Scotsman Review
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  • 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
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Ambiance
8/10
Food
7/10
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0%
May 6, 2023

Charlie's, SCHLOSS Roxburghe, Kelso - does this hotel restaurant get the royal seal of approval?

This five-star hotel is offering a bistro-style menu

I thought about doing a Coronation-related review.

Perhaps I could sample one of the themed afternoon teas that my email inbox keeps Spamming me about.

However, I’m not really into bunting, cupcakes, quiche or toasting the king.

Even though I decided to ignore the whole affair, here I am, at Charlie’s. Those cheeky royals have hacked into my subconscious mind.

Still, this new restaurant, offering ‘Scottish bistronomy’, doesn’t pay tribute to THAT Charles. It could be Bonnie Prince Charlie, since he popped by the historic house estate back when it was known as Sunlaws. Or most likely, it’s been named after the 11th Duke of Roxburghe - resident at the nearby Floors Castle.

His family once owned this impressive 19th-century building, now a five-star Destination by Hyatt.

Although the hotel has just launched this bistro, the jewel in their crown will be their fine-dining Sunlaws restaurant, which is due to open soon-ish.

Charlie’s is in their smart new Estate House extension, which has an atrium feel. You can look out to the garden and watch the heads of swimmers bobbing past in their spa’s steamy outdoor pool.

Their menu features bistro favourites, with a focus on Scottish produce. They’re calling it bistronomy, which makes it sound fancier than it is.

The grub is relatively casual, but pricey. Not Koh-i-noor level, but definitely more than cubic zirconium.

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A case in point was the Small Plate of haggis Scotch egg (£15.50). It’s not like this bollard was a particularly gussied up version of the humble treat. However, it was pleasant, with a thin outer strata of meat and a light crispy coating of russet crumb, centre of soft-yolked egg and a sharp ‘whisky and apple broon sauce’ on the side.

While my footman polished off that expensive snack, I tried the less pub-grubby dish of whisky-cured salmon (£16.50), which consisted of two satisfyingly gummy and thick strips of fish with an ombre tinge of the amber nectar along their edges. They came with an oily mixture of julienned apple sticks, fennel, radish and a feathery plume of dill, like the ostrich feather in an 18th-century aristocrat’s hat. I wanted some more acid in that crunchy mix, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Since I’m feeling a bit anaemic, I thought I’d give the iron tablets a break with the potentially restorative main course of roast haunch of roe deer (£33.50), but it was a bit overdone to quench my blood lust. The strips of broon meat were sloshed in a Ronseal glossy and heavily reduced ‘Kerr’s Gin and thyme jus’, though those notes were pretty indetectable. There were also leaves of cavolo nero, and wedges of golden and purple beetroot.

Our other main dish was the monkfish (£30) - also a bit too fibrous and extremely salty, though we enjoyed the cider, leeks and baby onions in the creamy sauce.

They say to order a couple of sides each, which seems excessive, so we shared the tenderstem broccoli (£4), with its almond butter and crumbled nuts. These were good, but the roasted carrots, garlic and thyme (£4) weren’t having their finest moments, since a few were calcified, and they were a bit cold and squishy overall.

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Thankfully, there was redemption, with the pudding of dark chocolate delice (£13.50). It featured a smooth matchbox of ganache, with halved cherries and cherry gel, for the full Black Forest experience, though without the mountains and cuckoo clocks. This also came with a pale green and icy pistachio gelato, crumbled cacao nibs and nuts, plus a crispy tuille.

I suppose it’s obligatory to have a sticky toffee pudding (£12) on any hotel restaurant menu, and this was a decent one. We had a smallish cube of airy sponge that was saturated by a moat of mega sweet and buttery toffee sauce, topped by four sugary pecans and accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

That’s a decent ending, but I’m not sure if I’m totally sold on this place’s brand of bistronomy.

The food isn’t bad, but there should be a bit more polish for your buck.

Queen Gaby is not ready to give her royal seal of approval

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Scotch egg

SCHLOSS Roxburghe

Heiton

Kelso

(01573 450 331, www.schlosshotel-roxburghe.com)

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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