Following a successful photo session at Girvan Golf Club in South Ayrshire, I'm heading north to Royal Troon in the hope of capturing a sunset image. This is in anticipation of next year's Open Championship to be held there. I need a cover shot for the Official Guide to Golf in Scotland. But the clouds came in so I decided to eat instead.
The village of Kirkoswald is the site of Soutar Johnnie's Cottage, a dishevelled thatched-roof hovel en route from Troon/Prestwick to Turnberry. The National Bard, Robert Burns spent some time in Kirkoswald as a youth and two scions of his poetry, Soutar Johnnie and Tam o' Shanter emerged from the real life local Kirkoswald characters of John Davidson and Douglas Graham, both buried in Kirkoswald's graveyard.
Opposite the graveyard and a sight more lively is Soutar's Inn. I'd never really noticed this magnificent collection of thatched-roofed buildings on andy of my many drives through Kirkoswald but now it's so bright and new, you can't fail to miss it. I decided to forego my usual sumptuous South Beach dinner and give it a try.
The original Soutar Johnnie's Inn stood on the site of the village school which Burns attended during the summer of 1775. The Inn was fully refurbished in 2008 but in 2012 a major fire devastated the place. Now it's back, brand-spanking new and visually commanding. Renamed simply Souter's Inn, it's a restaurant/bar combined with a 'Costley & Costley Patisserie & Ice Cream Shop. Does the name reflect the price?
I've noticed there are several artisan ice cream makers here in the Southwest of Scotland. It must be something to do with the cows and the green, green grass of the area. Cream o' Galloway, Glen Urr, Taste of Arran and now this new one to me at least - Costley & Costley; premium ice cream to feed the happy throng. It's still full of sugar though. Does anyone do a Paleo friendly, Stevia-sweetened, coconut Chocolate Malt?
It seems that Costleys & Costleys is a bit of a hospitality powerhouse in Ayrshire owning several hotels including Lochgreen House Hotel and Brig o' Doon House Hotel, two establishments I would like to explore further. They also own Soutar's Inn.
It's early on a Saturday evening but already the restaurant is busy; locals out in force, young families, farmers and their wives eager for an early repast. So the ambience is predominantly Ayrshire! The dining area is a little cramped and for that reason not overly comfortable for my liking. If truth be told it has a slight 'cafeteria' feel. But the service is swift, efficient and friendly; the menu clearly aimed at the Scottish palate, comfort food and plenty of it judging by my near neighbours portions. I couldn't help overhearing the conversation going on at that table; the two men, father and son I presumed discussing drain pipes and tractors while their women hung on every word. That's the family farm business I surmise.
There are three different menus to choose from at Souter's; À la carte, a set price table d'hôte and a general menu that was to say the least, profuse. From the À la carte I started with Stir Fried Strips of Beef with Hoi Sin, Ginger & Garlic served with Cashew Nut Salad, the sauce a bit sour/sweet but all together delicious. For main course I went for Pan Fried Fillet of Cod with Asparagus, Smoked Haddock & Celeriac Slaw missing out the proffered Garlic Potatoes and instead going for a side of veg. They brought a bucket of Handcut Chips anyhow, disbelieving that someone wouldn't want 'tatties' of some form or another. The fish was excellent. And that seems to be the order of the day here at Souter's - well cooked, fresh food, lots of it and at a reasonable price.
Souter's Inn is well placed to welcome clientele from Turnberry a mere 2 miles down the road or those who might also visit A. D. Rattray's Whisky Experience a mere 200 yards in the opposite direction. It will no doubt also catch considerable trade from the ferry traffic coming from or going to Stranraer and on to Northern Ireland. If lunch or dinner doesn't work for you, you should go in for a coffee and cake or Costley ice cream. Meals here are certainly not high-end, more high volume. But if you are looking for good food served quickly and at reasonable cost, stop at Souter's Inn. I don't think Trump Turnberry's 1916 Restaurant has anything to worry about though.