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Historic Scottish castle hires award-winning chef

Fancy having your meals cooked by an award-winning chef whilst staying in your own castle? Well Borthwick Castle is offering just that with their appointment of Derek Johnstone.

Published: June 2, 2017
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Celebrate in complete luxury with a stay at Borthwick Castle, which now includes bespoke meals by celebrated chef Derek Johnstone.

Derek won Masterchef the Professionals in 2008 before joining Michel Roux Jnr at Le Gavroche Restaurant. He then went on to become the Sous Chef at the Brasserie Roux in the 5* Sofitel Hotel in London, Head Chef at Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux.

He moved in 2014 to focus on relaunching The Golf Inn, where, as Chef Proprietor, Johnstone transformed the 1830s-built country inn into a boutique restaurant-with-rooms, where the quality of Scottish produce and cooking was very much to the fore before joining Borthwick earlier this year.

chef Borthwick

Picture: Derek Johnstone, contributed

Built in 1430, Borthwick Castle is one of the last inhabited keep-style castles in Scotland. Having undergone a complete, multimillion pound renovation, which started in 2013 and was completed in 2015, the castle is now a luxury destination that is available to rent exclusively for any type of event.


Picture: the State Room

Melanie Brown of Design Direction was in charge of the interiors but it is Derek who now calls the kitchen at the Castle home.

With a passion for Scottish produce, plans for an exclusive dinner club and the ability to create bespoke menus for events in the Castle, Derek's appointment was a key aspect to developing the luxurious selling point of Borthwick, whose guests are encouraged to treat the place as their own private Castle.

Speaking about the Castle and what he hopes to achieve here, Derek says: “I am proud to head up the first kitchen team at Borthwick Castle since its extraordinary transformation. At the heart of everything we do is showcasing the depth and breadth of the finest Scottish flavours. I am looking forward to collaborating with our guests, whether a wedding party, family gathering or corporate retreat, to deliver truly memorable moments at the table.”

Picture: an example of Derek's menu

He continues: "We try and work with the best local suppliers to get the best but it can be challenging especially when the weather isn’t great and therefore makes certain produce scarce or unavailable. But we do work with local suppliers to get what we need as the fundamental thing that we want is locally sourced produce."

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“Becoming self sustainable is also something that we want to achieve especially with the walled garden space that we have in the grounds. I had my own garden at Greywall; we had chickens, herbs, bees...and foxes that used to come in and terrorise everyone”, Derek laughs. "One of the perks of being a chef is having or being able to grow your own produce."

“My passion is to showcase Scottish produce, suppliers and talent but I’ll never say no to working with international ingredients like Champagne but I’d love to showcase the best of Scotland as for me that’s what it’s all about especially as I am proudly Scottish. All the things that Scotland is known for such as single malts, the best game etc are why people come to Scotland to stay in a castle like Borthwick.”

Derek also hopes to introduce a quarterly dinner club, in which guests can experience the Castle without having to book a stay.

“The dinner club will be about getting a group of people who are interested in food and want to experience the Castle by spending an evening here, and eat amazing food. There will be a completely different menu each time, catering for about 20-30 people so it’ll be an intimate event. We are thinking of basing it around the seasons and pair with beverages”

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If Derek's menus don't tempt guests (though we aren't sure why they wouldn't), they can also look forward to high end furnishings, from hand-carved beds to antique mirrors and hidden mod cons, thanks to Melanie's attention to detail with the interior design. Fully stocked gin and whisky cabinets and attentive and knowledgeable bar and waiting staff are also available during a stay at the Castle.

Picture: Borthwick Castle Grand Hall dressed for dinner

Borthwick Castle, believed to be the finest keep in Europe, offers a remarkable exclusive hire destination just 12 miles from Edinburgh. The historic fortress offers ten bedchambers in the keep and an additional two-bedroom cottage. Whilst the top floor Garrison is ideal for wedding celebrations, The State Room and The Great Hall both provide family gatherings and corporate events with deluxe surroundings.

Picture: the Mary Queen of Scots suite with hand-carved bed

The history of the Castle is a royal affair as Mary Queen of Scots stayed at the castle with the sixth Lord Borthwick on many occasions. She and her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, sought sanctuary there when they learned Scottish nobles planned to capture them in 1567.

A thousand men surrounded the castle, but the Queen escaped through a window in the Great Hall dressed as a pageboy.

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A decadent, spacious Suite is named for Mary Queen of Scots in what was her bedroom. The hand carved bed is a replica of her own, and the room boasts the same luxurious comforts and attention to detail as the rest of the Castle.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind writes for The Scotsman on all things food and drink related as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.

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