Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Ardardan Estate Coffee Shop and Farm Shop, Cardross
Ardardan Estate is a working farm just off the main A814 road between Dumbarton and Helensburgh, 10 miles west of Glasgow. It is just past Cardross - and the National Trust for Scotland's Geilston House and Garden. Since that lovely garden does not have any catering facilities worth speaking about, I have been to Ardardan's Coffee Shop on many occasions, joining the many locals and others who have come to know its qualities.
Being also a garden centre, there are also plenty of attractive plants to see and there is a great walled garden to walk round, with its own borders full of flowers and trees. There are a number of seats there from which you can enjoy the birds and the relaxing atmosphere. But if you are really feeling adventurous, there is a small wood to wander through, almost down to the banks of the river Clyde.
Being a working farm means that you can see the free-range chickens who lay the fresh eggs available in Ardardan farm shop and used in the coffee shop! And in spring time visitors can often see the new-born lambs and kids. The shop keeps a running tally of the current year's offspring!
The Coffee Shop
From being "just" a mixed farm, the owners have diversified, creating a farm shop with a wide range of products, a garden centre selling plants and garden equipment - and that coffee shop. That has proved to be so popular that it has had to be expanded to cope with the demand. Of course, even in the days when you couldn't get a seat immediately, there was always the garden to wander round until your name was called!
Although there is an extensive menu and helpful waitress service to help you decide what to have, I always have a look at the display of cakes near the entrance as I come in!
There is also south-facing patio to sit out and have your meal - although the Scottish weather doesn't always make that a good option! It overlooks an ornamental pond and part of the garden centre and is a great spot on a sunny day.
Much of the success of the coffee shop is down to the amount of "home baking" on the menu. While Ardardan offers more than just a coffee or tea break (see later), there is no doubt that a big attraction are the "Tray Bakes" including such delights as millionaires shortbread, melting moments, almond slices, fruit loaf or fruit tart (go on - add some ice cream to that) plus a load of cream cakes and gateaux. Forget the calorie counter and just enjoy the freshly made and delicious items on offer. Of course, if you have a lot of will power, you can always "just" have a freshly baked scone with butter and jam (see illustration) or a toasted teacake with butter.
Also available (from 10am to noon) are hot rolls with fillings such as Aberdeen Angus sausage or Ramsay's Black Pudding. Throughout the day from 11.30am, more substantial meals are available (and I do mean substantial). There are salads with a choice of Inverawe smoked salmon, prawn Marie Rose, Ramsay's Roast Beef, Burbush honey roast ham. Then there are "toasties" with a range of fillings such as tuna mayonnaise, Scottish Cheddar cheese or Ardardan egg mayonnaise (the eggs come from those chickens in the adjacent field, so you can't get much fresher than that. There's also a wide range of open sandwiches with such chicken and cranberry, smoked cheese and apple, Stilton cheese with apricot (and apricot chutney). Then there's freshly made soup of the day (with freshly baked bread and butter). At the foot of the list there is even a slimmer's sandwich of light Philadelphia cheese, ham, cucumber and lettuce - if you really must!
Beverages aren't just ordinary tea and coffee, but Brodies of Edinburgh tea or Thomson's coffee (in all the usual permutations). The soft drinks are also above average, for example with Prince Charles' Duchy organic apple or lemon, Bouvrage natural Scottish raspberry drink - and "Big Tam" (Tomato juice).
The menu helpfully marks those items which are available from the farm shop as you leave. I have to confess that I rarely leave without buying something mouth-watering - or some of those fresh Ardardan farm eggs.
Scones/teacakes: £1.20 to £1.95 if you have clotted cream. Tray bakes and gateaux: £1.40 to £2.60. Soup: from £3.25. Sandwiches/Toasties: £3.40 to £4.95. Tea/Coffee: £1.35 to £1.95. Cold drinks: £1.20 to £1.95.
Ardardan Estate has its own Web Site and there is a location map at Multimap.
It's not often that a review of an eating establishment begins with a photograph of the chickens in the adjacent field providing the fresh eggs being used inside. But then Ardardan Estate is a bit special that way. All the food is farm fresh and that shines through everything on offer, making everything taste so much better.
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