WHEN visitors pass through Ayr’s seaside streets, most will stop at a local chippy, then eat their battered fish or poke of chips while wandering along the town’s pretty beachfront.
But when I happened to be in Ayrshire this week, I opted to satisfy my sweet tooth at Unity Grill – a place, I soon found, you aren’t likely to feel guilty about indulging.
The small café doesn’t just serve up warm, hearty food to hungry punters, but is also run as a social enterprise, donating 100% of its profits to fighting food poverty.
What’s more, locals living on the breadline or struggling to make ends meet can also donate their time in lieu of paying for their meal, volunteering to wait tables, make coffees and serve behind the counter in exchange for food and a soft drink.
Taking a seat at the back of the room, I couldn’t help but notice how light, airy and bright the eatery felt.
Tall, plate glass windows let sunshine flood on to the rustic tables and mismatched chairs that make up the modern yet warm décor – think trendy exposed bulbs hanging from the ceiling, un-varnished wood, and planters boasting the café’s motto, “Eat well, do good”.
On the lunchtime menu there’s a good selection of meat, vegetarian and even vegan dishes, including grilled cheese, soup of the day, and filled sandwiches.
Not wanting to spoil my appetite too much before coming to the piece de resistance – the plump, crumbly scones I spotted at the counter on my way in – I opted for a veggie bloomer filled with houmous and roasted peppers, as well as a little pot of handcut chips.
It’s true you can’t go far wrong with a simple sandwich, but the fluffy bread, perfectly roasted peppers and light, yet rich houmous really made my dish shine – and it didn’t hurt that the side of chips were perfectly seasoned, too.
The other customers were happily chatting, scoffing cakes and making the most of a quiet afternoon with friends, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that was further boosted by the attentive staff.
And with clean plates all round, it seems I wasn’t the only one to enjoy my lunchtime treat.
First course finished, and sipping on a peppermint tea served in a glass cup, I was ready to take on the real challenge of sampling Unity’s scones.
Ordering a fruit scone, I found the café’s version to be exactly what I wanted – firm and dense without being too heavy, and packed with plump raisins. Delish.
After sampling the offers at this café with a conscience, I would happily forgo the traditional seaside chips next time I’m in this neck of the woods. Especially as every calorie is helping towards a good cause.
WARM WELCOME 9/10
LOCATION, LOCATION 7/10
SCONE SCORE 8/10