Riverhill Courtyard - a hidden gem
While I was in Helensburgh last week, we found the need to grab a wee something to eat to tide us over until dinner, so we nipped into Riverhill Courtyard. Tucked up in a lane between a Costa and Clyde Property, and just a short walk from Helensburgh Central station, Riverhill Courtyard really does feel like a hidden gem.
The space feels really cosy - there's a lovely warming fire between the tables on the ground floor, there's more tables high up in the roof space, and the big open kitchen gives you the feeling that you're sitting in someone's kitchen-diner. I also like the mix of different styles of seating - there's some high stools at a bar-like table, there's some booths, and there's some free-standing tables - which offer a variety of spaces for you to inhabit.
I first found Riverhill when I worked in Glasgow and each day on my way to work, I would pass the Riverhill Coffee Bar on Gordon Street. I'm not at all into coffee so I wasn't particularly drawn by its reputation of fantastic coffees using Glasgow's own Dear Green coffee. However, what did take me in was their cake bar - it was there that I discovered their empire biscuit; more on that later. Through the Glasgow coffee bar, I discovered that the original shop was Riverhill Courtyard in Helensburgh, so I had to seek it out.
Riverhill in Helensburgh is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as coffee and cake. Their bakes and cakes are superb - generously proportioned, home-made, and always interesting, though you'll also find classics such as that empire biscuit. For non-Scottish readers (I think it's a Scottish thing?), an empire biscuit is two shortbread rounds stuck together with jam and then topped with water icing and a glace cherry. The shortbread biscuits are rolled much thinner than traditional shortbread and this makes a really delicious biscuit! Riverhill takes it a step further and pimps it up with the addition of a lovely sweet butter icing. It makes the humble empire biscuit really decadent and filling!
We went in on a Saturday afternoon so the table of bakes was well pillaged by the time we got there, but there was still a decent number of treats left to choose from. I picked a slice of frangipane tart which had a layer of fruit along the bottom. It was well-proportioned, soft and fruity, a perfect mid-afternoon nibble. My husband had a flat white which he noted was a good, full-bodied and strong coffee - he's the coffee nut in our house so I trust his discerning palate and opinion on these things.
Speaking of his discerning palate, he has a theory about how one can judge the quality of an establishment by the way that they serve the sugar that accompanies the tea and coffee. Bear with me on this one, he might be onto something. If, for example, you should find yourself in coffee shop that offers you little packets of sugar alongside your £2.50 cup of coffee, then you know they've taken the easiest option - minimum effort for maximum return. Fair enough, you might say. However, the hubster feels that if you're going to pay decent money for a good coffee, then the least they can do is up their sugar game. And by that, he means rough cut sugar cubes. Riverhill lives up to this, presenting a selection of white and brown sugar cubes in a teeny tiny bucket. It must be said, this does look a lot better than a couple of sachets of cheap sugar and it's certainly more in line with the feel of the whole place.
While you can indulge yourself with coffee and cake, Riverhill offers much more, including smart and inventive cocktails, burgers, steaks, mussels, and interesting, spiced dishes for dinner, and a range of interesting sandwiches for lunch - not for them, the classic egg or tuna mayo. No, instead you'll find treats such as hot smoked salmon with prawns and sweet chilli, a halloumi pakora wrap, or duck bahn mi. Don't hold me (or them) to any of this because they regularly update their menu with new dishes so the purpose of the lists above are just to give you a flavour of the sorts of things you might find there.
Want to know more? Well, surprisingly Riverhill doesn't have a website but there is a Facebook page which is updated regularly and is full to the brim with photos of all the fabulous feasts on offer. I would heartily recommend Riverhill, whether for a cuppa or for dinner with a cocktail - you won't go wrong.