MOJO Gastro Bar in Troon is intriguing. It started life further up the road as the Velvet Apple, a small coffee shop and bistro which was opened by Gill Hamilton in 2010, promoting healthy, locally sourced food.
Main courses £8.95-£14.00 (steak £21.95)
Puddings £3.50-£5.50 (cheeseboard £8.95 with a glass of port)
Star rating: *******
Fast-forward four years and the business, which also has an outside catering arm, had outgrown its premises. Gill opted to move to a larger venue on West Portland Street, a stone’s throw from the beach, opening the doors of this new bar/restaurant in August last year.
Having fond memories of coming to Troon beach as a child, I couldn’t resist a return trip with Mother and my nine-year-old Mini-Me. Troon has always benefited from lovely independent shops, good eateries and ice-cream shops. I’m happy to say it’s still the same. Hamilton has obviously established a good reputation locally for the quality of her homemade cakes, coffee and service, but she has also to be commended for opening Mojo across the road from the mighty Buzzworks’ Lido and not far from its other Troon offering, Scotts.
Despite stiff competition, Mojo has created its own identity – though a small shop frontage, it expands like a Tardis inside, stretching past the bar and through the tables to a grand piano located at the back. This has become the focal point for popular jazz afternoons and evenings. The fresh sage and grey painted walls have been given a welcome injection of individuality thanks to a wall of embossed aluminium and a cow-hide covered circular booth in the corner.
Mother, Mini-Me and I head into Mojo for an early mid-week tea, taking advantage of the Early Bird “three courses for £12.95” offer and the Mini Mojos £5.95 deal – they have since changed the Early Bird to “Two Can Dine for £12.99”. These are good deals, but has the kitchen got its mojo when it comes to the quality and ability to satisfy three generations at the same time?
Sitting within the “Cow Booth”, Mum and Mini-Me opt for the soup of the day to start – lentil with bacon – while I choose zucchini fritti; Italian courgette fritters with teriyaki dipping sauce. The soups arrive in rustic bowls served with healthy chunks of fresh bread on wooden platters. Mini-Me is clearly a big fan, clearing her plate in minutes – unheard of at home. The zucchini fritti are beautifully presented with the courgette cooked in the lightest of batter and the sauce effortlessly drizzled across the plate. The starters get a big thumbs up all round.
For the main course Mother chooses enchiladas with chicken and slow-cooked beans, Mexican spices and chipotle sauce in a flour tortilla. I try chef’s chicken chasseur – chicken, tomato, mushroom and garlic sauté potatoes – while Mini-Me plumps for spaghetti Bolognese with garlic bread.
Having applauded the presentation of our starters, we are a little deflated by our mains. It’s funny how a plain white plate can make or break the look of a meal. Nevertheless, the chicken chasseur is pleasant, while Mum’s enchiladas are simply lovely, soft, subtly spicy and tasty. Mini-Me complains that she could have done with a little more spaghetti in her bowl.
Thankfully the mojo returns when it comes to the desserts. Mum tries the lemon mess – their take on Eton mess, with crushed Italian meringue, whipped Chantilly cream and tangy lemon curd. It arrives in a tall sundae glass and is undoubtedly moreish. My sticky toffee pudding is a hearty warmer for this chilly evening. Mother and I agree we could probably have shared a dessert. Mini-Me gets a couple of scoops of Woody’s ice cream – Woody’s is a family-run, Ayrshire-based ice cream maker – and recommends the green apple and vanilla, both of which are deliciously refreshing. With soft drinks, a tea and a coffee, the bill for three courses for two adults and one child is £42.90.
Mojo is a friendly venue which can comfortably and happily cater for morning coffee, lunch, jazz afternoons and family dinners. The new head chef is clearly coming up with some creative dishes, while the front-of-house staff are a credit to the owner, providing Mini-Me with a plentiful supply of colouring pencils and quiz sheets as well as a complimentary slice of carrot cake on her departure (she had been eyeing it up for a while). If they can keep three generations of the Harper clan happy at the same time, they are obviously doing something right. More power to their mojo.
Mojo Gastro Bar
18 West Portland Street,
Troon KA10 6AB
(01292 313 222, facebook.com/mojotroon)