I have Pottery Barned and Ikead with the best of them but have always thought of garden centre/home improvement cafes as a particularly British phenomenon even when they clearly aren’t. I have come to the conclusion however that what they really are, is an additional layer of hell that Dante hadn’t even considered.

Imagine, if you will, deciding to meet a friend or colleague for a quick bowl of soup around lunchtime before getting on with your respective days. If efficiency and economy are are important to you, you’d be better to go to an actual cafe where sitting down and being served are the order of the day.

Yesterday we met at Fraser’s Garden Centre which is on the road from Kilmarnock to Troon. The Lime Tree coffee shop resembles a hanger inside with lots of nick knacks on the wall. There are serviceable tables and chairs in various combinations which will suit groups ranging from 2-10. When full the Lime Tree could easily hold around 40 people. The problem however is that there is no waitress service for placing your order.

What you have to do it go through to another very small area and queue to place your order. You also have to remember to pick up your cutlery from the same table that holds the kiddie meals. You might be oblivious of this if you don’t have children with you and have to make a return journey from the hanger to rectiy your error.

There is a board with specials but these are not wiped off as they become unavailable so have a second choice in your head just in case. The queue wends its way past various cakes and scones and you’ll certainly have lots of time to think about what you might have because here is where is starts to resemble hell. There is only ever one person on the till taking the orders. You are given a tray with drinks after you have paid but if, like me, you have ordered something which requires it to be made up they give you a number and bring it to your table later. I had ordered two soup and sandwich combos which came to £10.50 and although that is not what I consider to be dear, I had to stand in the queue for 15 minutes and then it took another 10 minutes for a nice girl to bring the combos to the table. 25 minutes from arrival to service for soup and a sandwich is unacceptable.

Compare this with:
Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre – 5 minutes
Silver Spoons, Troon – 5 minutes
HAC Bar, Irvine – 5 minutes

Table service is actually more efficient in the long run.