Food – Elsrickle: The Big Red Barn. Caution, don’t dare visit if the local farmers are hungry!


I‘d love to have brought you my fun-filled review of Elsrickle’s Big Red Barn,  Lanarkshire’s answer to Fawlty Towers – with its very own Sybil –  unfortunately, the whole visit turned into a big embarrassing farce.

The good lady and I had dolled ourselves up and set off as we made our way into deepest South Lanarkshire and to a place where apparently pies reign supreme.

Now, I’ll readily admit to being a bit of a pie aficionado – steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom, macaroni, haggis – yes, I’ve tried them all, written about the good ones, slated the bad imitations and absolutely slammed the nonsense that in the past masqueraded as a pie.

So, off we trundled in the old charabanc down the M74 and along the A702 towards Edinburgh. We duly chugged on past many a good-looking café, pub and restaurant in search of the Big Red Barn near a village called Dolphinton. Weird name eh? How did an inland village in central Scotland get the name of a water-dwelling mammal? Anyway, I digress, back to the pie saga, or should that be piegate.

We arrived at 1.30 pm and parked up in the car park which was only half full with six other cars. So, managing to extract myself from the driver’s seat (have you noticed that when you hit the mid-50s you make unintentional noises as you move, creaking and groaning) we half limped and shuffled, the old lady and I to the cafe entrance.

And this is where things start to get weird. We sat down at an empty table, of which there were plenty. I made a beeline for the menu on the table next to us to see what pie delights were about to tickle my tastebuds.

Enter Sybil stage right. This individual, who I am certain must have been a matron in a prison hospital in a former life, stomped over to a table with a face that would have soured milk – not a great attribute when you’re working in a farm café I should imagine!

Anyway, the benefit of the doubt given and all that, one had to consider she might just have been having a bad day. Perhaps the hens had gone off the lay, the coo had held onto her milk that morning, or had the worst happened and the toasty machine had decided to call it a day?

She hadn’t quite reached our table when the mouth opened and a noise resembling a mix between a rumble of thunder and a tractor starting up spewed forth the words no food reviewer ever wants to hear: “We’ve no hot food today, there’s a group of farmers arrived.”

I thought it first that my hearing aid was malfunctioning again and what she actually said was: “How lovely to see you both, thanks for stopping by, I’ll be right with you in a moment folks but here’s a menu meantime,” apparently not!

Now, as I looked about me, I could only see three members of the local WI, another elderly lady sitting in a corner knitting what looked like those toilet roll covers you only ever saw in your grannies house, while another gentleman sat with his crossword sooking a scone to death, or at least I think it was a scone. It was difficult to tell as he fished it out of his coffee with a spoon – talk about the twilight zone!

You’ll have noticed I’ve not mentioned the mysterious by their absence, group of farmers. That’s because unless they’d decided to take up residence in the kitchen, although quite why when that’s was Sybil’s domain is beyond me. Perhaps it was a gathering of mini farmers,  you know, the vertically challenged type, two-foot-tall in big shoes, but then I wondered how they’d have driven their tractors?

So, no sooner had we sat down than we were up and on the move again – with no lunch.

Would I recommend the Big Red Barn at Elsrickle? What do you think?

If you’re happy to be insulted in public as a waitress shouts at you across the cafe, don’t mind the fact that your visit obviously means nothing to the business, or, that a display of high-handed incivility is okay, then be my guest, pop along, you might just be lucky and get a smile with your pie – but be warned, I very much doubt you will!

What a shame that we still have food service businesses that can treat paying customers in this manner, they’re doing themselves – and their industry – no favours whatsoever.

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