in 2008 to make the most of its impressive Art Deco design, Nardini’s ice-cream parlour and café/restaurant is one of Ayrshire’s most iconic diners. Set on the waterfront in the heart of Largs, the main selling point is probably still director David Equi’s 32-flavour ice-cream menu, although pastry chef Mario Risi’s homebaked Italian cakes and the in-house branch of the connected Tony Macaroni Italian restaurant chain run it close. There’s a good-value fish tea and some inventive ice-cream sundaes, while a live band plays every Friday night.
Scotts Bar & Restaurant Largs Yacht Haven, Irvine Road, Largs KA30 8EZ 01475 686684, scotts-largs.co.uk Sun–Thu 9am–9pm, Fri/Sat 9am–10pm.
Located right on the marina, the building is fresh and modern, with a heated outdoor terrace which is designed for all-year dining. The menu is a versatile selection of old favourites and more diverse dishes. Steaks, sharing plates of fish, meat, tapas and some plancha-grilled seabass, salmon or prawns are features.
CHEF’S CHOICE TYRON ELLUL ON CREEL FISHING IN SOUTHWEST SCOTLAND
‘In the early days of spring the waters round our local shores start to get busy with small fishing boats heading out to drop their creels, mainly for lobsters and crabs. Creel fishing, also known as potting, is a “static” form of fishing, meaning that the pots are dropped from the boat to the sea bed and they stay there until collected by the fisherman. It’s a very sustainable way of fishing. The creel fishing season goes on until late autumn or early winter, depending on the weather. Warmer conditions over the summer make it easier for fishermen, not only because of more favourable weather conditions for going out to sea, but also because lobsters and crabs move closer to the shores to warmer waters to spawn their eggs.’ ■ Tyron Ellul is head chef at Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae (see page 44).
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The Orangery at Seamill Hydro Ardrossan Road, Seamill, West Kilbride KA23 9ND 01294 822217, orangery-ayrshire.co.uk Mon–Sun 9.30am–10pm.
Scotts Bar & Restaurant
The Orangery is a well-regarded finedining restaurant which makes a feature of its al fresco terrace overlooking the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. Pasta and pizzas are regulars at lunch, while moules frites and roasted sea bream appear alongside steaks and a duo of confit and roasted duck breast at dinner.
The Waterside Ardrossan Road, Seamill, West Kilbride KA23 9NG 01294 824414, watersideayrshire.com Mon–Sun 9am–10pm.
The Waterside is a smart coastal restaurant with fabulous views out across to Arran. The décor is New England inspired, which follows through into a menu of seafood featuring the likes of chowder, fish pie and herb-crusted scallops. Care has been taken to list local suppliers on the menu. A 2014 addition is Si! Shack, which offers fish and chips, grilled lobster and tempura-battered scallops to take away.
>ONLINE LISTINGS Extended write-ups of all venues, with individual location maps and links at each entry, can be found at thelarder.net Accessible on all devices including smartphones and tablets, thelarder.net features additional listings within Ayrshire and search functions for food and drink venues across Scotland.
AROUND IRVINE The Blair Tavern Lochlibo Road, Auchentiber, Kilwinning KA13 7RR 01294 850237, theblair.co.uk Mon-Sat noon-9pm; Sun noon-8pm.
The classy dining room at this traditional roadside inn blends contemporary styling with log beams and roaring fires. The menu continues this playful theme where black pudding, bacon and a tattie scone is described as a salad. Warming country staples such as lamb’s liver or sausage and ale pie compete with steaks and pork chops. In addition to a good vegetarian choice, they also offer a separate glutenfree menu.
Braidwoods Drumastle Mill Cottage, Saltcoats Road, by Dalry KA24 4LN 01294 833544, braidwoods.co.uk Tue 7–9pm; Wed–Sat noon–1.45pm, 7–9pm; Sun noon–1.45pm. Closed Mon. [May–Sept: closed Sun].
Down a quiet farm track you will find a 220-year-old converted cottage where Keith and Nicola Braidwood have quietly been overachieving for the past 20 years. Being awarded a Michelin star is impressive enough but to keep it for over a decade is down to their hard work, dedication and culinary skill. A melt-in-the-mouth timbale of Arbroath smokies contrasts with horseradish glazed leeks, while quail, cooked rose pink, comes with aromatic confit legs and a rich creamy square of potatoes dauphinois. Caramelised rice pudding on shocking pink champagne-poached rhubarb makes for a pleasing end to a rather special meal. Also see Chef’s Choice, page 31.
Enzo’s Fish & Chips 72 Ayr Road, Irvine KA12 8DL 01294 277333, enzosfishandchips.co.uk Mon–Thu & Sat/Sun 3–10pm; Fri noon–10pm.
Owned by Marco Edge and named after his son, Enzo’s is a high-flying fish and chip shop which has garnered a lot of local praise since opening in 2012. Its flashy frontage and uniformed staff combined with a passion for sustainable fishing gives it the march on local rivals. Indeed, recently they were placed in the dizzying heights of the top five in the National Fish and Chip awards.
Highgrove House Hotel Old Loans Road, Troon KA10 7HL 01292 312511, highgrovehouse.co.uk Mon–Sat noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9pm; Sun noon–9pm.
Looking down from a hilltop behind Troon, Highgrove House Hotel rightly boasts that its terrace has one of the best views in Ayrshire, a panorama that takes in the entire coastline and the Isle of Arran. The menu has many old-school standards, like platters of melon and
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chicken liver parfait. To pep things up are chilli-spiced bang bang prawns and scallops with barbecue pulled pork.
The Kandy Bar 2 Hamilton Street, Saltcoats KA21 5DS
For main entry see p.27.
Lochgreen House Hotel Monktonhill Road, Southwood, Troon KA10 7EN 01292 313343, lochgreenhouse.com
The award-winning dining options at Lochgreen House consist of the finedining Tapestry restaurant and the more casual Brodick restaurant. The Frenchinfluenced fine dining menus incorporate some of Scotland’s best produce, such as west-coast lobster, Orkney scallops, Ayrshire beef and Highland venison, in dishes created with skill and flair.
MacCallum’s of Troon Harbourside, Troon KA10 6DH 01292 319339 Tue–Sat noon–2.30pm, 6.30–9.30pm. Sun noon–2.30pm. Closed Mon.
Sited in an old pumping station, this harbourside seafood restaurant is run by fishmongers, with a much-loved fish and chip shop (the Wee Hurrie) next door. Expect an array of fruits of the sea, unloaded straight from a boat on the establishment’s doorstep, and not too much fussing at all.
Piersland House Hotel Craigend Road, Troon KA10 6HD 01292 314747, piersland.co.uk Walker Bar: Mon–Fri noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9pm; Sat noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9.30pm; Sun noon–2.30pm, 5–9pm. Red Bowl Restaurant: Fri/Sat noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9pm; Sun noon–9pm.
This long established four-star country house hotel in Troon has a number of dining options. The Walker Bar hits the traditional homely notes with wellappointed furniture and dark wood panelling, while the Red Bowl restaurant has more of a fine-dining atmosphere. The large menu covers fajitas, pasta, burgers and steaks from Aberdeenshire-based Donald Russell.
Scotts Bar & Restaurant Troon Yacht Haven, Troon KA10 6DJ 01292 315 315, scotts-troon.co.uk Mon–Thu & Sun 8.30am–10pm; Fri/Sat 8.30am–11pm.
Scotts must have the best view in town, located on the first floor above the harbourmaster’s office. The covered terrace, flooded with light, overlooks the boats while the bar area and restaurant provide a warmer, more grown-up space. The flexible menu offers classic bistro dishes with occasional Thai, Mexican and Cajun influences. Lobster gratin, seabass with sauce vierge or a chateaubriand for two make for a more substantial supper.
Old Loans Inn 31-33 Main Street, Troon KA10 7EX 01294 204040, oldloansinn.co.uk Mon–Sun 7am–10pm.
Once a traditional 18th-century coaching inn, the Old Loans has been completely transformed by Ayrshire chain Simpsinns into a modern boutique hotel with character and a contemporary edge. The well-regarded restaurant makes a feature of local sourcing. Look out for the iconic pairing of Stornoway black pudding with Ayrshire bacon, an interesting gateau of Ayrshire haggis with neeps and tatties, the Cairnhill Farm pork and leek sausages with mash, and a beef and Arran ale pie.
The Ship Inn / The Wee Catch 120-122 Harbour Street, Irvine KA12 8PZ 01294 279 722, theshipinnirvine.co.uk Mon–Thu noon–9pm; Fri noon– 9.30pm; Sat noon–10pm; Sun 11am– 9pm. (Wee Catch Fri–Sun noon–6pm).
Irvine’s harbourside inn was built in 1567 and licensed in 1754, making it the oldest pub in Irvine. Inside it has the appealing feel of a hideaway snug thanks to woodlined booths and all manner of nooks and crannies. The menu changes with the seasons but you could expect to see pub favourites of lamb shanks, casseroles and pies. From March to August, Friday to
CHEF’S CHOICE MARK DAVIDSON ON NETHERGATE LARDER
‘Ayrshire is famous for the quality of the bacon and pork that it produces and in our opinion nobody does this better than Nethergate Larder. They breed and rear free-range Tamworth pigs on their farm just outside Dunlop where all the animals are free to roam and live in their natural family groups. The Tamworth is a rare, traditional breed that is slow to rear and this helps give it an amazing flavour. They also do all of their own butchery onsite which gives them total control of the product at all stages and means they can tailor what they provide to meet your business’s needs. We’ve used Nethergate Larder from day one as we genuinely believe that you will not find better pork in Scotland.’ ■ Mark Davidson is owner of Aye Love Real Food and maker of handmade Scotch eggs, ayeloverealfood.co.uk
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Sunday upstairs becomes The Wee Catch, a pop-up fish and chip shop serving beerbattered haddock.
Si! Café Bar Restaurant Kilwinning Road, Irvine KA12 8RU 01294 204040, si-restaurant.co.uk Sun–Thu 9am–11pm; Fri 9am–midnight; Sat 9am-1am. The Drift Inn
A stand-alone building brightly lit from the outside makes this an easy find in Irvine. The downstairs bar is eclectically decorated with colourful paintings and patterned tiles, while upstairs opens out to a large outdoor terrace with views across to Arran. The all-day menu proudly boasts a long list of local suppliers. The 12-hour Rioja-braised feather blade of beef sits alongside free-formed pizzas.
Two Fat Ladies at the Marine Hotel 8 Crosbie Road, Troon KA10 6HE 01292 676220, twofatladiesrestaurant.com/marine Mon–Fri noon–3pm, 5.30–10pm; Sat 12.30–3pm, 5.30–10pm; Sun 12.30–9pm.
ISLE OF ARRAN Arran Distillery Lochranza, Isle of Arran KA27 8HJ 01770 830264, arranwhisky.com Mid Mar–Oct: Mon–Sat 10am–6pm; Sun 11am–6pm.
The light and airy Casks café/bar offers somewhere comfortable to relax after the excellent distillery tour or a hike along the scenic coast. Skylights display a 180-degree swoop of the ever-changing Arran sky, the perfect backdrop for toasted sandwiches, soup or ‘Distillers Platter’ – a selection of smoked salmon, ham and cheese with oatcakes, all locally produced.
Auchrannie Resort Auchrannie Road, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8BZ 01770 302234, auchrannie.co.uk Mon–Sun 7.30am–9.30pm.
Zest Restaurant at The Gailes
The extensive Auchrannie resort has three distinct restaurants. The Cruize Bar Brasserie, housed in the spa resort, is a family-friendly haven with an extensive menu ranging from steaks to salads, pizza and pastas. At the House Hotel, the focus of eighteen69 Scottish Tapas is on sharing small plates of food from a menu featuring a contemporary spin on local produce and recipes. The ambiance in Brambles Seafood & Grill restaurant, particularly at night, is a balance of low-lit urban sophistication and relaxed, fireside comfiness. The surf ’n’ turf menu features plenty of Scottish – and Arran – produce including fish, and burgers and steaks from the grill.
Marine Drive, Irvine KA11 5AE 01294 204040, gaileshotel.com Mon–Sun 7am–10pm.
Café Thyme & The Old Byre Showroom
This popular restaurant group is well established in Glasgow, and has now travelled ‘doon the water’, settling in at the grand Marine Hotel in Troon. Impeccable sourcing and attention to detail is evident in a tempting menu of ultra-fresh ingredients delivered with fine-dining flourishes. And of course there are views of the famous golf links and all-important west-coast waters.
Decorated in contemporary style with walnut wood finishes and with its own outdoor terrace, Gailes offers an extensive menu. Panini, sandwiches and baked potatoes are served throughout the day. The main menu fuses the anticipated steaks, chicken, pasta and curry dishes with the more distinctive such as a salmon saltimbocca of fish wrapped in Parma ham and sage leaves.
Auchencar, Machrie, Isle of Arran KA27 8EB 01770 840608, oldbyre.co.uk Mon–Thu & Sun 10am–5pm; Fri/Sat 10am–10pm.
Café Thyme sits in an idyllic spot overlooking rolling fields and sea. The menu is inspired by owner Hamza Gunaydi’s Turkish heritage, with stone-baked ‘pides’, boat-shaped pizzas,
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filled with tuna and anchovies, olives, spinach and spring onion, lots of thyme and mozzarella and even haggis – it’s a genuine fusion of cuisines. There are also lamb options, using the very lamb raised in the fields around the farmhouse, and the salads are homegrown.
Coast Shore Road, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran KA27 8PR 01770 700308, coastarran.co.uk Mon, Thu & Sun 10am–4pm; Fri/Sat 10am–4pm, 6–11pm. Closed Tue/Wed.
Located in the charming village of Whiting Bay, eight miles south of Brodick, Coast serves up simple, good quality, home-cooked food in comfortable and relaxing surroundings, with the added bonus of spectacular views of the Firth of Clyde and the Ayrshire coastline. Expect steak, burgers and fish and chips, and there’s also a good sprinkling of Scottish favourites such as haggis and salmon.
Creelers Home Farm, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8DD 01770 302810, creelers.co.uk Mon–Sat 9am–5pm. Closed Sun.
Founded and run by Tim and Fran James, the Creelers business for many years consisted of a smokehouse and two restaurants, one on Arran and a popular outlet in Edinburgh city centre. The latter restaurant closed its doors in 2012. The Arran restaurant and smokehouse continue to trade very much as normal during the season, selling smoked Loch Duart salmon, kippers and smoked meats from the shop, online, and at Edinburgh farmers’ market and to retail customers. The relocation of the smokehouse to their original roots at Skipness on Kintyre, next to Skipness Castle, is ongoing. Formerly a trawler-man, Tim James still creels for much of the shellfish, as well as catching wild salmon and trout.
The Drift Inn Lamlash, Isle of Arran KA27 8JN 01770 600608, driftinnarran.com Mon–Sun noon–9pm.
With a stunning view of the Holy Isle, warm fires in winter and barbecues in summer, this relaxed village pub offers a generous selection of craft beers, plus an impressive 55 gins, 60 malts, and over 40 wines. The same passion and commitment shines through in the food, with local sourcing of top-quality ingredients to the fore. Think baked Arran brie, langoustines roasted in garlic butter, the ‘lamb cut of the day’ butchered in-house, and fish pie infused with saffron. There’s space for the kids to run about in the beer garden or for parents to enjoy a cool drink in the sun. See also Chef’s Choice, page 29.
Glenisle Hotel Lamlash, Isle Of Arran KA27 8LY 01770 600559, glenislehotel.com Mon–Sun noon–8.30pm.
Located on the main road that runs through Lamlash, this hotel restaurant is tastefully decorated with a menu that meets the needs of guests who might have been travelling all day – sandwiches, salads and light bites are available until close. Heartier dishes include pan-seared scallops with cauliflower purée, and fresh salmon layered with prawns. After dinner you can retire to the lounge to finish your bottle of wine in front of the open fire.
The Lagg Hotel Lagg, Kilmory, Isle of Arran KA27 8PQ 01770 870255, lagghotel.com Mon–Sun noon–9.30pm.
Situated on the southern tip of Arran, the Lagg Hotel sits in a picturesque location within its own tranquil grounds. Covering lunch through to dinner, options range from light lunches such as quiche, salads and sandwiches to more sophisticated dishes in the evening. Much is made from the rich waters all around, including scallops, seafood risotto, homemade crab cakes and fish and chips. From the land comes the likes of venison casserole, slow-roast pork belly and sirloin steak.
CHEF’S CHOICE JACQUES TROQUET ON SCOTTISH LOBSTER
‘Seasonality is key to my cooking at Jacques’ Table and that presents its own challenges as our menus change twice a month. Good local suppliers are a must to ensure we serve the best food to our customers. Seafood is a favourite of mine and regularly features on our menu. Being surrounded by a beautiful coastline means we have a bountiful supply of top quality seafood. I particularly like cooking with shellfish; and the local lobsters and brown crabs I can source from Ardrossan fisherman Tom Bryson are special. The taste and quality is outstanding and having a good relationship with Tom means I’m buying the best available, straight from the sea. It’s a great gift to have such quality on our doorstep.’ ■ Jacques Troquet is head chef at Jacques’ Table, Sinclairston (see page 42).
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Where to Eat
The Old Pier Tearoom Shore Road, Lamlash, Isle of Arran KA27 8JN 01770 600249, fb.com/TheOldPierTearoom Mon–Sun 10am–3.30pm.
The Sorn Inn
This busy tearoom at the end of a pier is a good stop-off point for cakes and bakes, as well as favourites like homemade sausage rolls, macaroni cheese and eggs and chips. The owner aims to have three gluten-free cakes on offer at any one time, such as a pretty Tunisian almond and polenta cake scattered with rose petals and cardamom pods. Lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge sit alongside scones, tray bakes and, in summer, Arran ice-cream.
The Wineport Bar, Bistro & Café Cladach, Brodick, Isle of Arran KA27 8DE 01770 302101, wineport.co.uk Mon–Sun noon–7pm.
Within walking distance of Brodick, the Wineport sits at the base of the walking path up Arran’s highest mountain, Goat Fell, and is popular with walkers as a result. Dine al fresco in the large patio and garden area, or in the simple, open-plan restaurant and bar. Child and dog friendly, they offer light snacks and traditional meals (a burger made with Arran beef and chutney, crab sandwich, fish and chips, hand-made pizza) alongside a range of Arran beers from the brewery next door and big portions of good home baking.
AROUND KILMARNOCK Catrine House Coffee Shop & Ice Cream Parlour Mauchline KA5 5JY 01290 552093, ayrshireicecream.co.uk Mon–Sun 10am–5pm.
Set on the popular River Ayr walk, the tranquil setting makes this an ideal place to stop for a coffee and homemade cake, a spot of lunch, or an ice-cream. There’s an outdoor play area for kids, and indoors there’s plenty of space and some comfy
couches to relax. The farm shop is stocked with local produce and soups and meals prepared on the premises.
The Cochrane Inn 45 Main Road, Gatehead KA2 0AP 01563 570122, cochraneinn.com Mon–Fri 10am–2.30pm, 5–9.30pm; Sat 10am–9.30pm; Sun noon–9.30pm.
The Cochrane Inn serves informal pubstyle food with a modern twist. A set-price express menu offers two or three courses and is available throughout the day. Separate lunch and dinner menus offer an extensive range of dishes with lighter bites including soup of the day, salads and sandwiches.
Dunlop Dairy Tearoom West Clerkland Farm, Stewarton KA3 5LP
For main entry see p.30.
Fenwick Fine Foods 28 Main Road, Fenwick, Kilmarnock KA3 6AH
For main entry see p.30.
The Longhouse 130 Titchfield Street, Kilmarnock KA1 1PH 01563 535130, longhouse-kilmarnock.co.uk Mon–Sun 10am–10pm.
Open all day, this local favourite offers inspired and formal dining with several different menus to chose from. Breakfast moves into a varied lunch offer including a nod to some Scottish-inspired dishes such as Cullen Skink, Shetland mussels, and smoked haddock and king prawn gratin with a Barwheys cheese crumb. A similar dinner menu offers a selection of themed sharing plates, steaks, seafood and pies.
Mamita’s Coffee House 37 Bank Street, Kilmarnock KA1 2ER 01563 573063 Mon–Sat 8am–5pm. Closed Sun.
This is a popular spot for a light lunch or coffee and cake. Owner Jane Trotter has been running the café since 2008 and offers fresh food all made daily on the premises,
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from soup, sandwiches, panini and toasties to hot savouries including Jane’s secretrecipe sausage rolls.
The Park Hotel/Blues Bistro Rugby Park, Kilmarnock KA1 1UR 01563 545999, theparkhotelayrshire.co.uk Mon–Fri noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9.30pm; Sat noon–2.30pm, 6–9.30pm; Sun 1–9pm.
Located in the shadow of Rugby Park football stadium, there’s an obvious blue-hued theme to this eating spot – from the name through to the seat coverings. With light wood tables and picture windows, it’s a contemporary, upbeat space that’s reflected in a menu well populated with snacks, easy bites including pizza/pasta and main dishes including Ayrshire lamb in a rogan josh and Lanarkshire steaks. Blues is located within the Park Hotel, a smart, modern affair with 50 and conference facilities.
The Sorn Inn 35 Main Street, Sorn KA5 6HU 01290 551305, sorninn.com Tue–Fri noon–2.30pm; 6–9pm; Sat noon–9.30pm; Sun 12.30–7.30pm. Closed Mon.
Chef and owner Craig Grant places a firm emphasis on local and Scottish produce used according to seasonal availability. There’s a range of popular classics such as beef ribs, pork belly and chump of lamb, cooked and presented in a contemporary style. The chargrill menu offers a range of steaks and gourmet burgers with an appealing selection of sides. Food is served either in the relaxed and welcoming dining room or in the adjacent Chop House.
outdoor seating area. The food is all freshly made and offers good choice, from soup of the day to warm specials such as gnocchi with cheese sauce, sandwiches on artisan bread, salads, sharing platters and cakes.
The Balgarth Pines 8 Dunure Road, Doonfoot, Ayr KA7 4HR 01292 442441, balgarthpines.co.uk Mon–Sun 9am–9.30pm.
Situated in the leafy south-west Ayr suburb of Doonfoot, this contemporary bar-restaurant serves food from breakfast through to dinner, drawing as much produce as possible from the Ayrshire area. The dinner menu mixes Scottish, American, Mexican and steakhouse fare while in the Blaw Wearie Bar – so named after the 3rd hole at Turnberry Golf Course – they pour craft beers, cocktails, wines and whiskies.
Brig o’ Doon House Hotel High Maybole Road, Alloway KA7 4PQ 01292 442466, brigodoonhouse.com Mon–Sun 9am–9pm
You don’t get much deeper in the heart of Burns country than the historic Brig o’ Doon in Alloway village – setting of the climax to ‘Tam o’ Shanter’. Overlooking gardens that roll down to the River Doon and the iconic bridge itself, this hotel makes the best of its prime location, right down to the clever gimmick of an all-yearround Burns Supper menu.
Costley’s Patisserie & Chocolatier 158 Main Street, Prestwick KA9 1PB
For main entry see p.32.
AROUND AYR The Artisan Lounge 13 Old Bridge Street, Ayr KA7 1QA 01292 288699 Mon–Tue 9am–6pm; Wed–Sat 9am– 9pm. Closed Sun.
Ayr’s first vegetarian café-bistro opened in the autumn of 2014. They’ve nabbed a nice location, with views across the River Ayr from window benches and a small covered
54 Glaisnock Street, Cumnock KA18 1BY 01290 429230, dumfriesarms.co.uk Mon–Sun noon–8.30pm.
Confusingly to non-Ayrshire folk, the Dumfries Arms Hotel is situated nowhere near Dumfries, but an hour north in the Ayrshire village of Cumnock. Serving fresh, local produce with very reasonable lunch and dinner deals, a sample dinner menu will start with chicken liver and The Ayrshire Larder 41
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Trump Turnberry Hotel (page 44)
Ayrshire ham hock pâté, with braised blade of beef or 12-hour roast ham as a main, while more exotic palates may prefer a chicken fajita or lamb jalfrezi.
a relaxed and sociable affair. See Chef’s Choice, page 39.
Ellisland House Hotel
2b Montgomery Street, Tarbolton KA5 5PR 01292 541909, blackbulltarbolton.com Mon–Sun noon–9pm.
19 Racecourse Road, Ayr KA7 2TD 01292 260111, ellislandhouse.com Mon–Fri noon–2.30pm, 5.30-9pm; Sat/ Sun noon–9pm.
Kail-Yard Restaurant / The Black Bull
Inhabiting a stately early 20th-century pile with extensive grounds in central Ayr not far from the seafront, this is a popular base for tourists exploring Burns country. With wood-panelled walls and lots of natural light from the cupola, the lounge and restaurant offer morning coffee with cakes and scones through to lunches and dinners. The Ellisland also lays on a carvery seven days, full of freshly cooked roasts with market vegetables.
The Kail-Yard is a modern extension of the Black Bull pub, bringing a carefully considered fine-dining experience to an area of the Ayrshire countryside undernourished for quality restaurants. It’s done in a way that’s welcoming to diners of most dispositions and budgets. Standouts from the starters include a crispy deep-fried goat’s cheese and fig spring roll pastry, while generous mains could include a roast breast of Gressingham duck.
The Kirkmichael Arms
11/15 New Road, Ayr KA8 8DA 01292 263058, filipposbistro.co.uk Mon–Wed 10am–9.30pm; Thu–Sun 10am–10pm.
3-5 Straiton Road, Kirkmichael KA19 7PH 01655 750200, kirkmichaelarms.co.uk Mon–Sun noon–8.45pm.
Named after the current head of the Mancini ice-cream empire, Filippo’s serves up the twin staples of pizza and pasta done with colour, imagination and flair. There’s the essential Scots-Italian haddock and chips, and other seaside favourites like scampi. If you’re having dessert – and you’d be a fool not to – there are countless varieties of ice-cream.
The Kirkmichael Arms opened as a family-run venture in 2012. The kitchen offers a selection of hearty classics, like chicken liver parfait with seasonal chutney, steak and sausage pie or braised shoulder of lamb with cauliflower purée. Real ale drinkers will be pleased to note that the bar has two ale taps. One of these serves a resident ale from the local Ayr Brewing Company.
Jacques’ Table 3 St Clare’s Court, Sinclairston, Cumnock KA18 2SA 07850 368985, jacquestable.co.uk Friday dinner from 7pm; Sunday lunch from 1.30pm.
Ayrshire’s only hidden restaurant is run by classically trained chef Jacques Troquet and his partner. Offering diners a unique fine-dining experience at their Sinclairston home, they provide high-end French-style cooking on Fridays, twice monthly and on Sundays throughout the year. Diners can expect generous portions and top-class seasonal food. Whether dining with a group or as a couple, expect dinner to be
Kirkmichael Community Shop and Jock’s Café 24 Patna Road, Kirkmichael KA19 7PJ
For main entry see p.33.
The Meridian 2 Killoch Place, Ayr KA7 2EA 01292 287032, meridianayr.co.uk Mon–Sun 8am–midnight.
Stocking a decent, trans-world selection of beer, including some Scottish brews like WEST Hefeweizen and St Mungo’s. Unless naturalised staples like pizza and pasta still count as world cuisine, the
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food is a little less global – mainly old British classics like pies, burgers and fish and chips, with the a small tapas selection.
Renaldo’s 98 Sandgate, Ayr KA7 1BX
For main entry see p.33.
CHEF’S CHOICE ANDY BEATTIE ON BARWHEYS CHEDDAR
Su Casa The Minishant Inn Main Road, Minishant, Maybole KA19 8EU 01292 442483, theminishant.co.uk Mon–Sat noon–10pm, Sun 12.30–10pm.
This small family-run bar-restaurant is sited in a converted house on the main road. The interior was renovated in 2012 with bright, open booth seats. There’s also a fire, adding a sense of snug intimacy to this most homely of venues. Serving lunches and dinners, the menu offers an extensive range of traditional and modern pub dishes.
No.22 Bar & Grill 22 Beresford Terrace, Ayr KA7 2EG 01292 280820, 22ayr.com Mon–Sun 9am–9.30pm.
Until recently the Beresford Wine Bar & Art Gallery, No. 22 is a display of Ayr’s efforts to prove itself as cosmopolitan a place for cocktails and contemporary dining as any other town in Scotland large or small. Adopting a classical look – all Roman numerals and black facade – there’s a broad sweep to the menu from from breakfast through to grand grills and seafood platters.
4 Lorne Arcade, Ayr KA7 1QL 01292 618657 Mon–Sun 11am–4pm.
Hidden away off the town’s main drag in the Lorne Arcade, this tiny space for just over a dozen people is decorated with vinyl records and artworks by local artists. Every cup of their in-house Roundsquare coffee is ground to order from beans bought from only a handful of discerningly selected Direct Trade farms. Food is limited to mainly just fresh soup and locally baked cakes and sweets.
Treehouse Bar, Grill & Terrace 67-69 Sandgate, Ayr KA7 1BZ 01292 288500, treehouseayr.co.uk Mon–Sun 9am–10pm.
Occupying a prime spot at the corner of Sandgate and Boswell Park, it also benefits from an outdoor terrace in the warmer months. The menu offers seafood, chicken and lamb cooked on a plancha flat grill with chimichuri sauce, on-trend brioche bun burgers with slaw and fries, and classic fish and chips. At night the Treehouse is a popular drinking spot for cocktails and draught beers.
Parkstone Hotel / Restaurant 33
Cosses Country House
Central Esplanade, Prestwick KA9 1QN 01292 477286, parkstonehotel.co.uk Mon–Sun noon–2pm, 5–9pm.
Ballantrae, Nr Girvan KA26 0LR 01465 831363, cossescountryhouse.com Times by agreement with guests.
Situated on the Ayr waterfront, Restaurant 33 boasts sea views along with food made from locally sourced produce, cooked to order. The food shows ambition and makes use of Scottish fish in particular. There are bar snacks and a simple daytime menu, while the evening à la carte includes panfried sea bream with Thai green curry cream and fillet of sea bass on a warm shrimp salad.
At this member of Wolsey Lodges, guests eat together at one table in the home of hosts Susan and Robin Crothwaite. The house is set within 12 acres of woodland and garden, which provides the kitchen with seasonal fruit and vegetables. Dinner, prepared after consultation with guests, may consist of fish from the fishing village of Ballantrae or lamb from the neighbouring farm.
‘It’s fantastic being able to use what’s available right here on my doorstep. Meat, game, fish, shellfish, cheese, vegetables and of course the famous Ayrshire tattie are all favourites and I can source within a short distance. For me, there’s one product that stands out from all the others: Barwheys Cheddar. It’s made by local cheesemaker Tricia Bey using unpasteurised milk from her own herd of Ayrshire cows and I like that it’s a really adaptable cheese. The sharp fruit flavour makes it ideal for swapping out for parmesan or gruyère and it’s a cheeseboard favourite too.’ ■ Andy Beattie is head chef at Cook School Scotland, Kilmarnock, cookschool.org; barwheysdairy.co.uk. See p.6 for more on Ayrshire’s dairy produce, and p.46 for Ayrshire Food Fayre.
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Dowhill Country Fayre Dowhill Farm, Turnberry, Girvan KA26 9JP 01655 331517, dowhillfarm.co.uk Mon–Sat 9.30am–4.30pm; Sun 10am–4.30pm.
On the southbound approach to Girvan, Dowhill’s shop offers a wealth of locally sourced supplies. The adjoining restaurant is reminiscent of a welcoming farmhouse kitchen, with views overlooking the courtyard and sea beyond. Hot meals include the house favourites – creamy macaroni cheese and flavoursome steak pie, as well as freshly prepared sandwiches and soup.
Glenapp Castle Ballantrae KA26 0NZ 01465 831212, glenappcastle.com Mon–Sun 7.45–10.45am, 12.30–2pm, 3–5pm, 7–9.30pm.
Set in a majestic location, with sweeping drive and acres of beautiful gardens – which supply the castle kitchen with fresh herbs and vegetables – the impressive venue and lavish menu make for a high-end dining experience. Afternoon tea is served in the elegant drawing room, and a set lunch and six-course dinner continue the luxury theme, with choices including west coast fish and game from neighbouring estates. See also Chef’s Choice, page 35.
Graziano’s Harbour Café 37 Knockushan Street, Girvan KA26 9AG 01465 714472 Café: Mon–Sun 11.30am–7.30pm. Chip Shop: Mon–Sun 11.30am–8.30pm.
The harbourside location makes Graziano’s the archetypal chip shop experience. Beloved by locals and tourists, weekend queues are testament to the quality of the food, sourced from local suppliers in Ayr. The selection of deep-fried delights includes the speciality blaggis – which brings together haggis and black pudding in one battered parcel.
Malin Court Hotel / Cotters Restaurant Maidens, Turnberry KA26 9PB
01655 331457, malincourt.co.uk Mon–Sat 10am–9pm; Sun 10am–8pm.
Overlooking the Firth of Clyde and the peaks of Arran, this is a dining option with an exceptional view. With crisp table linen and attentive staff, the restaurant is formal yet welcoming. Dinner centres on traditional Scottish dishes, including chicken stuffed with haggis, and poached salmon with lemon and dill sauce.
Souter’s Inn 47 Main Road, Kirkoswald KA19 8HY 01655 760653, soutersinn.com Mon–Sun 9am–9pm.
With thick stone walls and a roaring fire, this cosy eatery offers a snug dining experience that Tam O’Shanter and his droothy neighbour Johnnie – the restaurant’s namesake – would have relished. The food covers classics such as slow-cooked lamb stew to Asian-inspired dishes such as spiced beef.
Trump Turnberry Hotel (1906 Restaurant) Turnberry Resort, Turnberry KA26 9LT 01655 331000, turnberryresort.co.uk Mon–Sun 7–9.30pm.
With panoramic views of the firth of Clyde and Ailsa Craig, the 1906 restaurant within Trump Turnberry hotel offers luxurious destination dining. Based on Escoffier principles, the restaurant offers high-end cooking using locally sourced ingredients. Artichoke risotto is comfortingly rich, while loin of red deer is perfectly tender, with nutty flavours permeating the meat and jus.
Wildings Hotel & Restaurant Harbour Road, Maidens KA26 9NR 01655 331401, wildingshotel.com Mon–Sun noon–2pm, 6.30–9pm.
Kevin Rae’s longevity and skill as head chef within the family-run business has helped earn Wilding’s an enviable reputation. As one might expect from a seaside restaurant, seafood features prominently here, and there’s also an impressive rack of lamb served with a refreshing compote of minty peas, or the famous Wildings chicken with Swiss cheese.
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Ayrshire’s Best Picnic Spots
Where to head when the weather calls for blankets on the ground, and al fresco feasting? David Pollock guides you through some of the region’s best outdoor picnic spots
Kildonan Shore, Isle of Arran
Dunure Shore and Castle
Isle of Cumbrae
Around five miles down the coast from Ayr, this spot features the ruined but accessible Dunure Castle, and Kennedy Park, with its popular Butterfly Garden, plus great views of Ailsa Craig and Arran.
Easily reached by ferry from Largs, Cumbrae’s coastline is renowned among visitors who enjoy walking or cycling, while other attractions include the Cathedral of the Isles and the National Watersports Centre.
Dean Castle Country Park, Kilmarnock
Kildonan Shore, Isle of Arran
Set in the grounds of a 14th-century castle, this park has 200 acres of woodland walks, adventure playground and urban farm, with a tearoom and shop on site.
On the remote southern tip of the Isle of Arran, the shore at Kildonan boasts one of the few sandy beaches on the island, as well as views of the islands of Pladda and Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire coast.
Eglinton Country Park, Kilwinning Facilities here include walking, horse-riding paths, cycle routes, permit fishing in the park’s loch and birdwatching opportunities. There’s also a modern play area for all ages and abilities.
Kelburn Castle and Country Park, Fairlie near Largs Well known for its bohemian July music festival and the bright graffiti that fills an entire wall of the castle set within its grounds, Kelburn Estate’s hillside setting incorporates forest walks and a scenic glen, while activities include the Secret Forest wooded maze.
Brodick Castle and Country Park, Isle of Arran A Victorian estate whose central castle is packed full of period features, Brodick Country Park features terraced gardens, woodland walks and a walled garden in its grounds, and great views of the Ayrshire coast.
Culzean Castle and Country Park, Maybole The Robert Adam designed Culzean Castle sits atop a cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde, with clifftop walks, caves, beaches and destination spots like the ice houses and the pagoda.
Loch Doon, Dalmellington There are riverside walks and hills accessible from the shore, contributing to the fantastic scenery, while there’s also a café next to the hydroelectric dam and the new Scottish Dark Sky Observatory is also nearby.
Barassie Beach, Troon Set just north of Troon harbour and close to the town, Barassie beach is popular with relaxing families, kitesurfers and windsurfers. The Ayrshire Larder 45
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Farmers’ Markets & Food Festivals
Ayrshire Farmers’ Market Since its inception in 2000, the Ayrshire Farmers’ Market Cooperative has been at the heart of the small-scale, artisan food scene in the region. Their local markets take place in Ayr (High Street, outside Lorne Arcade; first Saturday of each month; 9am–1pm) and Kilmarnock (The Cross; third Saturday of each month; 9am–1pm) with less frequent sojourns to Kilwinning and Alloway (held indoors). AFM also run the regular market in Paisley (The Cenotaph, High Street; second and last Saturday of each month; 10am–2pm). Keep an eye on their Facebook page for up-to-date listings. ■ ayrshirefarmersmarket.co.uk, facebook.com/ ayrshirefarmersmarket
Ayrshire Food Fayre Held by the Cook School in Kilmarnock, this monthly
event is well-attended by local suppliers delivering a wide range of seasonal produce. Kids’ activities and hot food are also part of a day out which runs from 10am– 2pm on the last Sunday of every month. See Chef’s Choice, page 43. ■ The Cook School Scotland, Kilmarnock, 01563 550008, cookschool.org
Fencebay Farmers’ Market Held on the last Sunday of every month at Fencefoot Farm in Fairlie, Fencebay Farmers Market offers seafood, meat and vegetables from local producers and suppliers, as well as drinks, crafts, plants and non-food items. As the name suggests, it is connected to the Fencebay Farm Shop & Smokehouse and The Catch at Fins Restaurant. ■ Fencefoot Farm, Fairlie near Largs, 01475 568 918, fencebay.co.uk
Food Festivals ■ Burns an’ a’ That MAY burnsfestival.com ■ Ayr County Show MAY ayrcountyshow.co.uk ■ Ballantrae Festival of Food and Drink MAY ballantrae.org.uk ■ Largs Food Festival MAY fb.com/LargsFoodFest
■ ■ ■ ■
Ayr Flower Show AUGUST ayrflowershow.org Arran Farmers Show AUGUST visitarran.com Scottish Air Show SEPTEMBER scottishairshow.com Dean Castle & Country Park Harvest Festival SEPTEMBER eastayrshireleisure.com
For beer and whisky festivals, see page 33. Keep up to date on all local events at facebook.com/LoveAyrshire 46 The Ayrshire Larder
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Index Afton Glen Meats 29 All That’s Delicious 22 Ardtaraig Fine Foods 22, 31 Arran Brewery 14, 23, 28 Arran Cheese Shop 23, 29 The Arran Chocolate Factory 13, 22, 26, 28 Arran Dairies Ltd 23 Arran Distillery 13, 17, 23, 38 Arran Fine Foods 13, 21, 28 Arran Malt and Music Festival 33 The Artisan Lounge 41 Auchengree Farm 21, 26 Auchrannie Resort 12, 38 Aye Love Real Food 22, 37 Ayr Brewing Company 14, 23 Ayrshire Bacon 9 Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association 9 Ayrshire Beer Festival 33 Ayrshire College 20 Ayrshire Farmers’ Market 46 Ayrshire Farmhouse Ice Cream 23 Ayrshire Food Fayre 46 Ayrshire Food Network 8 Baking Sinsations 22 The Balgarth Pines 41 Ballantrae Festival of Food & Drink 46 Barwheys Dairy 23, 43 The Bean and Leaf 35 Bellevue Cheese Company 13 The Black Bull 42 The Blair Tavern 36 Blues Bistro 41 Borlands Deli 29 The Bosun’s Table 35 Braehead Foods Ltd 22 Braidwoods 31, 36 Brambles Seafood & Grill 38 Brig o’ Doon House Hotel 41 Brownings the Bakers 27, 29 Burns, Robert 16 C Fayre 26 Café Thyme 38 Cairnhill Farms 21 Casks Café 38 The Catch at Fins Restaurant 11, 35 Catrine House Coffee Shop & Ice Cream Parlour 40 Cedar Cottage Country Foods 22 Coast 39 The Cochrane Inn 40 The Cook School Scotland 9, 43, 46 Corney & Barrow 32 Corrie Mains Farm 30 Cosses Country House 43 Costley’s Patisserie & Chocolatier 32 Cotters Restaurant 44 Creative Chocolate 22
Creelers 22, 39 Cruize Bar Brasserie 38 Cumbrae Oysters 22 Dalduff Farm Shop 21, 32 The Dessert Depot 22 Dobbies Farm Foodhall 32 Dowhill Country Fayre 21, 34, 44 The Drift Inn 29, 39 Drumullan Organics 21 Dumfries Arms 41 Dumfries House 19, 20 Dunlop Dairy 7, 23, 30, 40 Eighteen69 38 Ellisland House Hotel 42 Enzo’s Fish & Chips 11, 36 Ethical Ales 14, 23 EverythingChilli 21 Fencebay Farmers’ Market 46 Fencebay Fisheries 11, 22, 35, 46 Fenwick Fine Foods 30, 40 Filippo’s Bistro 42 GC Growers 21 Geraldo’s Ice Cream 23,26 Girvan Early Growers Ltd 18, 21 Glenapp Castle 35, 44 Glenisle Hotel 39 W. A. & E. Grants 32 Gray, Robin 12 Graziano’s Harbour Café 44 The Handmade Cheesecake Company 22 Hendrick’s Gin 17 Highgrove House Hotel 36 Jacques’ Table 39, 42 James of Arran 22, 26, 28 Jane’s Delicatessen 32 Jar Troon 27 Jock’s Café 33 Kail-Yard Restaurant 42 The Kandy Bar 27 JW Kay & Co 21 KellyBronze Scotland 22 The Kirkmichael Arms 42 Kirkmichael Community Shop and Jock’s Café 33 The Lagg Hotel 39 Largs Food Fest 46 Lime Tree Larder 22, 23, 26 Lochgreen House Hotel 37 The Longhouse 40 MacCallum’s of Troon 37 Malin Court Hotel 44 Mamita’s Coffee House 40 Mancini’s of Ayr 23, 32, 33 Marine Hotel 38 Mary’s Marvellous Munchables 22 The Meridian 42 The Minishant Inn 43 Nardini’s 23, 35 Nethergate Larder 21, 30, 37 1906 Restaurant 44
No. 1 Avenue Larder 30 No. 22 Bar & Grill 43 The Old Byre Showroom 38 Old Loans Inn 37 The Old Pier Tearoom 40 The Orangery at Seamill Hydro 36 The Park Hotel 41 Parkstone Hotel 43 Petrie Fine Foods 22 J Pieroni and Sons Ltd 33 Piersland House Hotel 37 Pollok Williamson Family Butchers 31, 33 Potatoes 18, 21 A D Rattray Whisky Experience and Whisky Shop 34 Renaldo’s 23, 33 Restaurant 33 43 Rhone Cottage 21 Robbie’s Drams 17, 33, 34 Robert Burns Birthplace Museum 17 Robertsons Fine Foods 21, 28 Robin’s Herbs 12,13,21 Roundsquare Roastery 23, 41 Scotlay Eggs 22 Scottish Charcuterie Company 9,22 Scotts Bar & Restaurant 35, 37 Scotty Brand 18 The Ship Inn 11, 37 Si! Café Bar Restaurant 38 Sorbie Farm Dairies 23, 28 The Sorn Inn 41 Souter’s Inn 44 South Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve 20 Splendid Soups & Such 21 R Stalker & Son 28 Su Casa 43 Sugar & Spice 26 Tarelgin Farm Foods & Smokehouse 21, 34 Taste of Arran 13 Thomson’s Square Sausage 9, 21 Threepwood Fayre 22 Torrylinn Creamery 23, 29 Treehouse Bar, Grill & Terrace 43 Trump Turnberry Hotel 44 Two Fat Ladies at the Marine Hotel 38 Varani’s Forum Café 31 The Waterside 36 We Hae Meat 21 The Wee Catch 37 Wester Highgate Farmhouse Ice Cream 23 Whisky an A’ That Festival 33 Wildings Hotel & Restaurant 44 William Grant & Sons 17 The Wineport Bar, Bistro & Café 40 Wm Allan & Son 31 Woody’s 6, 7, 23, 31 Wooleys of Arran 13, 22, 29 Zest Restaurant at The Gailes 38 The Ayrshire Larder 47
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Larder THE GUIDE TO THE FOOD & DRINK OF AYRSHIRE & ARRAN
Good food and drink can be found all across Ayrshire and Arran. Rolling farmlands are dotted with the area’s famous dairy cows and fertile fields grow new potatoes or flavoursome herbs, while along the Firth of Clyde coastline fishermen haul in lobster, langoustine, crab and mackerel. Local specialities include cured bacon and black pudding, ice-creams, farmhouse cheeses, ales and porters from microbreweries and whiskies from the heart of Robert Burns country. There’s lots to discover and enjoy, whether you’re exploring for new tastes, stocking the cupboards at home, just visiting or looking for a memorable local meal.
This inspiring and practical guide to the food and drink of Ayrshire and Arran includes: ■ In-depth stories about the food and drink of the region ■ Handy listings of local producers, markets and food shops
■ Profiles of the people producing the area’s best food: fishermen, farmers, herb and fruit growers, beekeepers, brewers, distillers and others
■ Ayrshire chefs talking about the local produce that inspires them
■ An independent guide to the best local cafés and restaurants
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The Guide to the Food & Drink of Aryshire & Arran