Here are five of Ayrshire’s ‘Hidden Gems’ worth making the scenic trip to:
A veritable mecca of fine dining in rural Ayrshire. Since being awarded a Michelin Star in 2000, standards have remained remarkably high in this unassuming cottage just outside of Dalry. The ever changing menu consistently features an array of locally caught seafood and meat, and its owners pride themselves on having an unfaltering commitment to the traditions of haute-cuisine: ‘painstaking preparation, freshly made stocks and sauces and terrific attention to detail.’ Faultless food and an excellent, well priced wine list enjoyed with exquisite views across the almost clichéd rolling Ayrshire hills make this an establishment worth visiting. Again and again.
Address: Dalry, North Ayrshire, KA24 4LN.
Contact: 01294 833544
Prices: dinner menu, £46 for three courses or £50 for four; lunch menu, £25 for two courses or £28 for three.
Opening times: Lunch: 12.00 – 13.30 Wednesday – Saturday; Dinner: 19.00 – 21.00 Tuesday – Saturday
The Highgrove House Hotel rightly boasts that its patio offers one of the best views in Ayrshire; a stunning panorama along miles of coastline across the Firth of Clyde to the beautiful Isle of Arran. The view of the sunset has to be seen to be believed. Thankfully it’s not all style and no substance at the Highgrove. Its menu is absolutely bursting with intense flavours, the fish is locally sourced (obviously) and all the desserts are homemade – even the ice cream – which is a considerable perk for the sweet toothed pudding aficionado. Built in the 1920s, the Highgrove is stylish, elegant and extremely popular among golfers who wish to enjoy excellent food after a day on the world class golfing links nearby.
Address: Old Loans Road, Troon, Ayrshire, KA10 7HL
Contact: 01292 312511
Prices: mains, £9.95 to £24.95; early bird lunch, £12.50 for two courses or £16.50 for three; early bird dinner, £12.95 for two courses or £16.95 for three.
Opening times: Mon–Sat noon–2.30pm, 5.30–9pm; Sun noon–9pm
Quite simply, if you didn’t know this restaurant existed, you would never find it. Although its location is listed as ‘The Harbour’ in the Yellow Pages, please put all thoughts of Monte Carlo out of your mind. The restaurant is situated well off the beaten track and is housed in a rather run down looking building which was formerly a hydraulic pump house. The battered (no pun intended) sign which reads “Oyster ar” just adds to the surreal vibe. On my first visit I couldn’t believe this was the restaurant a good friend had raved about. Thankfully the food removed any doubts. The Oyster Bar is owned by MacCallum’s Fishmongers so quality of produce is guaranteed. The menu is small and unostentatious, generous helpings of old favourites such as langoustines, mussels, oysters and lobsters are joined by hake and halibut among other varieties of delicious fish. Adjoined to the building is a fantastic take away fish and chip shop named ‘The Wee Hurrie’ which is ideal if you don’t have time to linger.
Address: The Harbour | Harbour Road, Troon KA10 6DH
Contact: 01292 319339
Prices: mains, £9 to £20
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday - Lunch 12pm last orders 2.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday - Evening 6.30pm last orders 9.30pm
Sunday - Closed evening
Monday - Closed all day
It would take somewhere truly exceptional to tempt a Glasgow native out of the city for a curry, such is the number of excellent Indian eateries with a g in their postcode. This unassuming, family run restaurant and bar is one of those places. Even by the high standards set in most places across Ayrshire, the staff are excellent. Polite, cheery and happy to make suggestions if you are unsure what delightful Indian delicacy to opt for. Perhaps the staff’s easy going demeanour is down to their confidence in the dishes they are serving up. A terrific range of curries and kormas ranging from milder options to dishes that kick like a mule but do not lose any of their flavour. For the more open minded among us, the Torranyard also has regular tarot reading nights as well as hugely popular karaoke sessions every fortnight.
Address: Lochlibo road (A736), Kilwinning, KA13 7RD
Contact: 01294 850221
Prices: mains, £5.95 - £11.95
Opening times: Mon – Thu 4 – 12, Fri – Sun 4 – 1
The Sorn Inn, located in the picturesque village of Sorn, features a fusion of fine dining and brasserie style food. Popular among fisherman due to its proximity to the nearby river Ayr, it was featured in the 2012 Michelin Red Guide and was awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand, at the time of the award it was the only restaurant in Scotland to hold this distinction. Like most high quality Ayrshire restaurants, the menu changes frequently in order to serve the freshest, in season produce. The undoubted highlight of an excellent, unpretentious menu is the Scotch beef, sourced from W.m Allan & Son butchers in nearby Stewarton, which is rated among the top butchers in Ayrshire. An always sumptuous fish of the day, a fantastic range of dishes for vegetarians and an extensive, ever changing wine list set The Sorn Inn apart from many of the other outstanding gastropubs found in Ayrshire.
Address: 35 Main St, Sorn, Mauchline, Ayrshire KA5 6HU
Contact: 01290 551305
Prices: mains, £13.50 - £37.00
Opening times: Tue – Fri 12 – 2 6 – 9, Sat 12 – 9, Sun – 12 - 8