I am a survivalist when it comes to filling up on nibbles.
At an evening event, 14 canapés are the rough equivalent of dinner.
Stand near the kitchen, don’t chat or network (apart from with the waiting staff, they are your besties) and shovel the food in whole, in case another tray comes round.
Also, savour the moment, because they might not invite you to their next party. When it’s food samples, you need to double that amount. They require more chat and interest in the product, so you must work harder for your supper.
I did pretty well at this tourist honeypot, which had a full car park on a Saturday afternoon.
The attraction might include their recently expanded food hall – a colourful showcase of local produce, from head-sized candy-coloured meringues and more types of jam than a wall of paint samples at B&Q – and huge gift shop, with a battery farm’s worth of soft toys.
My edible spoils included a couple of tasters of Clootie McToot dumplings – one apple and cinnamon and the other made with cricket flour (cue Dreadlock Holiday) – a few Lilliputian oatcakes with cheese, a soupçon of chicken liver pâté, a hunk of frangipane cake and a few mini-bricks of chocolate bavarois.
Not quite enough for a whole lunch though. Thus, we bagged a table in their warehouse-like Larder Cafe, which was hoaching, mainly with families.
There’s a kids’ enclosed outdoor play area right outside the door, so small people can escape, like thrawn zombies from a mall.
The menu is quite sandwichy and casual, sort of like a pimped-up Dobbie’s.
I liked the sound of one of the Big Toasties.The top-of-the-range Reuben (£9.95) consisted of door stoppers of sourdough, impaled, along with a slice of gherkin, by a wooden kebab stick.
Inside, were layers of salt beef, sauerkraut, and melted emmental topped by a bubbly layer of tangy Russian dressing, and there was a ramekin of ready salted crisps on the side.
Their special – a small triangle of veggie haggis quiche (£7.95) – was slightly less successful. With a conker-coloured scalloped edge, the eggy interior was a bit spongy, like florist’s oasis, and the haggis didn’t have any peppery punch.
Probably the best of the bunch was our 6oz venison and redcurrant burger (£11.95), which came in a charcoal brioche bun – as black as a favourite bunnet that’s been rescued from the ashes of a house fire.
In its entirety, this option was good, with a nice charred patty, lots of mature Scottish cheddar, wholegrain mustard mayonnaise and some pickled red onion.
The wedges that came on the side were horrible, though, with a slippery wet moss texture. It was a crime against chips.
Nobody ever came to take our dirty plates.
If you want dessert, you’ll have to queue at the front of the space and order it there, which seems a bit odd, having had table service for the rest of our experience.
We went for a selection of their cakes that were behind glass, on three levels, at the counter.
Some were better than others.
The jam and coconut sponge (£2.20) was a huge clodhopper of a slab – the size of a box of Kleenex. Its ratio of jam and coconut to sponge was very low, but it was nice enough if you want a fluffy wad, like a Brillo pad, to soak up an entire cup of tea. I’d rather have a lamington.
We weren’t that keen on the chocolate and beetroot sponge (£2.95), which had a bit of a chalky texture.
The “dessert of the day” – apricot cheesecake (£4.25) – was pleasant, with a layer of fruity jelly and some decorative figs, as well as a nice thick creamy white mascarpone layer. The truffle (£1.95) was so rich and chocolatey it had to be consumed over three sittings. The winner, I think.
Even if you wouldn’t go out of your way to eat here, there are other attractions, and I imagine it’s very useful if your zombies need to let off some steam.
Also, don’t forget those free petit fours on your way out. I mean samples.