OFF to the Highlands again and by the time we reach Tyndrum some people in this car are already hungry. Magically The Real Food Cafe looms up on the left. It’s been years since I was last here but its reputation for properly sourced and carefully delivered food continues.

We swing in, past the electric car chargers, squeezing between chatting bikers, and head through the front door. I say it has been a while and in fact the last time I was here there was a huge tarpaulin structure along the roadside wall – preparation for an extension which is now fully built, resulting in a glamorous and new (to me) seating area to the left, a high bench table right in front of us and up there, magnetically drawing us to the counter like the claw in Toy Story, a huge illuminated menu. Think McDonald's. "How Our System Works," it proclaims. And there are four simple points: choose food and drink; grab cake; order and pay at till; wait and relax.

There’s only one tiny problem. The rest of this giant illuminated menu does not contain any details whatsoever of what this food is that we are supposed to choose, only drinks. Uh? Weird.

Loading article content

At this point we start reversing into the crowd – because it's very crowded – and trying to find a menu. Any menu. There are plenty of people behind the counters, but can we find anyone out here to ask? No. It’s hard to get a seat too. Tables are uncleared, dishes with fragments of food lie here and there next to piles of scattered napkins, and then we spot a heap of little takeaway-style menus. Hello, one says. Is it me you’re looking for? Not sure pal, but you’ll do.

We head back to the counter. Here there’s time to read the many signs proclaiming the Real Food Cafe’s tireless drive to make sure everything is sourced as locally and as properly as possible. There’s even a map showing Letterfinlay Butchers, Argyll Bakeries, Albert Bartlett – OK, Albert Bartlett isn’t exactly small potatoes, but you get the gist. Their haddock is caught in the Barents Sea, by a boat called the FTR Langot it seems, and is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council too. Crikey. Don’t we have any Scottish haddock any more?

Of course, endless signs can be very tiresome, but in fact this is super-smart, feel-good-about-what-you-eat marketing and one of the reasons I order that Barents Sea haddock with chips cut from maris piper potatoes. The ubiquitous maris piper wouldn’t be my go-to spud for a top-drawer chip, but what do I know about such matters?

Fast forward, then ... Actually, maybe slow forward a bit. The table is tidied, our food is ordered, we make some space for ourselves between a bearded biker and a hill walker, both eating gourmet burgers with black pudding, onion marmalade and Charles MacLeod of Stornoway black pudding.

Fifteen minutes later – this I know because the order time is on the menu and it’s long enough for us to check – our food arrives. Now, this is where things go seriously wrong. Debs has a bacon roll. I don’t even have to touch it to see it is crammed sloppily, lazily, full of grossly fatty, unattractively pale bacon slices. Did anyone look at this before it came out?

And that’s before we come to the properly sourced fish and chips. Again, one glance is all it takes. This haddock is extremely oily, probably cooked at too low a temperature. One taste and it’s clear the batter is cloying underneath and feels improperly cooked. It's extremely disappointing – awful, actually.

And what about those chips? Yellow, hard and largely dry, and not in the least bit tasting like they were cooked any time recently.

Hey, I know it’s busy in here today, but seriously? Sourcing is one thing; delivering good food on the plate is clearly another.

The Real Food Cafe

Tyndrum (therealfoodcafe.com, 01838 400235)

Menu: Properly sourced fish and chips vie with right-on burgers and home-baking style cakes and sweet things. 3/5

Atmosphere: Roadside cafe nicely fitted out in a parody of a fast-food restaurant with neon signs and a sustainable vibe. Uncomfortably tight when busy though. 3/5

Service: Plenty of staff safely behind the counters; a complete lack of them on the customer side. Very poor given the confusing layout. 1/5

Price: Around £9 for a sit-down haddock supper and just under £3 for a bacon roll. Reasonable. 4/5

Food: When we were in both the haddock and the chips were awful – an achievement in itself – and the bacon roll looked like nobody cared. 3/10

Total: 14/30