A GUIDE TO THE SCOTTISH BORDERS -
Four years ago we left Trinidad in the warm Caribbean, and migrated to Scotland to the Border area of Eildon, Walter Scott (of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy fame) lived here. Its a beautiful area, varying from soft rolling hills with hidden valleys, to rough moorland high up and bleak. Its quiet and calm here and we love it.
This blog will be my diary of our adventures and our recommendations of places to visit and eat and explore.
At the back of one of the best small malls in Edinburgh, the Ocean Terminal is the hiding place of the old Royal Yacht Brittania. This is one of the best tourist places in Edinburgh and worth a visit if only to see the bed that Prince Charles put in especially for his honey moon with Diana. Despite all the press about Camilla, a battleaxe if there ever was one, he must have loved Diana then as apparently putting the double bed in broke all the protocols of the Royals at sea where single beds were the norm. They have done a great job of allowing visitors access to every aspect of the ship from the state rooms with a magnificent 66 seat dining area, to the more intimate part of the royal sea journeys where Prince Phillip put his feet up and drank his gin and tonic. The Royal bedrooms (the only place in Britain where one can see where they slept) shows a lovely understated elegance and the whole family area is a joy in showing a "normal" family at play away from the pomp.
For the engineering minds the ships engines and equipment did over 1m sea miles without fault and are scrupulous. Apparently General Macarthur on being shown the engineroom said "OK that pretty now wheres the real engines".
What a lovely surprise to find a Botanic Gardens as good as Kew hidden in the heart of Edinburgh. My wife and I lived in the tropics and we were amazed that in the big glass houses one can actually smell the same smell as our back garden at home in Trinidad. We loved it, hours of pleasure, lovely orchids and palms and very nice clean conditions. The plant people have done an excellent job, leafy glades, waterfalls, pools, it is a great day out. They have two tearooms, both with outdoor sections and some pretty walks. Its all free other than the tropical plant areas which must cost a lot anyway to maintain.
My wife and I and some friends had lunch today at The Kitchin owned by Tom and Michaela Kitchen located by the water in Leith. It was an outstanding lunch and rates as one of the great culinary experiences of my life. I say that as someone who used to be a regular at La Gavroche and Waterside Inn at Bray, when the original Roux brother ran them. Once in a while one come upon an original talent and this restaurant exemplifies all that is right with British cooking.
Starter like a langoustine ravioli, ox tongue with fresh asparagus, main dishes like a two pork special, one piece a slow cooked shoulder that melted in the mouth and the other a crispy belly with wilted lettuce, calves liver, poached trout, tell you something of the dishes but leave out the perfect cooking, the exquisite sauces that matched to perfection, and the delightful juxtaposition of flavors, taking ones palate to a new level.
Its not cheap, but it is the finest quality, and if you want that then don't look at the bill, feel the taste! My wife and I will tell the world about this place and we will become regular patrons.
We have tried many restaurants in the Borders and North England and have uniformly been disappointed with the quality of the food offered. Last week we went to the Victoria Hotel in Bamburgh which is two rosettes and had frozen oven chips with our meal. Today I spoke to an old friend who has been doing contract work as a cover chef with several supposedly top class hotels and Restaurants in the area and his feedback is that hotels cut costs, have poor quality staff with little training and that profit has overtaken quality to the point that poor food is served.
Its a shame. For years Britain was the poor food destination of Europe, until the Roux brothers began to change it all in the 1970's. For a while, maybe 20 years, things improved, but I think that quality is again suffering. I am not sure of the reason, is it that customers hesitate to spend, or is it that hotels and restaurants are hurting?