Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
September 6, 2020

Provender, Melrose, Restaurant Review

Stepping out in style to Melrose in the Scottish Borders, where Catriona Thomson enjoys a Bib Gourmand meal at Provender.

I feel like a tortoise that has been hiding inside its shell; my movements have been limited by Covid-19 restrictions for so long I’m now terrified to venture outwith my local bubble.

However, with the cautious series of steps being announced by the Scottish government, I sense the time has come to put on a brave face and actually review a restaurant.

As a fan of horror movies, I am aware that this decision will be fraught with hidden dangers. The genre rule is simple, if you leave the safety of the house you don’t usually make it back in one piece.

For a first excursion I’ve plumped for the genteel town of Melrose. I’m giddy with excitement, like a debutante at Queen Charlotte’s Ball.

However, you’ll be relieved to learn that I decided a formal gown might be a bit much. Instead, I plan to curtsey to all I meet – I did mention that Melrose is a bit posh.

In order to mitigate any food disasters, I’ve booked a table at a Bib Gourmand awarded establishment, Provender. This place was one of only three Scottish restaurants to join the latest list.

Although not a star, nine Scottish businesses are deemed by the Michelin folks to make Bib grade, which delivers good quality and good value; three courses must be available for £30 or less.

Provender is also providing takeaway for those corona cautious types but luckily for us, they have recently reopened for booked reservations.

Marinated heritage tomato and compressed watermelon salad, feta cheese and sweet and sour candied jalapeño dressing

When we arrived, we spot the shiny red Bib sign proudly displayed outside, plus functional signage saying you are entering a 1 metre zone, so you do so at your own risk.

We were shown to our table, by a be-visored front of house member of staff. Our table was right in front of the kitchen, so I had a perfect vantage point to peer in. Reassuringly, I could see the chefs working away, keeping two metres apart.

The Spanish Butcher, Glasgow, review - meat feast in atmospheric city centre restaurant

The fella checks out the bathroom which he says is practically doused in sanitiser. “No virus will be able to stick to anything in here,” he said as he slid back into his seat.

I agree as the menu has also had a thoroughly good wipe, but we enjoy deciding what to order and dutifully fill in our contact details for tracing purposes.

A big plus for coming here is that Provender are big supporters of local businesses and Scottish produce.

I opt for a starter of marinated heritage tomato and compressed watermelon salad, feta cheese and sweet and sour candied jalapeño dressing. I shovel forkfuls of refreshing moist watermelon into my mouth, which are balanced perfectly by tangy sharp tomatoes and the killer sweet jalapeño jelly.

This flavour combination is a winner for me, especially when accompanied by miniature feta cubettes, a sprinkling of dill fronds and edible sweet pea blooms. I’ll be prematurely deadheading my sweet pea flowers directly into my salad from now on.

Duthchas, Edinburgh, review - the new Leith restaurant from the Purslane team

Ham hock and black pudding croquettes, with Berwickshire pea and mint velouté


The fella chooses the crispy ham hock and black pudding croquettes, which arrived paddling in a sea of Berwickshire pea and mint velouté, and was garnished to perfection with swirls, leaves and blooms. His nibs’ only complaint? There wasn’t a slice of bread to mop up the last drops. I only just managed to stop him before he licked the plate.

His main course arrived: a hearty plateful of Perthshire venison haunch, salt-baked baby beetroots and baby carrots, piled alongside parsnip mash.

The highlight and the taste sensation of the plate was the port and blackcurrant gravy which was declared a triumph.

I had opted for pan-fried herb gnocchi, which were as soft as the plumpest pillow. Their innards were squishy with the tiniest hint of Bowland estate baby leeks and Strathdon blue cheese.

Island cafe with stunning views to team up with Michelin-recommended Edinburgh restaurant for one-off supper club

Pan-fried herb gnocchi, sprouting broccoli and chard with seasonal broad beans and peas and a scattering of new season Scottish girolles

Wilted sprouting broccoli and chard joined the merry throng on the plate along with seasonal broad beans and peas and a scattering of new season Scottish girolles mixed alongside tiny button mushrooms.

The Border berries trifle arrived in a decadent martini glass, topped by an eiderdown layer of cream and a scoop of sorbet, with a soupçon of custard underneath.

Sadly, I couldn’t detect the delicate elderflower notes I was looking for. However plunging into the depths of the glass, the champagne jelly cubettes and cherry and berry double bill at the bottom, more than made up for it.

Whilst across the table the fella was delighted with his mysterious dark chocolate fondant pudding served with a quenelle of chocolate ice cream and crunchy hazelnut praline.

We got home safely, and I’m so glad we ventured out to support a local business. If you are still nervous, just be brave and book.


(West End House, High Street, Melrose, TD6 9RU)
Tel: 01896 820 3191,



The Old Bakehouse, West Linton, Restaurant Review

A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers – and consequently the revenue we receive – we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit to sign up.

Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.
Copyright ©2024 National World Publishing Ltd
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crosschevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram