By Karen Carruth

If you haven’t been to Edenmill Farm Shop, in Blanefield, in a while, a return is in order. Things have changed. The shop, café, butchery, soft play and event space reopened on December 1, 2018, after being closed for a year. A huge refurbishment project has taken place, new people are in charge and a whole new ethos behind what it plans to offer its customers is at work.

I meet Brenda Anderson, director of operations, in the contemporary café, which is just off Stockiemuir Road. The huge car park is reasonably full, but the café isn’t packed, it is airy and quiet with a lovely welcoming feel. I didn’t realise that the other missing customers were in the soft play barn having lunch there, while the kids run rampant on the two-tier soft play structure. It seems that if you want to come for a relaxed grown-up meal, the café is your haven, bring the kids and you can enjoy the same food and keep an eye on the wee ones in the soft play.

During the week there is toddler groups being held here, and special food offers of 2 for 1 on Tuesdays. They are encouraging a growing market of mums and grannies and whoever else, with kids, that need a few hours of entertaining.

The butchery is an additional reason to visit, all Scotch beef, lamb and pork, venison, sausages, burgers, steak pies… everything you would expect from a quality butcher, is made on site by butcher Jim Falconer, the man in the stripped apron behind the counter.

He insists on dry aging the beef for 28 days. Premium, quality and fresh is what the butchery is all about. The eggs are local, and the venison comes from the hills outside the windows. He tells me he is a happier man now that they have reopened under Mark Gibson the owner of the site, and having Brenda in charge. Things have improved, and he looks, rightly so, very proud of his butchery.

“Our best seller is the beef on the bone,” he says. I ask whether customers know how to cook the cuts of beef he sells, and he says they do.

“We should be thankful for the cookery shows that are the telly, as people are watching and coming in to buy the meat they have seen in the recipes and want to try them out.”

Brenda is a breeze to interview, she knows her stuff. There is a strong vision for Edenmill and she is putting it into action with Mark’s help and backing. She has huge amount of experience in the hospitality business and well as in her own food tourism-based business, Tasting Scotland Gourmet Journeys and Events. and knows what customers expect when they take the time to visit Edenmill.

Their first goal was to be open in time for the Christmas tree market, given that Mark’s Root One Landscaping business includes the growing of Christmas trees in the grounds on the site. Since then the place has taken off at a considerable rate. A new head chef, Gordon Provan, hails from the Rogano in Glasgow, so quality on the menu is guaranteed.

Brenda is very aware of her market. Edenmill is located a hop from the John Muir Way, which is a trail from coast to coast, Helensburgh to Dunbar. Which means that walkers always have, and will continue to, pass by their door. Brenda says the policy for walkers is simple, throw the doors open and welcome them in - muddy boots and all. Another project they are close to completing is the opening of The Attic at Edenmill. The upper section of the shop, café and soft play is due to open imminently, providing a bothy which will welcome the weary walkers overnight.

‘Attic’ gives the impression of a small space. It’s huge, with the potential to sleep 43 people in rooms with varying amounts of beds in them. A massive kitchen and living area is being created and the views, well, they are quite something.

The café has two sides which are glazed from floor to ceiling. The views over what is a beautiful, but stark, heather strewn landscape in winter, I can imagine it coming alive with colour during spring and summer.

There is some transfer of tastes between the butchery and the café. The idea being that customers try the cooked version in the café and buy it from the butchers to take home. It’s working, Brenda tells me. The posh dogs, which are pork and smoked bacon sausages, are very popular after they have had the taste test on the menu. Home-made Black Pudding on the breakfast menu sends them directly to Jim for some to take home. January gave Jim the opportunity to dig out the haggis recipe his Govan-based grandfather had used in his days as a butcher. He made lots for Burns season, and those too went down really well.

It is still early days of course, the plan to expand the farm shop is underway. Fresh vegetables will be available and condiments are being sourced. They have to be Scottish, that is Brenda’s main stipulation.

However, the café is fully functional, the menu is diverse and well-priced, and the customers have returned. They are working hard to ensure that they can cater for all. They have ‘ladies what lunch’, grandparents bringing kids, walkers, diners, all with different needs from the menu. They are keeping it flexible and making sure that the prices are reasonable and there is a choice that will suit everyone.

We have a peak into the party room, which has just entertained a gang of kids for a party and has now been laid out for a conference for a local company. They will be welcomed with bacon rolls and coffee. Lunch, dinner, whatever is required is available. Edenmill is becoming a multi-use space. There’s a huge TV in the party room (or events room to give it the proper name), which will be used for a range of different occasions including movie nights for kids during the summer months when the café will open for dinner, and long lazy evenings sitting outside sipping something fizzy over a delicious meal.

There are lots of plans afoot. Easter is already being planned, egg hunts will be happening, as it is a perfect place to bring the kids. At the end of a long drive, no traffic, enclosed play areas, good food, and a proper welcome from those in charge. It is heartening to hear Brenda, even though she is dealing with me trailing behind her with a notepad in hand, take time to thank everyone for visiting and asking how their visit was.

Brenda says that she wants Edenmill to be worthy of taking a detour to visit, and already it is, with more plans afoot to round off what is fast becoming a destination., new website is under construction.