In my line of business you always have to have one ear to the ground for possible leads. So, when I heard there was a garden centre on Glasgow’s south side dishing out delicious baking, I was straight on the case.
Sensing there may be competition, I booked ahead and I’m glad we did.
When we arrive at the Garden House at Caulders in Newton Mearns around lunchtime, there is a queue of hungry diners at the door and virtually every table inside was full.
It certainly seems the secret is out about this family-run eaterie as all around me are happy diners tucking into wholesome food and massive cakes.
The Traditional Afternoon Tea catches my eye immediately, mainly because of its price – it is excellent value for money at just £17.95 for two.
After being seated at a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows, we admire the views across East Renfrewshire and beyond – which are picturesque even on an overcast day – before being given a choice of teas and sandwiches. We opt for Earl Grey and English breakfast, along with the egg mayonnaise and tuna sandwiches.
After two little pots of tea arrive at the table, three tiers of treats follow, starting with our brown-bread sandwiches which are delicately cut with no crusts. We then work our way up to sample eight bite-sized portions of Caulders’ best-loved traybakes including coconut cake, mini empire biscuits, Malteser cake, shortbread, chocolate-topped crispy and an amazing dark chocolate and mint Aero creation which is worth a special mention.
When we reach the top tier it is adorned with two chewy meringues topped with strawberries and two mini-scones stuffed with jam and cream. After polishing off the crustless sandwiches and all the sweet treats, we had just about enough room for the pièce de résistance.
Baked on the premises “to traditional Scottish farmhouse recipes”, they are just as scones should be, but in miniature. With a crispy topper and a light, fluffy centre, they are a perfect addition to any afternoon tea.
Thankfully, they do full-sized versions, in plain and fruit, which look just as tasty. They sit temptingly on the counter and are a snip at £2.30 each.
There is a real buzz around and it is clear everyone is enjoying themselves, helped by friendly staff who serve you with a smile.
Outside tables are occupied by dog-owners and those who don’t mind braving the cool September country air.
Afterwards, we pop into the huge gift shop and have a wander around the centre as I am on the lookout for new bulbs for my flower beds because – as my good friend Agnes, who writes a gardening column for this very magazine, will attest – it’s a good time to plant them up when the soil is moist.
In fact, dear reader, I have a confession to make…I take one of the larger scones to go because gardening really does work up an appetite.
Nice, friendly staff 9/10
Just a five-minute drive from Mearns Cross 8/10
Big, beautiful and just £2.30 10/10