All the right boxes…

September 25, 2009

The first scoop is the best, especially when it's gone a little bit melty around the edge.

Tickety Moo's banoffee ice cream

H and V were entertaining a guest from across the Irish Sea, and where better to take them than Fermanagh, one of Northern Ireland’s loveliest locations, with so much to offer the tourist: breathtaking lakes, check; beautiful islands, check; historic castles, check; assorted water-based activities, such as boating and fishing, check.  But if you choose V and H as your holiday reps, you can hardly expect to have an ice-cream-free experience.

We stopped for lunch at the converted railway station in Augher, then found ourselves heading for Fivemiletown (though strangely the signs always informed us we were at a distance of either 4 or 6 miles from the place).  Rather than stay on the main road to Enniskillen, we took the pretty route through Tempo, along roads with canopies of autumn leaves, dappled in the late summer warm sunshine.  Through Coa and Ballinamallard, then along the shore of Lough Erne until we reached Killadeas.

Killadeas is the home of the premium ice-cream brand tickety-moo.  In advance of our visit, we had done considerable research, finding an outlet in East Belfast selling cones and tubs of the brand.  H was particularly impressed by the fact that their chocolate ice cream is made using Valrhona; V almost wept for joy at discovering that their banoffee tastes of bananas, not banana flavouring, and is coloured mashed-banana-beige, not yellow.  We’d also sampled the apple and blackcurrant crumble, but didn’t say much about it, as we were each too intent on getting the next spoonful into our mouths before the other person.

Our research had also led us to the website, and the decision to go to Fermanagh on that date was based on reading that from 28th September the creamery’s shop would be closing for the winter.  (It certainly wasn’t based on the suitability of the 200-mile round trip for our guest, who was running a fever and should really have been at home in bed, but who knew better than to come between us and our ice cream.)

From the road, there was a brown sign pointing us along the lane towards tickety-moo, and we soon saw the distinctive lime-green of the notices telling us we’d arrived.  There were some tankers; there was a tractor in the field; and there was the shop, with a notice on the door.  We parked the car and strolled along to read the notice, which said “Closed on weekdays from 13th September.”

Stunned, we returned to the car, pondering the cruelty of fate, the fickleness of websites, the irony of existence, and were just about to get around to pondering the rubbishness of Northern Ireland customer service when the concerned face of one of the owners appeared beside the car, explaining politely that the shop was, indeed, shut.  I attempted to look philosophical, but from my distressed inner child emerged the plaintive wail “but we’ve come all the way from Belfast……specially.”

Naturally, someone who makes premium ice cream for a living does not have a heart of stone, and so he relented and opened the shop.  He apologised for having run out of cones, and for not having the full range of flavours, but offered us an extra scoop in each of our tubs so that we could sample an extra flavour each.  We all liked the look of raspberry and pannacotta, but opted for different second flavours – mango and passionfruit, lemon sorbet, wild strawberry.  That should have come to £6 but the nice owner, Gareth, refused to take any money, despite my best efforts to insist.  So we all smiled at each other, and especially at Gareth, who shut up the shop again while we strolled out into the sunshine to sit at the picnic table and enjoy our ice creams.  And enjoy them we did; the flavours were fresh and delicious.  The lemon sorbet was sharp, mouthwatering and pure white; fascinating.  We all sampled each others’ flavours and smiled some more. 

Then our mouths dropped open with something resembling horror.  For into the car park, deserted but for our car, drove a larger vehicle, with two parents in the front and three children in the back.  All five emerged, smiling, and walked in the direction of the shop.  We tried our best to look as though we were not eating large tubs of delicious tickety-moo ice cream, but this is a difficult look to pull off when you are, in fact, eating large tubs of delicious tickety-moo ice cream; especially when there are three of you, with a large tub each.  The children looked at us; the parents looked at us; the parents looked at the notice on the shop door; the children looked at the parents; and pandemonium was about to break out when our guest volunteered “What we had to do was hassle the owner; you could try that.”  So the children enthusiastically set about their task of hassling.  Poor Gareth emerged from the farmyard again, smiled slightly more weakly, and re-opened the shop.  The children emerged with their tubs – we couldn’t tell whether or not the parents had had to pay – and peace was restored.

We returned to the car to finish the last scrapings of our tubs, leaving the picnic table to the children.  And then we heard the sound of an engine; this new arrival was a smaller car, with two elderly ladies in the front, with what were clearly their grandchildren in the back.  They walked towards the shop, where Gareth was just locking up.  We decided to leave before anything else happened.

V has a conscience, and briefly felt a bit guilty that we might have cost a nice man like Gareth huge amounts of profit, if he’d felt obliged to give out free ice creams all afternoon.  But I pointed out that customer satisfaction cannot be measured so simply; that the good publicity gained by generosity, along with the superlative nature of the ice cream itself, would generate more profits than could possibly have been lost.  Plus, as a result of our visit, tickety-moo takes its place, in H and V’s opinion, as the best local brand available, with an excellent choice of flavours (listed, though not available on our visit, was Balsamic Strawberry – see previous post for details of what a good thing this is).  Taste, ingredients, location, service, variety and love – all the boxes.


One Response to “All the right boxes…”

  1. Ian Marchant Says:

    Your guest should have been at home in bed, yes, but a scoop each of panacotta and raspberry pavlova and wild strawberry ice-creams was a much better cure for the common cold than anything else I could have thought of…

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