Golf is not really my bag, so to speak. I can’t seem to get excited about our iconic sporting game.
None the less, I’ve made an exception to try the Caddy Mann, which is handily close to a driving range if you do fancy hitting a small round ball between courses.
I’m guessing from the name that the red sandstone cottage building was originally where the caddies hung out. I’ve brought along my elder daughter, just in case there is any club carrying required.
The kitchen is looked after by Ross Horrocks, an award-winning chef formerly of the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire and the Roxburghe Hotel near Kelso, while his wife Lynne takes care of front of house. They showcase seasonal ingredients sourced from surrounding farms and local suppliers.
As puritanical vegetarian folk, we could have our pick from soufflé, Indian vegetarian haggis pakora, mixed bean chilli, cheese croquettes, lasagne, crêpes, fake fish and chips or veggie burger, with most available as either a starter or main.
Don’t be misled by my simplified descriptions, however – this is proper cheffing, skilfully and artfully executed.
After much deliberation, we opt for a starter of fried arancini di riso. The red pepper risotto balls are well seasoned and stuffed with oozing Isle of Mull Brie, which runs out like a pyroclastic flow when the volcanically hot crisp case is broken. They sit paddling in a simply delicious tomato sauce, garnished with a roasted tomato and basil.
I luck out with my warm puffed pastry tartlet, served with spoonfuls of sweet caramelised red onions, and dotted with melted chunks of Cumbrian smoked hootenanny goat’s cheese. While dissecting the tower I find roasted almonds in a leek-based sauce, completed with pea-shoots waving their delicate tendrils. There are no small portions here, which might go some way to explaining the popularity of the place.
Given the scale of our starters, my daughter is now slightly daunted by the thought of her chosen main – “The big pudding!” This is a suet pudding filled with flavoursome slow-cooked soy mince with onions and peas. It arrives smothered in a rich red wine gravy which has been garnished with rosemary.
I opt for the dainty in comparison stacked aubergine schnitzel, interspersed with layers of vegetable with Lockerbie cheddar, which has been piled on top of mushrooms and a vegetarian haggis patty, served with peppercorn cream sauce.
Both dishes come with an ample serving of seasonal vegetables, cheese sauce potatoes, cauliflower florets and a mountain of swede mash with two whole roasted carrots. My advice would be to arrive hungry with no plans to eat for the rest of the day or possibly the entire week.
Meat eaters would be in heaven here too and the most popular dish appears to be roast beef. A sly look over at a neighbouring plate counts eight slices of the finest Borders beef, and you can order extra portions of muckle Yorkshire puds and garden or mushy peas or onion rings. The gentle murmuring of happy diners is the audio here.
There is a cracking selection of the finest produce on the menu, including Berwickshire scallops, Shetland moules marinière, Borders Roe Deer, wild rabbit confit with smoked partridge, lamb from a local Lauder farmer slow baked for 18 hours, pork cheek with wild boar, and hare from the Duke of Northumberland’s Estate all making an appearance.
An advance online squint at the menu means my fella has his heart set on a takeaway portion of pan fried fricassée squirrel balls complete with rumbledethumps. I confess I am disappointed for him that it isn’t available, but equally delighted that Tufty has outwitted the huntsman again.
There is a nasty case of the yips, with dessert dithering taking place. We eventually choose two scoops of home-made strawberry ice cream, all natural, no preservatives, just dairy delight topped with strawberry halves and a paper doily under the sundae glass.
Sorbets are also available. I select the magnificent raspberry and white chocolate bread and butter pudding served in a mug accompanied by a jug of pouring custard.
My quandary, like selecting the best club for the shot, is how to tackle the pud? Dip a spoonful in the custard jug or eat half and then pour? I bet Rory McIlroy, doesn’t have to cope with this kind of pressure on the circuit.
The verdict from all of us is that it has been well worth the jaunt to the Borders, as the food is excellent – indeed golfer or not, you’d have to go a fairway to find better.