The Esplanade

Mention Largs and most people will probably think of Nardini's ice cream which has been enjoyed by generations of Scots in their seafront cafe.

The business was established by Italian immigrants Rosa and Pietro Nardini in 1890 when they opened a shop in Paisley and soon the reputation of their fine ice cream had customers coming from far and wide.

When the business passed to their children Augusto, Nardino and Sandrino they made the ambitious decision to move to Largs where many Glaswegians went "doon the water" for their holidays.

The new caf� opened in 1935 and was an instant success. Now 65 years later it is still very popular with locals and holidaymakers alike who visit Largs to enjoy a day on the shores of the Firth of Clyde.

Situated on the Esplanade Nardini's caf� has a glorious view out over the water towards the small island of Cumbrae and beyond to the Isle of Bute.

Visiting on a beautifully sunny and crisp January day I chose a window seat to ensure a good view of the hardy souls enjoying a bracing walk along the promenade and the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry plying its trade back and forth on the short trip to Cumbrae.

Nardini's fa�ade is in the art deco style and the interior of the caf� also harks back in time with a large open plan seating area furnished with gold and burgundy wicker chairs and tables and a small stage area complete with grand piano for special events.

The menu is mostly snacks, cakes, pastries and sandwiches although diners can also enjoy a traditional Italian pizza or pasta. A section is also cordoned off as the restaurant where a two course set lunch offering dishes like soup and steak pie is available.

With a choice of baked potatoes, toasted paninis, seven types of pizza and a couple of pasta dishes to pick from there is certainly a wide choice at Nardini's whether you are looking for lunch or just a quick bite.

I chose the fresh salmon foccaccia (�3.45), made in Nardini's own bakery, which was lovely and soft with just a hint of herbs and garlic sprinkled on top and served with a small salad garnish. The salmon was mixed with herbs but it was indeed fresh and not tinned which would have completely ruined the foccaccia roll.

Opting for a reasonably light snack ensured that I had plenty of room left to pick something special from the extensive ice cream and sundae menu. The ice cream is after all what Nardini's is famous for! More than 12 spectacular looking sundaes are listed on the menu from the ever present Knickerbocker Glory and Banana Split to the more unusual Whisky Cocktail and the Rum Baba Special.

It was a difficult choice indeed! Should I go for the Nardini Special, three flavours of ice cream, fruit, roasted nuts and whipped cream or the Garden Festival with vanilla flavoured ice cream, chocolate sauce, roasted nuts, whipped cream all doused in Frangelico hazelnut liqueur?

Then again there was always the Barga Special with fresh fruit and liqueured fruit, three flavours or ice cream and a splash of Italian liqueur cocktail and not to mention the Meringue Glacee with vanilla ice cream, dipped sponges and meringue shells with whipped cream and a choice of peach, pear, pineapple or strawberries.

After much procrastination I opted for the simplest - and cheapest - dish on the menu the Misto Coppa (�4) which gives you the chance to try out five flavours of ice cream served in a large chocolate dipped waffle cone. I went for the delectable combination of strawberry, mint choc chip, pistachio, puff candy and vanilla and every single one of them was just lovely leaving me with no option but to polish the lot off in double quick time.

In my opinion you just can't visit Nardini's without treating yourself to the ice cream which really is as good as its reputation and is just as delicious in a cone while walking along the promenade on a summer's day.

Before you leave though don't forget to visit the patisserie and sweet counters on the way out to pick up some more Nardini's goodies to take home!

~ Lorraine Wakefield


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