The magnificent River Tweed is not alone in meandering through the Border towns of Peebles, Melrose, St Boswells and Kelso, thanks to the Scottish Borders Food and Drink Network, there is also a series of food trails winding their way through the region, highlighting the wealth of teashops, cafes, restaurants and pubs offering high quality local produce on offer. The trails are split into southern, eastern, western and central areas, and there is also a trail for cyclists and one for visitors coming to the area by train. Look out for the Scottish Borders Food and Drink Directory in local Tourist Information Centres, shops and venues.
The launch of the food trails demonstrates the Borders’ commitment to producing world-class food: organic meat and vegetables, game, fish, artisan gin, whisky, and craft ales. Two miles outside of Peebles and only 30 minutes south of Edinburgh is Cringletie House (pronounced ‘Cringle-tee’). Designed by Scottish architect, David Bryce and completed in 1861, the public rooms in this magnificent house have stunning period features, including hand-painted ceilings and magnificent fireplaces. The menus of Executive Chef, Willie Pike MBE play to the strengths of seasonal local produce, some of which comes from the walled garden at Cringletie. Alongside their traditional afternoon tea offering is their Glenkinchie afternoon tea which is served with a glass of whisky to give a more Scottish flavour.On Sundays throughout the season, the team serves up a seven-course tasting menu with matching wines and drinks. It is a real ‘must’ for foodies visiting the region.
Barony Castle is an exclusive hotel located in 25 acres of grounds. Their restaurant, Thomson’s @ The Castle, offers exciting seasonal menus developed by executive chef William Thomson, showcasing local produce such as, ‘seared escalope of Scottish salmon, served with wilted samphire, sweetcorn blini and parsley hollandaise’. On Peebles High Street sits the Tontine Hotel, owned by the Innes family who proudly offer formal dining in the elegant Adam Room Restaurant. On chilly days, a coal fire is lit, adding to the splendour of this former Georgian assembly room, which boasts fine views across the Glensax Hills.
For those seeking a less formal dining experience, the bistro is open throughout the day. Guests are invited to relax for the afternoon in the Callants Lounge, where a very competitively-priced afternoon tea is served daily. The menu at the Tontine showcases locally-reared beef, lamb, and venison, in addition to fish, freshly-caught just off the east coast. Fans of the BBC 2 series, ‘Great British Menu’, may be delighted to learn that they can try dishes such as ‘Guts & Glory’ (rabbit, haggis and black pudding) by chef Ally McGrath at Osso, in Peebles. Depending on the season, you will find unusual dishes such as Scottish hare, and salt-baked celeriac. There is a cheeky cheeseboard to round off your meal, featuring Isle of Mull cheddar, Strathdon blue and the wonderfully creamy nuttiness that is Reblochon.
The launch of the food trails demonstrates the Borders’ commitment to producing world-class food: organic meat and vegetables, game, fish, artisan gin, whisky, and craft ales
Dinner with a view
Just 33 miles from Edinburgh, sits The Kingsknowes Hotel: a former Baronial Mansion where guests are invited to choose between The Courtyard Bar and the Edwardian conservatory for their dining experience. The conservatory affords guests with stunning views of the Tweed Valley and Eildon Hills. Not far from The Kingsknowes, and just a short walk from Tweedbank Station is Gunknowe Loch, home to Herges on the Loch, where you can enjoy a thin and crispy pizza whilst enjoying the panoramic views of the loch. At Gattonside, John and Bea Mackie, owners of Seasons, are passionate about creating menus that are truly seasonal. Their 2018 Michelin Guide mention is merited. Impressively, everything is made on the premises – bread, ice cream, shortbread, oatcakes, and even the cured meat and fish are produced in-house.
The menu at Seasons truly reflects locally-sourced seasonal ingredients throughout the year, with summer specials such as elderflower panacotta served with Scottish strawberries and shortbread. Their imaginative menus feature delicious fresh produce from handpicked local suppliers, bringing diners real flavours of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Awarded Best Lunch, Best Evening Meal, Best Service and Local Produce Champion in the Visit Scotland awards for 14 consecutive years, as well as the ‘Consistence of Excellence’ award, is family-owned and run restaurant The Caddy Man at Mounthooly near Jedburgh, to where Chef Ross Horrocks brings his experience of working in some of the country’s best-known restaurants, including the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire and the Roxburgh hotel near Kelso. The emphasis is on seasonal, local produce.
Open for dining from Wednesday to Sunday night, and for lunch on the weekend, The Ancrum Cross Keys Pub has earnt its place in the 2018 Michelin Guide with its dedication to fulsome flavours, exciting dishes, and pub classics. On the menu, burgers sit alongside dishes such as duck confit with puy lentils and gratin potatoes. And it is not just the food that delivers. Outside, is one of the largest beer gardens in the Borders and, in good weather, it enjoys all-day sunshine. Through the gate at the end of the garden, guests are invited to take Simon’s Steps down to the banks of the idyllic Ale Water. What are you waiting for?
Jostling for the number one position for ‘Best Beer Garden in the Borders’ is The Allanton Inn, in the conservation village of Allanton, between Duns and Berwick-upon-Tweed. With an open aspect onto the surrounding countryside, this has to be one of the most impressive beer garden views in the country. And, their culinary credentials are just as impressive. Their pork is from a local farmer/butcher at Reivers Foods and other meat and poultry includes organic meat products from award-winning Peelham Farm. Their organic, free-range eggs come from hens just two miles away at Edington Mains, and the honey is from just over the border at Chain Bridge Honey Farm. The fresh fish is landed locally at Eyemouth and delivered daily. Fresh bread is made daily, and there is always a fine selection of Scottish cheeses on offer. Desserts are all home-made and may be accompanied by award-winning ice cream from Giacopazzi’s in Eyemouth.
Not far from The Kingsknowes, and just a short walk from Tweedbank Station is Gunknowe Loch, home to Herges on the Loch, where you can enjoy a thin and crispy pizza whilst enjoying the panoramic views of the loch
Winner of ‘Restaurant Newcomer of the Year’ Award at the 2017 Catering in Scotland Excellence Awards, Firebrick Brasserie, in Lauder, is a family-run restaurant where chef David Haetzman, and pastry chef Amanda Jordan, are passionate about cooking the best seasonal ingredients with style and simplicity. They are quite rightly proud to boast that over 60 per cent of their suppliers are located within a 25-mile radius of the restaurant. In addition to their usual high-quality offerings, Firebrick Brasserie hosts special dining experiences such as pudding nights, game evenings and wine-pairing events.
In Kelso, dining options include The Contented Vine restaurant, The Cross Keys Hotel, Ednam House Hotel, Queens Head Hotel, and The Cobbles. The latter is a gastro-pub/restaurant, which sits just off the Market Square on Bowmont Street. It serves beautifully-prepared plates, which are as pretty as a picture. Their hand-made ravioli is simply delicious, and they have a great selection of wines, beers and spirits.
For a relatively small town, Melrose certainly punches above its weight in terms of dining options. Within easy walking distance of the main car park you’ll find The Townhouse Hotel, The Kings Arms Hotel, and Provender. Best-known, however, is the restaurant at Burts Hotel, Melrose, which is not just one of the best in the Scottish Borders but, as its awards testify, it’s also one of the finest in the whole of Scotland. Every year since 1995, the restaurant has been awarded two AA Rosettes. In both restaurant and bistro, diners at Burt’s Hotel may select from a range of dishes made from the finest locally-sourced ingredients. Local delights include mouth-watering morsels such as pan-fried salmon fillet served with artichoke, parma ham and tarragon salad with sauce viergé, and Highland venison and red wine casserole with herb-creamed tatties and vegetable crisps.
In autumn and winter, the Bistro Bar is even more inviting, with its roaring fire. It’s an ideal spot for Sunday lunch when the weather’s ‘dreich’ (gloomy, overcast, cold, misty, dreary and drizzly). If you are looking for something a little different to the traditional Scottish menus in Melrose, then take a trip to Marmions Brasserie. They serve classic fish and meat dishes using locally-sourced produce. Occasionally, Turkish owner, Chris hosts Turkish buffet nights featuring a traditional meze, followed by a selection of kebabs served with rice, and some home-made baklava. Meanwhile, at Monte Cassino Italian Restaurant, could be on the cards. Naples-born chef, Antonio Caterino, uses family recipes which have been handed down for generations. He makes fresh pasta daily and incorporates it into sublime dishes such as his penne papa’alfonso (sundried tomato, mushrooms, porcini in a rich tomato and garlic sauce, served with fresh parmesan shavings).
Winner of ‘Restaurant Newcomer of the Year’ Award at the 2017 Catering in Scotland Excellence Awards, Firebrick Brasserie, in Lauder, is a family-run restaurant where chef David Haetzman, and pastry chef Amanda Jordan, are passionate about cooking the best seasonal ingredients with style and simplicity
Hearty meals in picturesque pubs
In addition to his Melrose restaurant, his dishes are now also available at The Denholm Meet, in the heart of the picturesque village of Denholm. Local Borders pubs serving hearty meals include The Auld Cross Keys (Denholm), The Wheatsheaf Hotel and Restaurant (Swinton), The Grapes Hotel and Vine Restaurant (Newcastleton) and The Fisherman’s Arms in Birgham, near Coldsteam – a community-owned pub made up of shareholders who live in the village, offering excellent food and a range of events from wine-tasting evenings to live music. The Plough Inn, Lilliesleaf is one for the foodies: the menu offers much more than standard pub fare, with exciting dishes on the menu such as seared breast of wood pigeon, Stornoway black pudding, peach, port reduction and pine nuts. Something a bit special.
A daytime dining experience not to be missed, is the cafe/restaurant at Whitmuir Farm, West Linton, north of Peebles. Everything served here is organic (with the exception of the fish and venison, which are wild and sustainably-sourced). The epitome of locally-sourced produce: from the salad to the sausages, the cafe serves food grown and raised on the Whitmuir Organic Farm. There is also a farm shop, a plant nursery and the Dancing Light Gallery. Look out for special evening openings of the restaurant too. For a fabulous lunch just outside of Kelso, visitors flock to the Terrace Cafe at Floors Castle. Their seasonally-changing menu has something for everyone, and kids will love the ‘flowerpot’ bread. Inside, the cafe is bright and cheery, with an array of tempting cakes and tray bakes on display. Outside seating is available on the terrace, which affords great views of the walled garden. Dogs are welcome on the terrace.
Another visitor attraction with a great dining offer is Abbotsford, where the stylish first-floor balcony at Ochiltree’s Cafe offers commanding views over the house, grounds and the surrounding countryside, making it an ideal spot for coffee, lunch or afternoon tea. Just north of Jedburgh is Woodside, an award-winning plant centre and tearoom in a pretty walled garden. Always popular for their home-baking and light lunches, the Birdhouse Tearoom is now also open for occasional evening dining, where the focus is on seasonal produce – much of it grown on-site. Each menu includes several vegetarian main courses and one meat-based dish. Different and delicious! The Scottish Borders coastal region offers some great seafood and fish dishes.
When thinking about food at the seaside, most people will think of fish and chips, and in that regard, visitors to Eyemouth are spoilt for choice with great offerings from both Mackays and Giacopazzi’s, but further up the coast at St Abbs, Ebbcarrs Cafe have a different speciality: their crab sandwiches are famous throughout the Borders. Enjoy lunch in the light and airy first floor dining area or whilst sitting outside partaking of the sea air and enjoying the sea view. What are you waiting for?
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