THE redevelopment of Helensburgh’s Hermitage Park is set to take a giant step towards completion next month as the long awaited pavilion opens for business.

Local chef Jamie Nicolson has been unveiled as the new tenant of the facility and this week he told the Advertiser of his plans to launch a kiosk for takeaway and delivery in mid-May, with a café due to follow later this summer.

Jamie, who grew up in the town before moving to Portugal with his family at the age of eight, has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years and has tasted success at several well respected establishments having started his career at the five-star Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond.

He also enjoyed a stint with the legendary Roux brothers at the Michelin starred Le Gavroche in London, while he has spent time at Glasgow’s esteemed One Devonshire Gardens, and most recently served as executive head chef at Loch Fyne Oyster Bar in Cairndow.

“They’re all high-end places but I’ve always wanted to do my own thing,” said the 38-year-old father-of-one.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Jamie NicolsonJamie Nicolson

“Where I’m opening up is absolutely perfect because my son can play in the park while I’m working my butt off.”

Jamie describes the opportunity to run his own establishment in his home town as “the payback for all the work I’ve put into learning my trade”.

He said: “It’s mine, which is very important to me, and it fits with my life. Lifestyle is very important to me, having a son.

“Having worked in places doing 16-hour days non-stop I want to try and get away from that and I don’t want my staff to be doing that either. The park offers me that quality of life.”

With a passion for seafood and an ethos of sustainability, Jamie has a clear vision for the future of the site.

Helensburgh Advertiser: The Park Pavilion is set to open up this summerThe Park Pavilion is set to open up this summer

And despite a frustrating two-year wait for plans to be finalised before taking on the lease for the pavilion, his appetite for growing the business has not dwindled.

“There is going to be a lot of structure but I want to move with what the business tells me to do,” he continued.

“Businesses are organic, they need to go their own way, especially restaurants, so it’s exciting for me just to see what way this is going to go.

“I also have plans for a cook school in year two or year three.

“The community hall is attached to my restaurant so I’m going to use that space, and I’ve got a kitchen garden also.

“The idea is to take children up to the kitchen garden and let them have some sort of relationship with food - pick the food, pick the fruit and the vegetables and then come down to the pavilion and cook it.

“It’s not just a restaurant to me, it’s a hub where the community can get involved and learn about food, especially children because children have been so detached from food for a long time, especially in this country unfortunately.”

Helensburgh Advertiser: Park supervisor Stewart and head gardener Mark working hard on the garden borders in front of the PavilionPark supervisor Stewart and head gardener Mark working hard on the garden borders in front of the Pavilion

He says he wants to “raise awareness of good food” and start a “food movement” in the town, incorporating something for everyone.

Theme days have been suggested, while there will be a vegan selection, recovery food for gym goers, and QR codes will be set up around the park allowing people to scan a code, choose what they want from the menu and collect it when ready. All important public toilets will also open up inside the pavilion.

The project has the potential to create eight jobs initially, with more available depending on its success.

Jamie added: “You go through the motions when opening a restaurant, you get the excitement and then you wake up in a cold sweat at 2 in the morning thinking you’re going to fail and it’s going to be terrible. But most of it is exciting.

“It’s been some road I’ve gone down and it has been frustrating but also very exciting and the end/beginning is now.”

Councillor Alastair Redman, Argyll and Bute Council’s policy lead for business, regeneration and commercial development, said: “We are delighted to have Jamie coming to the park soon and look forward to the café opening.

Helensburgh Advertiser: Getting the kitchen readyGetting the kitchen ready

“Recent investment including from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, MoD Covenant Fund and the council, in tandem with ongoing community support including the Friends of Hermitage Park has seen the park transformed.

“During lockdown it has been a vital green space for local people and has proved to be a much needed escape for many residents.

“We have exciting plans for both the park and the pavilion with a range of activities for local people including a green gym, opportunities to learn horticultural skills, classes aimed at helping to reduce our carbon footprint and heritage events.

“We are also working with local schools, the University of the Highlands and Islands and local community groups to provide lifelong learning opportunities.”

A spokesperson for the Friends of Hermitage Park volunteer group told the Advertiser: “We are absolutely delighted that Jamie has taken on the Park Pavilion, and grateful for his patience, and everyone’s patience, waiting for it to be able to open.

“The Park Pavilion Café and Kiosk, and the opening of the community room and the toilets, will make a huge difference to the park and we are very pleased to see one of the final pieces of the project fall into place.

“We are incredibly lucky such an experienced chef is going to be delivering delicious food, utilising produce from the kitchen garden and also working with the Friends to deliver community events.

“The Pavilion will be a huge asset to the park and the town, and we wish Jamie and his team all the very best with his exciting new venture.”

For more information visit or check out 'The Park Pavilion Cafe & Kiosk' Facebook page.