The Roxburghe is famed for its championship golf course; however, the adjacent hotel is equally well favored and is arguably one of the best country house hotels in the South of Scotland. Set amongst the woodlands surrounding the River Tevoit, the estate is only a short jaunt from Kelso in the Scottish Borders – ideally located to take advantage of the area’s extensive fishing and shooting activities.
In recent times dining at the Roxburghe has lost its identity, an abundance of chefs have passed through the kitchen. However, all this promises to change – kitchen operations are now headed up by Neville Merrin, who has recently moved his team from the acclaimed Feversham Arms in Helmsley. Neville was sous chef in a brigade which earned 3 AA rosettes at Feversham, these aspirations are being brought to the Roxburghe by a team who are hungry for success.
Apéritifs are served in the beautifully appointed library (formerly a dining room) where you can peruse an impressive whiskey list whilst sinking into the relaxing armchairs. In addition to the À la carte menu a special Grouse menu was offered to mark the start of the season of this glorious game bird. After a quick chat with Neville, I just had to go for the Grouse – fresh off the estate, they promised to be delicious.
Now to the food. Amuse Bouche was a beautifully firm textured broccoli foam topped with a morsel of mature blue cheese – a perfect match, the intense flavour of broccoli standing up to the strong cheese. The biggest scallops I have ever seen were cooked to perfection and paired with girolles.
Sea Trout Gravlax preceded the Grouse – accompanied by a powerful horseradish cream which was softened by pickled girolles and apple dressing.
The main event – new season Grouse. I felt like a caveman when a whole, perfectly rare Grouse was presented to me to dissect. A rich game jus acted as lubricant and game chips soaked up unbelievably smooth bread sauce. Watercress from the estate garden added a peppery punch and stewed berries gave some acidity. This outshone a similar dish I had at The Kitchin, which failed to deliver the levels of richness Grouse requires.
Saddle of lamb with lentils and fillet of beef with béarnaise sauce were equally as delicious and it was evident all ingredients were treated with the utmost respect.
All of the dishes were beautifully presented, clean and elegant. But nothing quite compared to a dessert of chocolate parfait and cherries. Utterly beautiful, the parfait had the perfect texture – somewhere between ice cream and marshmallows.
Strawberry Consommé had an impressive depth of flavour, if the accompanying cucumber had been a little smaller, it would make the perfect summer dessert.
The attention to detail is impressive, the kitchen team have even gone to the effort of having a custom wax stamp designed for the menus. This attention was slightly undermined by service which, although very friendly and attentive, fell short on a few details: red wine was poured into a glass containing a different red wine. However, this did not detract from the dining experience and was a forgivable mistake.
The kitchen team’s passion for provenance and integrity of ingredients is second to none, it is not often you meet a chef who is truly engrossed in what he is doing. There are restaurants in the Scottish Borders with 2 AA rosettes who do not even come close to producing the quality of food we tasted at the Roxburghe.
It will only be a matter of time before Neville and his team are overwhelmed with awards and accolades. They are certainly trying hard and this will not go unnoticed. The Roxburghe kitchen is now in safe hands and the food befitting of the surroundings.
The Roxburghe Hotel
Dress Code: Smart Casual