As it was Crufts last weekend, I’d like to suggest a new category – Best in Warm Licketty Welcomes.
I reckon Lily the sheepdog would win. She hangs out in the carpark at this working organic farm, not concerned about the potential of someone reversing into her, as long as she gets some TLC and can gently lean on someone’s leg for a while. If anyone tried to rob the organic vegetable shed that adjoins the grocery shop here, she’d probably help them load their basket with pumpkins and celeriac, then wag them on their way.
"The cullen skink crumble was a bear hug in a bowl, and easily the best course"
She’s the boss, though officially Whitmuir farm’s restaurant and cafe is now run by Edinburgh Larder, whose other restaurants are on the capital’s Alva and Blackfriars Streets. These new proprietors seem to make for the perfect fit, as they’re committed to the organic, ethical, locally sourced food ethos that’s been championed by this farm’s owners, Heather Anderson and Pete Ritchie, since they took over in 2000.
Most of what they serve in the eating space, with its wood burning stove and children’s play area, is grown or reared on site.
At lunchtime, as well as sarnies, there is a list of main courses, served from noon. We tried the pair of herby carrot and cumin fritters (£4.95), which had a light chilli bite, with a watery pool of a peppery and clean tasting finely chopped radish and red pepper “raita” on the side. Pleasant enough and unusually juicy, especially as the fritter genre usually involves something that’s as dry as a vulture’s nest.
The cullen skink crumble (£6.95) was more exciting. It was rich and buttery, with lumps of smoked haddock, potato chunks, sweet leeks, and a sandy topping. It was a bear hug in a bowl, and easily the best course. Our minute steak (£7.95), folded onto wedges of beetroot and bathed in a bright green basil pesto, wasn’t bad either. Though, it would’ve been nice to have something potatoey (whisper it...chips) alongside this huge flat sheet of red meat, but I suppose their blood pressure lowering purple root veg felt like a more virtuous twist.
We’d also chosen the roast pork (£7.95) from the Sunday specials board. It looked slightly anaemic and disappointing, but maybe that’s because it was heaped onto the undersized school dinner style plates that they use in here. Anyway, trimmings-wise, it came with chunks of swede, a blob of apple sauce, and some caramelised onions, though none of the bacon hash that was billed, and gravy or sauce of some kind would’ve been nice.
If the mains are slightly restrained, you couldn’t say the same of a cinnamon and marmalade bread and butter pudding (£3.95), a doorstopper of spongy brioche, with veins of spice in its folds, and saturated with bright yellow custard.
Our rice pudding (£3.95) was milky, and topped with wet segments of pear and a squirt of thin toffee sauce. While, blackcurrant vanilla sponge with white chocolate icing (£2.95) from their huge selection of cakes, was OK, with plenty of frosting on top and a layer of purple jam and icing in its middle.
Not bad, but there was something a bit pared back about some of the courses we’d chosen. They were oddly sized and some of our mains could have done with an additional carb. It’s sad that the creamy cullen skink jus couldn’t be mopped up, and the fritters were more of a starter course (maybe the price should have alerted me to that fact). Next time, we’ll navigate the menu differently, and I’ll go for the spiced lamb and pumpkin stovies (£8.75).
Despite the not-quite-there-yet grub, this place is still a destination, thanks to the art gallery and their grocery and produce shop. Not to forget the lovely, if slightly muddy round the haunches, dog that is Lily (aka Best in Show). We’re just getting the Crufts trophy engraved.
The Larder Restaurant at Whitmuir
Lamancha, West Linton
(01968 661 147, www.whitmuirtheorganicplace.co.uk)
Lunch for four, excluding drinks, £38.65