Catriona Thomson visits The Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells to hunt down a bite to eat for her latest restaurant review.

I expect that you’d be delighted if your business won an award, cue lots of shouting from the rooftops.

However, imagine the disappointment if all this excitement happened during lockdown, when it was closed and you couldn’t make the most of the publicity.

This is exactly what happened to the Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells, near Melrose. They were virtually awarded Community Hotel of the Year 2020.

However, the owners are made of stern stuff and can weather any storm, not to mention a global pandemic.

The place is run by Billy Hamilton and his wife Rachael, who also happens to be an MSP.

They have modernised the Buccleuch Arms while preserving the heritage of the hotel.

It was named after the land-owning family, Buccleuch, who built it in 1836 – tugs at forelock with due deference.

In 1819, Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, aged 13, became the 5th Duke of Buccleuch when his father died unexpectedly in Lisbon (how dashed inconvenient).

He was the second-born son but his older brother, had died at the age of 10 from measles.

The 5th Duke went on to marry the daughter of the Marquess of Bath in 1829 and they lived at Dalkeith House.

The Duke was a keen huntsman and ran a pack of hounds but he also had a lodge at Eildon near Melrose and decided in 1836 that it would be a good idea to build some more kennels.

So The Buccleuch Arms came to be built, to accommodate his aristocratic fox-hunting chums.

Interior of the Blue Coo bistro.

The sporty 5th Duke also played in a couple of first-class cricket matches for Marylebone Cricket Club, so he would be cock-a-hoop to learn that the St Boswells Cricket Club is now based adjacent to the inn on the village green.

Today the red sandstone building is open to all and they are delighted to let oiks like myself and the fella through the door.

All we had to do was phone to book and hand over our essential contact tracing phone numbers in exchange for a table at the Blue Coo bistro.

On our arrival we were shown to our table and had the simple rules of engagement explained to us.

After ordering you collect your cooked goods from a serving table and sashay back to your seat to devour the grub, before depositing the dirty dishes on another different table.

Comprende, so far so good.

The interior had a stripped back contemporary look but we were pleased to see local producers featuring on the menu.

For our starters his nibs chose chicken and roe venison paté served with a miniature pot of red onion marmalade and triangular oatcakes.

It came in a plastic tub which meant he could take the uneaten portion for his lunch the next day. Result.

We shared a dish of fresh mixed olives, taking it in turns to attempt to skewer the brine-soaked emerald globes.

I then opted for a portion of vegetable crudités with garlic aioli in which to dunk them. They arrived in a mini bucket and I cleared up apart from a sorry looking final lettuce leaf.

After noshing our starters, I volunteered to stroll across the room to deposit the empties.

You’ve got to get your daily step count in somewhere, and in my case, every little helps.

On depositing the dishes I spied an unusual statement glass bottle chandelier; I told the fella to check it out on the next dish run.

For mains, the fella, who is nothing if not predictable, selected the smoking coo burger.

It featured a Hardiesmill Aberdeen Angus patty, with smoked bacon and cheese.

Piled on top were lashings of coleslaw, tomato, lettuce, red onion and chipotle sauce, all stuffed inside a brioche bun.

The burger was accompanied by fries and washed down with a perfect pint of Guinness.

The fella declared it to be lip-smackingly good; it must have been, I only had to point out the errant chipotle sauce on his chops twice.

Griddled halloumi salad

I enjoyed my griddled halloumi salad immensely. It came with chargrilled red peppers and asparagus stalks, plus romaine lettuce doused in cheek-tighteningly sweet balsamic vinegar dressing.

The fella took his turn on the dish run and I enquired whether he’d seen the light. He wasn’t as enamoured as I had been but he did chuckle.

To end our meal we shared a springy sticky toffee pudding, which was swimming in a lagoon of toffee sauce served with a scoop of our favourite Doddington ice cream.

We were both bowled over by our bistro dinner and suggest you get ahead of the pack and hunt this place out. Tally ho and toodle pip.

Buccleuch Arms

(The Green, St Boswells, Melrose TD6 0EW)
Tel: 01835 822 243, Buccleucharms.com

 

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Buccleuch Arms, St Boswells, Melrose, Restaurant Review
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About The Author

Catriona Thomson

Catriona picture edits The Scotsman magazine and Scotland On Sunday, aswell as reviewing restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writing for Scotsman Food and Drink.

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