A recent visit to The Horseshoe Inn, located in the small village of Eddleston near Peebles, was certainly full of surprises. After driving for 45 minutes from Edinburgh, along dark country roads, we were delighted to finally find our home for the night.
This low-key restaurant didn’t look much from the outside, a small, cosy roadside restaurant, but we were quickly welcomed into the beautiful space by friendly and attentive staff dressed in tweed waistcoats.
We will start by saying this – if you haven’t been, The Horseshoe should be on your list. Our dining experience was incredible, from start to finish.
The tasting menu was presented to us, cooked by head chef, Alistair Craig, and oh, what a tasting menu it was. The dining experience was just that, a real experience – and an unforgettable one at that.
The staff was superb – there is simply no other way to describe them. From the moment we arrived, the team was attentive, knowledgeable and welcoming, but never overbearing – something we often come across and find incredibly irritating.
First of all, we enjoyed a delightful G&T and some delicious beetroot mousse and langoustine crackers in the lounge area – a comfortable space with a roaring fire, a welcome addition on a bitterly cold November night. Gently lit with candles, both the lounge and restaurant areas were elegant, yet had a very relaxed and homely feel to them. Decorated in a traditional and tasteful way, The Horseshoe is certainly no uber modern fine dining experience, but rather a relaxed evening in traditional surroundings, with exquisite food and a glass or two of fantastic wine.
“Ambience and atmosphere are as important to me as food and wine and service. Everything has to combine to make the guest feel relaxed, happy and pleased with what they experience.”
– Mark Slaney
What followed was truly fabulous. Six courses, which miraculously, seemed to improve progressively. Each course left us saddened that it had ended, but eagerly anticipating the next – just as a tasting menu should. The menu as a whole highlighted the bounty of Scotland’s larder.
For the first course, my fellow diner enjoyed scallops, trompettes, Jerusalem artichokes and rice cracker. The delicate, sweet flavour of scallops was balanced beautifully by the earthy taste of the mushrooms while the cracker added necessary texture.
Served so beautifully, I almost felt guilty destroying my carefully crafted first course of poached loin of hare in dried chanterelle powder with celeriac purée, salted celeriac, Autumn chanterelles. However, I soon got past that! Tender and refined, the dish not only looked beautiful but tasted superb and melted in the mouth. It was, without a doubt, the best hare dish that I have ever had the pleasure of eating. (And, what a gorgeous plate!)
Loch Duart Salmon, fennel, liquorice, langoustine oil and creme fraiche followed. Poached and then pan fried. the soft salmon needed the balance of textured fennel, and the creme fraiche cut through the liquorice flavour coursing through the dish.
Next up, a plate of Hay Smoked Venison Carpaccio, Pear, Watercress and English Mustard ice cream was served. The sweetness of the pear alongside the subtle flavours of the smoked venison worked beautifully while the addition of the highly unusual kick of the eggless mustard ice cream brought the dish to another level.
This was paired with a full bodied Pinot Noir, with one hell of a nose and subtle spices.
A succulent loin and belly of suckling pig was to follow – most definitely the course I had been looking forward to most. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. Served with pickled crab apple, the dish was essentially a modern twist on pork and apple, but I have certainly never before tried a dish so perfect. Wafer thin crackling, tender and sweet suckling pig accompanied with tangy crab apple and parsley root was certainly proved to be a winning combination.
To finish, Lapsang souchong, almond cake, chocolate whisky cream, satsuma and prunes. A light, fluffy almond cake was served alongside tangy satsumas which added an orangey tang to a delicious chocolate cream.
Head chef Alistair Craig, who previously worked at the Michelin-starred Montagu Arms in Hampshire, certainly showcased a great deal of talent, although without the pretence that so often accompanies a tasting menu of this kind. However, at The Horseshow, all that show is left at the door. This restaurant is about honest Scottish produce, showcased at its best, served in relaxed and comfortable surroundings. Elegantly presented, each course highlighted the flavours of Scotland’s larder beautifully.
Breakfast the following morning consisted of a selection of homemade granola, Ettrick Valley smoked salmon and the most spectacular black pudding I have ever had eaten.
General Manager, Mark Slanely, sat with us at breakfast and talked us through the plans for the restaurant, and, of course, answered my multitude of questions. With over 30 years experience working in the hospitality industry (at the top end!), it was clear that he had a vision of The Horseshoe being a foodie destination in the UK. With a listing in the Michelin guide and a plethora of rave reviews from critics and customers alike, it seems that the restaurant is well on its way to success.
Mark’s knowledge of wine is boundless, and having sampled the matching wines the previous evening, we soon became aware of how much time had been put into choosing these. Having written Tasting Notes in 2014, Mark has an excellent understanding not only of the wines themselves, but the delicate process of matching wines to bold flavours, in a way that makes the diner feel at ease. This process all too often alienates the customers, the majority of whom may not have such extensive wine knowledge as the expert.
Our room in the converted schoolhouse was very pleasant, and although snug, the bed was certainly incredibly comfortable – a must after a six-course tasting menu.
With an abundance of restaurants in Edinburgh, East Lothian and Fife, the Scottish Borders may not be first on your list for a dining destination. However, we certainly hope that you feel encouraged to make a booking at The Horseshoe – only 45 minutes from Edinburgh, the restaurant with rooms is the ideal weekend getaway.
At £60pp for the tasting menu, £90pp including wine, The Horseshoe is priced very reasonably. Prices and sample menus are available online for your information. Dinner, Bed and Breakfast deals are available for £180 per couple.
With Christmas just around the corner, The Horseshoe is offering a special Christmas break at £900 per couple – inclusive of a three-night stay, champagne reception, two tasting menus, Chrismas lunch, guided walks, hilltop picnic and tutored wine tasting – the ultimate gourmet Christmas!
Christmas Lunch will be served at 1 pm in the Horseshoe Restaurant, and is priced at £70 per person for canapés, 3 courses, coffee and petits fours. An ideal way to have a stress-free Christmas, and if we didn’t already have plans, this is certainly what we would be doing!
The Horseshoe Restaurant with Rooms have introduced a special, late-availability offer of just £25 pp B&B for guests who book dinner at the time of securing their bedroom reservation. With listings in all the major food guides, this affords an opportunity for last minute fine dining, without the need to drive home after dinner. It represents a huge saving on the establishment’s normal accommodation rates, but is only available as a last minute deal.
For dinner guests who live close to the Horseshoe, which is at Eddleston by Peebles, up to £10 per person towards the cost of their taxi fare is offered as an incentive to enjoy some of the hundreds of wines in the Horseshoe cellar.
The Horseshoe Restaurant with Rooms is situated forty-five minutes south of Edinburgh city centre. With STB 4 Star bedrooms it offers a chance to turn a dinner into a mini-break away, with a splash of luxury, at a very affordable price. For people wishing to take advantage of the B&B offer, they must call the restaurant from a Sunday onwards to find out the availability for the week ahead and, providing they dine in the restaurant, they will be able to have an available room for just £25 per person B&B. Should someone wish to take advantage of the taxi offer, they must make it clear on booking their table to ensure that they can be reimbursed accordingly.
Find them: Eddleston, Peebles, Scotland, EH45 8QP
Telephone: 01721 730225