Following a £250,000 refurb - the Si! Restaurant in Irvine reopened last month.

Renamed The Potting Shed at Si!, the downstairs area of the venue was dubbed "Ayrshire's trendiest new meeting place" by owners SimpsInns.

SimpsInns are also due to open The Terrace, a new bar and restaurant experience on the upper level at the Kilwinning Road venue, later this year.

In the meantime, we were invited along to The Potting Shed last week to see what all the hype is about.

We visited on a Friday night, sampling their evening menu - though their daytime menu features classic dishes and snacks served from 9am to 4.30pm.

Here is what we thought...

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Look - 5/5

For what they were going for, I think they've nailed this one.

Outside the venue looks particulary welcoming, with the outdoor seating area providing what appears to be a warm, sheltered outdoor location ideal for warm summer/spring evenings.

Irvine Times: The outside seating area.

The interior is intriguing, but for me is well designed and hits the brief perfectly.

It's the type of venue you want to take pictures of, and show it off to your friends. Equally, if you seen it on social media, you'd probably fancy a trip along to see it for yourself.

Do I think it is to everyone's taste? No. But for what SimpsInns are going for, it nails it for me.

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Irvine Times: A look inside The Potting Shed at Si.

Atmosphere - 4/5

I'll start off with the slight negatives. We went on what transpired to be a slightly quieter evening - not dead but not busy. It's no one's fault but that always detracts from things a little for me.

Also, I can be fussy: I like music to be loud enough that you don't feel like the table next to you is hanging on your every word (not that my patter means that's ever likely, of course), but not too loud that you can't hear the person, or people, you are with speak.

For me, this was just a touch too loud - nothing major, but I did find myself repating what I was saying a handful of times.

On the other hand, a special mention must go to the spacing of the tables and different areas inside.

Irvine Times: A look inside The Potting Shed at Si.

There is nothing worse than feeling like you're sitting on top of the table next to you. This was not a worry at The Potting Shed. In fact, their booths and 'potting sheds' looked like the perfect area for a larger group to relax, and have a great day/night out without feeling like they are invading on anyone else's privacy.

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Food - 4/5

This was a hard one for me. Was the food outstanding and gourmet? No. Was it in-keeping with every other aspect in The Potting Shed? Yes. And did I enjoy it? Very much so.

I had a Frank's Buffalo burger (crispy buttermilk fried chicken tossed in Frank’s buffalo hot sauce, with spicy mayo and shredded gem lettuce) and Sloppy Joes fries (pulled pork, crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and smoked cheddar).

Irvine Times: Our food from The Potting Shed.

They were exactly what I was looking for, and provided some excellent comfort food to end the week.

It's also worth noting the extensive menue has a little bit of everything, and my choice was challenging. That's always a good thing for me.

So if you want a slap-up, proper, sit-down, three-course meal, The Potting Shed isn't for you. But for some comforting food to accompany a night or day out with friends, family or your partner, it's ideal - and exactly what SimpsInns were aiming for.

Drinks - 4/5

I am a simple man, so when I saw I could get a pint of Tennent's, I was content. For the more sophisticated among you, Heverlee as the only other lager (in draught form - there are plenty of bottled options) is a solid option too.

The pint itself was okay - not the best pour I've ever had, but far from the worst.

Irvine Times: A pint of Tennent's at The Potting Shed.

There is a wide array of spirits on offer too, particularly gins - which were all well presented.

And the cocktails, though I couldn't try them for myself, looked great - which is half the battle. Options were a bit basic, but still extensive, and offer a bit of something for everyone. 

Soft drinks options were pretty standard, as you would expect - but there was a nice selection of alcohol-free alternatives and mocktails.

Staff - 5/5

I worked in hospitality myself for more than four years, so I know it's a tough gig.

But the staff were great - they were attentive, helpful, chatty but not overbearing, and offered service with a smile.

Considering it was less than a month since re-opening, the standards were high and I was impressed.

Price - 4/5

Times are tough, for both the hospitality industry and for customers.

Irvine Times: The views from inside The Potting Shed.

So a pint for under a fiver, plenty of spirits for less than £5 and cocktails for only £8 at a restaurant - that's pretty good going nowadays.

A point does come off though, because as much as I enjoyed my meal, for what it was, it was verging on the expensive side. Not by much though.

Overall - 26/30

A great rating, and well deserved.

Again, I don't think this will be everyone's cup of tea, but for what SimpsInns were going for with The Potting Shed - for me they've nailed it.

It's an ideal place for meeting with whoever you like for a full day, or just an evening, of good drinks, food and company in what is a lovely setting.

Si's location and proximity to the rest of Irvine's pubs and bars for after your meal has at times probably held people back.

But now you could easily spend all day here, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people do.

For more information about The Potting Shed at Si! visit