Food and drink highlights of the Scottish Borders
The best producers, hotels, cafes and farmers' markets
1 Cuddy Bridge, Peebles, EH45 8HX, 01721 721662, cocoablack.co.uk
Mon–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat 9.30am–5.30pm; Sun 11am–4.30pm
By her own admission, Ruth Hinks has the best job in the world. ‘I get to mess about with chocolate all day,’ she says. ‘Can you think of anything better?’ Her enthusiasm comes in handy at her Chocolate and Pastry School in Peebles. Behind the child-like joy there’s a solid 20 years in the industry: a former Australian Pastry Chef of the Year and Culinary Olympics winner, Ruth’s no stranger to Michelin-starred kitchens. The school attracts all levels from kids and keen home cooks to professionals. Cocoa Black also sell their luxury, hand-made chocolates by post and recently opened a shop in Peebles selling chocolates, coffee, patisserie and ice-cream.
The Courtyard, Kailzie Gardens, B7062 east of Peebles, EH45 9HT
07522 424596, www.cuddybridgeapplejuice.co.uk Open for informal tastings most afternoons, or when staff are around.
All Graham Stoddart’s apples are hand-picked and hand-pressed into two versions of the juice: sweet or sharp depending on the apples available. From its beginnings in a small room in Innerleithen, the client list has burgeoned since bottling began in 2009 with local delis, cafés and restaurants in and around the Borders remaining loyal throughout, while top-name Edinburgh restaurants and shops including Harvey Nichols have joined the demand. Stoddart puts his success down to the purity of the juice: ‘That’s its saving grace – there are no additives whatsoever, no sugar, no water, just pure unadulterated natural apple juice.’ And sweet – or occasionally sharp – it is too.
Rutherford Farm, A699 west of Kelso, TD5 8NP
07801 069819, www.borderberries.co.uk Mon–Fri 10am–7pm (July to mid August)
A third-generation fruit farm owned by Harriet and Alistair Busby, growing fields of strawberries, raspberries, red and blackcurrants, tayberries and gooseberries in season, when families can pick their own, and enjoy fresh baking at the Tutti Frutti Café. ‘The Scottish soft fruit industry is a great success story,’ says Alistair. ‘A strawberry is never sweeter than just picked, and we sell all our fruit locally now.’ Harriet adds: ‘Pick-you-own is thriving in the area. Borderers are a berry picking people – they make jam whatever the weather.’ It all makes for a fun day out: ‘It’s healthy eating, and not expensive,’ she adds. ‘Kids all go home with something.’
Lanton Mill, Chesters Estate, Ancrum, near Jedburgh, TD8 6UL
The Scottish Borders Brewery is Scotland’s only plough-to-pint microbrewery, creating cask ales using malting barley home-grown on owner John Henderson’s farm and water from the land’s own artesian spring. The brewery’s two current cask ales, the 4% Game Bird amber ale and 3.8% classic pale ale, Foxy Blonde, are currently found in around 100 bars in the Borders and Edinburgh. To keep food miles to a minimum, the brewery at present only delivers casks to pubs within a 75-mile radius. John filled his first cask in February 2011, yet already he is confident of the future: ‘Our ability to claim true local provenance in conjunction with great tasting products is helping us gain a rapid foothold in the real ale market.’
Whitmuir Farm, Lamancha, West Linton, EH46 7BB
01968 661908, www.whitmuirorganics.co.uk
Mon–Fri 10am–6pm; Sat/Sun 10am–5pm
Pete Ritchie and Heather Anderson’s mixed farm north-west of Peebles now has one of Scotland’s best-stocked organic farm shops with over 30 seasonal home-grown vegetables alongside herbs, fruit and farm-reared beef, pork, lamb, chicken and turkey. Their food hall has over 250 lines from cotton baby clothes to cosmetics. Alongside is a café-restaurant with a menu rich in farm-produced ingredients with an impressive range of daily specials; open daily, they also run an evening menu once a month. ‘We want to change the way people think about food,’ explains Anderson. And they are succeeding too: Whitmuir won the Best Organic Retailer at the UK Natural and Organic Awards 2011.
Gordon, TD3 6LQ. 01573 410797, www.hardiesmill.co.uk
Robin and Allison Tuke’s 482-acre farm near Kelso is home to a herd of pure-bred Aberdeen Angus cattle. Their beef has been served on the Orient Express and in No.10 Downing Street, and exhibited at the Bocuse d’Or 2011: the ‘culinary Olympics’ in Lyon. Using seam cutting, their butchery produces the largest range of steaks in Scotland – including onglet, feather, flat-iron and carbonade. Chefs, farmers and foodies from across Britain come to their ‘10 Steak Experience’, a farm tour, demo and tasting. Hardiesmill beef, as well as products from their Tombuie Smokehouse including a new speciality, wafer-thin ‘wisps’ of smoked lamb, can be purchased online or a small shop on the farm, as well as at farmers’ markets.
Tweed Valley, Walkerburn, EH43 6AA
01896 870636, www.windlestraw.co.uk
Food served: Mon–Sun 6.30pm–8.30pm
Alan and Julie Reid’s secluded country house hotel by the banks of the Tweed near Innerleithen has six guest bedrooms and a dining room that makes more effort than most to show off the produce of the surrounding region, with fish from Eyemouth, organic rose veal from Peelham Farm and garden rhubarb. The fixed-price evening menu includes home-made ravioli, woodpigeon, guinea fowl and local roe deer, which is served with pearl barley, mushroom and red wine risotto.
Carfraemill, Lauder, TD2 6RA. 01578 750750, www.carfraemill.co.uk
Food served: Sun–Thu 7am–9pm; Fri/Sat 7am–10pm
Run by Jim and Jo Sutherland – a farmer and former home economics teacher – the restaurant and hotel prides itself on showcasing local produce. Their butcher attends the market in St Boswells every week, while their fish comes from Eyemouth. Farm cheeses and veg arrive from a slew of local suppliers, while lamb from their own farm completes the picture. Jim became famous in the late 1990s for his backing of beef on the bone following the BSE crisis, publicly flouting the ban and calling for people to make their own choice. Says Jo of their enterprise: ‘I think there’s a great momentum right now for Borders produce: it’s nice to be part of that.’
Farmers’ markets in the Scottish Borders
Eastgate car park, second Sat of each month, 9.30am-1.30pm
Town Centre, third Fri of each month, 9am-2pm
Market Square, fourth Sat of each month, 9.30am-1.30pm
Borders producers can also be found at the farmers’ markets in
Castle Terrace, every Sat, 9am-2pm
Court Street, last Sat of each month, 9am-1pm
Henry Travers Studio, Maltings Art Centre, last Sat of each month, 10am-1.30pm