Born in the Borders
How a farm steading near Jedburgh is blossoming into a focal point for a regional food and drink in the Scottish Borders
Beyond its utility as a commuter option and a novelty route for trippers, the new Borders Railway is also a big flashing arrow aimed at Central Belters mostly ignorant of what the region to the south has to offer.
Some excellent Borders' food and drink might front up at various stalls on Castle Terrace of an Edinburgh Saturday morning, but there's a good deal more than that happening in situ. Take Born in the Borders, a converted farm steading on the banks of the River Teviot that started life in 2011 as a brewery using barley grown on its surrounding Chesters estate. Alongside there's now also a tasteful gift shop, a farm shop/deli well-stocked with local artisan produce (which here extends, naturally, into northern England) and an assured café which on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings converts into a restaurant dining space with serious intentions.
It's an artful duality only a few places pull off successfully. Solid and smart by day, by night the predominant chic is of rough stone and chunky wood, tree branches entwined in the rafters and lunar globes of light. Dinner can be two or three courses (£25/30) or a six-course tasting menu (£50), the latter an effective, but not over-bearing, showcase of both the local larder and the talents of chef David Malcolm's kitchen.
Served on pottery dishes and as pleasantly paired with beer from the brewery as something from a brief but sparky wine list, pearly white halibut from Eyemouth has some earthy jerusalem artichoke puree alongside, while venison is given rustic richness with some salsify, toasted grains of wheat and roast chestnut.
Elsewhere, rabbit pie with prunes or a granita of clementine, honey and NB Gin confirm this as cooking sophisticated for its setting but by no means out of its depth. Indeed, the thoroughly contemporary blend of unaffectedly sound technique using seasonally inspired ingredients is something many ambitious city kitchens fumble.
BitB are highlighting all this with a Railway package, a local taxi firm completing the final 20 minutes from the railhead at Tweedbank to the restaurant. For an impressive introduction to what's blossoming in the Borders, heed the flashing arrow, jump on a train or simply accept any means of transport you can to get there.
+ Vivid watercress soup flooding around a precisely poached duck egg yolk
- For a city slicker, it will feel remote