After a Sunday drive along part of the Crow Road, B8822, I headed home searching for my copy of the Iain Banks novel of the same name. I definitely had one, with its striking monochrome checkerboard cover design that is quite unforgettable.
To make up for the fact that I couldn’t locate my copy, I re watched the BBC mini series and chuckled at a hirsute Peter Capaldi, a young Joe McFadden, Dougray Scott and Bill Paterson. A nostalgic end to the day.
The reason we had driven to Fintry was to review the Courtyard Cafe at Knockraich Dairy Farm. The views driving across did not disappoint, a bit more like Tolkien’s Middle-earth than Scotland in spring.
To be honest, I’m not sure whether it was the Campsie Fells or the Trossachs that I was staring at but I had to stop the car to take a photograph.
The panoramic views were the icing on the cake of a smashing day out.
My daughter had already described our dessert as ‘simply the best cake I have ever eaten’.
Knockraich is a place I have been meaning to visit for a while, simply on the strength of the dairy products that Katy Roger makes with her daughter Helena, while her other daughter Catherine is in charge of the cafe.
Katy’s produce is beloved by chefs and it usually gets a name check on menus. They hand make butter, crowdie, crème fraîche, yogurt and other milky delights all produced thanks to her husband’s herd of Holstein cows.
They have also diversified with accommodation, hosting weddings and they have an interior shop so there are a myriad of excuses you can use to make your way here.
There is even an oak-beamed Gothic hen house situated next to the carpark. Sadly there were no hens on show when we visited due to the ongoing avian flu regulations.
However I’ll be using that as an excuse to revisit, and if the chooks don’t move back pronto I might take up residence and squat in the poultry palace myself.
A twee country lane leads you to a courtyard garden, and a door in the corner leads into the farm shop. I foolishly hadn’t booked in advance, so I was crossing my fingers they would have space for a couple of starving travellers.
I didn’t fancy the return drive with my hangry daughter if they couldn’t fit us in. Fortunately they could, but I’d book in advance as at weekends they do get busy.
You could have; soup, ploughman’s lunch, pate with oatcakes, home made sausage roll or fish cakes, quiches both vegetarian and with bacon and cheddar or sandwiches of many varieties or meatballs in tomato sauce on a ciabatta.
After much deliberation I ordered a small bowl of tomato soup, without the bread and butter, with an open sandwich (£10.45). The daughter was sold on the combination of lime and ginger in the root vegetable soup (£3).
There were a few overheard grumbles from fellow diners about slow service so we made sure to intercept passing waitresses to order drinks, refreshing raspberry crush (£2.40) which was so moreish I ordered another the next time the waiter went past.
The bowls arrived piping hot so we set them aside to cool while we tackled our mains.
My daughter had opted for the chunky smoked haddock fishcakes served with salad, coleslaw and chutney (£9.50).
What appealed was the rustic texture and crisp exterior filled with wholesome kale, although she was less convinced about the chutney which didn’t add anything to the dish.
I had made a beeline for the sourdough open sandwich smothered in homemade hummus, topped with roast peppers, onions and rocket. A simple salad sat alongside a few crisps to make you feel naughty and virtuous at the same time (£10.45).
All good fresh ingredients arranged attractively on a plate, simply prepared and satisfying. Then we returned to our soup de jour. Wow, I’m not shy of telling you it was simply the best tomato soup of my life, with a swirl of Katy Roger’s crème fraîche to cool the taste buds.
My dining companion was delighted with her vivid orange plateful, both our spoons chased every last drop around the bowls.
After our starter and mains the cake menu was calling to us. There was nearly a fight as we both wanted the chocolate and honey tart (£2.95) which I generously allowed my lunch companion to have, whilst I opted for rose and cardamom cake served with a dainty jug of custard (£3.50). Both were worth the wait.
A small tartlet, a crisp, light shell of pastry was filled with glorious chocolate ganache topped with a piped cream star and shavings of milk chocolate. There was a pot of homemade raspberry jam on the side.
A picture perfect slice of cake arrived next, sprinkled with rose petals and crumbled pistachios. I kindly allowed my daughter a taste and she agreed it was moist, sweet perfection.
All that was left to do was to settle the bill and stock up on lots of Katy Roger’s dairy delights to take home.