When it comes to celebrating Scottish food and drink, not much beats a piping hot bowl of homemade soup, a fresh fruit scone and jam, and pot of breakfast tea. Honest, filling and guaranteed to hit the spot, we are a nation who prides itself on being the best at these simple, wholesome, family favourites.
It’ll come as no surprise then, to learn that Glendoick Garden Centre, home of great soup and home baking, is one of Perthshire’s most popular choices for a morning coffee or lunchtime meet up. Pull up any day of the week and you’ll find a full car park and café brimming with children, grannies, pals, business people and plenty of friendly chatter. They’re a three times winner of the National Garden Centre Retail Awards ‘UK Best Garden Centre Cafe’ and in 2016 their friendly team won ‘UK Garden Centre Sales Team of the Year’ at the same awards, and Perth & Kinross Gold Star employability award.
As I type, Jane and Ken Cox are preparing to enhance their offering once again taking their café covers to 210, doubling the size of the area with a unique combination of self-service and call to order.
It means customers can choose whether they want to queue for lunch at the counter or order and pay at the new coffee and cake bar and have their meal brought out to them“It means customers can choose whether they want to queue for lunch at the counter or order and pay at the new coffee and cake bar and have their meal brought out to them.” explains Jane.
As well as being an order point, the coffee bar area in the middle of the restaurant will also serve steaming hot drinks and delicious cakes, meaning customers can decide to order a little after-lunch treat without having to go through the self-service queue again. It’s the small things that count as we all know!
“We’re investing a significant amount of money into this extension, so we really do want to get it right for the people who use us most. We’ve asked questions, and we’ve listened long and hard to what our customers want. The result is this additional investment in service options so I’m really excited to hear the feedback from our regulars!”
As well as the extra seating, the kitchen is doubling in size with two dedicated bakery areas, one of which will be a gluten free section. This will allow a larger selection of daily specials, an enhanced Afternoon Tea offer – which will be served from 3pm daily in its own dedicated area complete with crisp, white tablecloths, and quirky chandeliers. Sign me up now!
“We know our customers love our soups, our home baking and our daily specials so we’ll ensure we deliver all of these wonderful favourites with some new and exciting extras. The Afternoon Tea area is just beautiful and exactly the sort of thing a Glendoick customer will enjoy. I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to fit it into the plans.”
Since joining the family-owned Garden Centre in 1999 – Jane is married to Ken Cox, whose parents opened the doors to Glendoick in 1973 – Jane has gone from being the café’s harshest critic to its biggest fan! She recalls her first visit almost twenty years ago…
“The food was terrible. Given,” she deadpanned, “the chef was a grave-digger, what do you expect? Ken loves the plants and has always been passionate and focused about that side of the business. By 2004, I was seriously involved in the café and after a big refurb in 2011, we started to win awards and attract people who wanted a scone and coffee as well as those looking for a pit stop after plant shopping.”
Attract people it has. The cafe now welcomes in around 230,000 customers each year all looking for that wonderful mix of friendly service and proper, tasty food. It has become a hub for people meeting on the Perth – Dundee road and is easily the Carse of Gowrie’s favourite family day out thanks in part, to kiddie-focused events and the new outdoor playpark opened in summer 2017 by John Swinney MSP.
The new plans show the café divided up into a bright, family area with an under 8’s dedicated soft play zone and the Afternoon Tea area. There will also be a soft seating zone with shelves dedicated to gardening books so you can plan and imagine your garden as you sip coffee and indulge in cakes. Jane has also planned what she refers to as the ‘Eclectic Area’ which will be even more quirky and original, and will play on Glendoick’s Cox family and plant history.
“We’ve gone quite a lot over the original budget due to the extras we’ve committed to so it means I’m using my own interior design skills to source the décor! I have to say, the end result is fun and it makes it feel authentic and unique to us and the people of the Carse. I’ve commissioned the Scottish wood artist, Philip Coles, to make a statement piece – it’s all coming together beautifully in fact!
I’m really happy we made the decision to grow: creating a space that can be enjoyed by everyone in our local community has been really important to us. I’m really happy we made the decision to grow: creating a space that can be enjoyed by everyone in our local community has been really important to us. Our own children are teenagers now, but I recognise just how important it is to have a place where lots of different generations can meet and enjoy themselves. The playpark has been a huge hit and I’m certain the indoor soft play area will be just as popular.”
For those of you who know Glendoick, you’ll also be glad to hear the food hall will also enjoy a little expansion. Due to be re-located, it will focus on their most popular foods such as local cheeses, sausages and bacon, a new range of frozen foods and bakery items. New collections include some unusual kitchenalia and a fabulous range of sweets for gifting and everyday munching!
“This is the largest investment we’ve made in recent years, and we’re so grateful to our regular customers for continuing to support us, and for choosing to shop and eat in a family-run business. I do hope they enjoy the new café and all it brings – I feel it’s as much theirs as it is ours.”
Keep an eye on the Glendoick website for updates on the extension: Glendoick.com
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