Now that the warmer weather is hopefully on its way, head out to the country for some great food and unusual buys.
We tried out three of the best farm shops and cafés in Aberdeenshire. Whether you’re after wild venison, or locally grown spuds, artisan cheeses or new-laid duck eggs, a special gift or just a coffee and a fancy piece, there’s a treat in store…
Finzean Farm Shop & Cafe
This delightful, newly extended Scandi-rustic café and shop sits on the Finzean Estate which has been in the Farquharson family for over 400 years and covers around 10,000 acres of hill and arable land. Head for Banchory, then Strachan and you’ll find the way.
The farm shop is particularly well stocked, with organic breads, local honeycomb, a great veg selection and an irresistible selection of gourmet treats you won’t find elsewhere. On the gift side, you’ll find books, art, toys, presents and a fabulous selection of unusual greetings cards.
The shop and café are at the heart of the community, even hosting the visiting post office and pre-ordered newspapers. They also do hampers and you can even order your entire Christmas menu for collection.
We can recommend the afternoon tea, which comes on a three tier cake stand, filled with gorgeous smoked salmon and egg and cress sandwiches, warm scones and pancakes with jam, cream and curls of butter, topped off with some scrumptious mini cakes.
One of Finzean’s regulars cycles out from Aberdeen three times a week. He’s not daft!
Castleton Fruit Farm
Castleton lies just off the A90 before Laurencekirk and is well signposted. It’s is known for producing deliciously juicy soft fruit. Last year they picked and packed 6.5 million punnets of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cherries.
It’s a family business that prides itself on sourcing many ingredients directly from local farmers and fishermen to create hearty home-cooked favourites. The jumbo-sized cakes look amazing and the menu balances traditional favourites with interesting accompaniments and inspired twists. There are daily specials, but we opted for a substantial and deliciously-dressed grilled goat’s cheese salad and a bowl of spiced chicken noodle soup, which was packed with flavour and came with a huge slice of home baked bread on the side. The scones and tray bakes are particularly tasty.
The farm shop is split between gifts and food, with some great prepared meals and frozen fruits and a strong deli section. There’s a large play area outside and they also offer a hamper service and a catering collect service.
The Tin Coo at Devenick Dairy
The Tin Coo lies on a back road in Hillside near Portlethen and is part of the Groat family’s farm at Devenick Dairy, the award-winning local cheese makers. It’s been carefully designed to wrap round the milking shed and butchery, so you can watch the cows being milked at 4pm or see how your brisket is rolled. It’s a true farm to fork family business.
With a new chef and manager, both with a fine dining background, the menu has been revamped and there are some nice touches like a pre-bookable afternoon tea served on a miniature picnic table. The triple cheese macaroni proved rich and filling, breakfasts range from granola to fried platefuls and the cheesecake is always worth saving space for. Even the jam and cream are home made. There’s a good children’s menu and an indoor soft play area.
As you’d expect, the meat counter and cheese section in the small shop are excellent. Where else will you find black pudding and strawberry jam sausages or fresh spring cheese with pickle?