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
  • 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.
May 23, 2021

The Traquair Arms, Innerleithen, Restaurant Review

Cat Thomson heads to the Scottish Borders for lunch at The Traquair Arms Innerleithen and to raise a glass in celebration of lockdown easing.

It can be said that Scotland has a pretty unhealthy relationship with drink, and that it is firmly ingrained within our nation’s culture.

It is funny that growing up in Scotland in the 1980s, drinking outdoors was certainly not something to be aspired to, however these days we are now a bit more cosmopolitan.

On the sauce

Post lockdown easing has meant that having a wee swally outdoors with a meal has become quite the thing.

While the latest tranche of regulation relaxations means we can now enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two inside pubs and restaurants can serve up until 22:30pm, except in Glasgow and Moray for the moment.

Traquair Arms, Innerleithen
Traquair Arms, Innerleithen

However, I have heard that in Gallus Glasgow, the prohibition measures might have been, shall we say, circumvented in one or two establishments. 

I have heard tales of coffee cups, nudge nudge, wink wink, taps the side of the nose conspiratorially, that might have been filled with champagne, in celebration of a wedding anniversary.

I have no reason to doubt the veracity of my source, and knowing Glaswegians I don’t believe it will be an isolated incident.

Border country

However I’m still not ready for long distance travel in a westerly direction yet, so instead I’m hitting downtown Innerleithen, in the Scottish Borders, for ‘a wee bevvy indoors with ma denner’ instead.

I’ve booked by phone for lunch at the historic Traquair Arms, and I cannae wait.

All day I catch myself humming the wee tune from dancing man Guinness advert in the 1990s. Catchline: Good things come to those who wait.

Half pint of Stewarts
A drink inside at last!

My elder daughter has been persuaded to be my designated driver, so I can enjoy an alcoholic beverage.

Result, so it turns out there are advantages to having teenagers who drive after all.

We pitch up at the appointed hour and write our contact details on the form by the door, before we are escorted to our table in the stylish restaurant.

We had the pick of the seats in both the bar and restaurant and we chose a light and airy window seat.

Word Up

Then the waiter arrives and utters the phrase, I have been longing to hear, ’What would you like to drink?’

How long have I waited for this moment?

It is music to my ears, and this little drink will taste like a small victory against Covid.

However, now I’m completely in a dither, what to order? Whisky, gin, champagne, vodka or should I just go for an Ice cold in Alex moment, and order four cold Carlsberg lagers?

In the end I just wimp out with a half pint of draft Stewart’s beer (£1.95) my excuse it was a Monday and the sun was barely over the yardarm.

Traquair Arms, Innerleithen
Breadboard selection with olives and herb dipping oil

After perusing the menu further, we order a couple of starters.

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Bread and Butter

First a bread board with marinated olives and herb oil (£5) which we shared, it arrives delivered with a flourish, on a slate with toasted chunks of loaf.

We rip the slices apart and dip them in basil infused loveliness before devouring them hungrily.

I confess a minor complaint, is that I prefer my bread untoasted.

Fortunately our olive-skewering skills are on point and we manage to impale them all without incident.

We also shared the starter portion of crispy fried polenta chunks (£6) which were brought to the table wading in spiced red pepper sauce with sliced radish and pea shoot salad.

Traquair Arms, Innerleithen
Fried polenta chunks red pepper sauce with sliced radish and pea shoot salad

As payment for driving here, my daughter decides on a main course of Traquair Arms steak and ale pie (£12.50) as she’s a big fan of the dish.

It is served with a munro-sized portion of spring onion mash and lashings of sautéed green cabbage, mangetout and green beans.

The meaty filling, contained within a crisp pastry shell was tasty, and definitely hits the pie spot, or high spot.

I opted for homemade gnocchi, pan roasted with lemon juice along with tender stem broccoli, with nuggets of broken toasted walnuts and blue cheese (£12.50) which was comforting, warming and delicious.

Or perhaps I am describing the ale I have almost finished.

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Music to my ears

Traquair Arms, Innerleithen

The music in here is an uplifting medley of classics. These included Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, and you will be glad to hear that as I’d only had one drink I refrained from busting out my moves. 

Next was Sugar, Sugar by The Archies which was timed to perfection as we made our dessert choices.

The chauffeur in the party went for waffles mixed with fresh berries and a substantial dollop of clotted cream (£5).

Sweet success

In allegiance with the good folks of the west I had to order the chef’s special of the day which was Irn Bru cheesecake (£6).

Thankfully it was not as bad as the nightmarish vision I had expected it to be.

Instead it was an elegant dessert with a jellied day glo layer on top of a panna cotta style filling and a crunchy biscuit base.

Traquair Arms Irn Bru dessert
Irn Bru cheesecake from Traquair Arms

I drained the last of my glass in commiseration with the people in Moray and Glasgow, who I wish may soon have happier times ahead, but this simple pleasure had filled my heart with optimism for the future.


The Traquair Arms
Traquair Road
EH44 6PD

Tel: 01896 830229

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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.
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