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.
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October 25, 2020

The Peebles Hydro restaurant, Scottish Borders, Restaurant Review

A Halloween review of the Peebles Hydro restaurant in the Scottish Borders, should you overlook this place or will it be a shining example of hotel dining?

Autumn's arrival has initiated my dark descent into winter gloom, so as a seasonal antidote I've booked a table at Peebles Hydro to comfort eat my way out of the pre-winter blues.

To me, this hotel has always been a dead ringer for the Overlook Hotel from the Shining. It was a stay at the Stanley Hotel in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado in the 1970s that inspired horror novelist Stephen King to write his novel that Stanley Kubrick then turned into the cult classic film.

The movie starred Jack Nicolson, as a troubled alcoholic with writer's block, who takes an off-season caretaker job with his wife and son in an isolated hotel, what could possibly go wrong?

Cue psychic gifts, and the nightmarish vision and the catchline "Where's Johnny" the thought of which is enough to give me the shivers, so I've volunteered daughter number one to shadow me.

The Hydro, as it is known, has had its own exciting history, originally built in 1881 it burnt down in July 1905 and was rebuilt two years later, designed by architect James Miller of Edinburgh, and during the Second World War, it was turned into a hospital.

When it first opened in 1881, everything from Russian, Turkish, peat, Nauheim, aromatic, medicated, eucalyptus, pine extract, spray, vapour, brine or sulphur treatments were offered: Nowadays as a spa resort, it is all Decléor, treatments with massages galore.

Peebles Hydro
Heritage tomato salad with a scorched rosary goat’s cheese and chilling savoury basil and lime sorbet, and balsamic pearls

Fortunately, the management waved a fond farewell to our mustard poultices and high-pressure jets some time ago. The imposing building perches on the hillside, nestling in its own secluded grounds overlooking the rolling landscape of the Scottish Borders although the treelined driveway at dusk did enhance the spooky atmosphere.

Overlook this place at your peril

We arrived in a torrential downpour which I optimistically took to be a complimentary rainwater treatment. I had booked online so we pitched up at the appointed hour, scanned a QR code, for tracing purposes, put on our masks, and hand sanitised religiously.

As I walked up the entrance stairway, a crowd of masked fluffy robe-wearing types floated along the corridor. I quizzed my daughter about this apparition but she had missed the ghostly sight.

At the reception desk, we were directed to the dining room, along the imposing corridor, which reminded me of the tricycle scene in the film.

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A barometer hung on the wall correctly foretelling the weather, both stormy and Rain. Zikes! as Shaggy in Scoobydoo would say. We were then shown to our table in the main restaurant which is spacious airy, and empty. I couldn't help thinking about what parties, this room must have seen over the years.

Efficient staff informed us that there had been an unfortunate refrigerator incident earlier, so the veal, lamb, and salmon options were off the menu.

However, they took the time to highlight the six rotisserie chicken revolving slowly in the cabinet, thinking of the pet chickens in the garden at home I passed on that offer.

Fright night

Instead, my eldest opted for the bread platter, served with pots of Scottish rapeseed and balsamic dip and butter, just the right amount to tear into shreds before devouring.

However, I selected the traffic light heritage tomato salad, primarily because it was served with a scorched rosary goat’s cheese, and I was after any help to dispel the evil spirits.

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It turns out rosary goats cheese is actually the name of the supplier based near Salisbury. I was taken by surprised by the chilling savoury basil and lime sorbet, with balsamic pearls on my starter.

Dainty tapioca bubble tea orbs filled with balsamic vinegar, dotted around the dish to appear like caviar. Altogether not unpleasant, although I prefer my green tomatoes, hot and fried at the whistle stop cafe.

I was really looking forward to my main course selection, I had selected the spookily sounding pumpkin and sage tortellini, I took it upon myself to rename it in advance as Halloweenie tortellini.

Peebles Hydro
The spookily sounding pumpkin and sage tortellini, I took it upon myself to rename it in advance as Halloweenie tortellini.

I had envisioned homemade pasta stuffed with pumpkin and sage, butternut puree, roast baby squash, tomato reduction but instead, it came adapted in the slightly less glamourous form of four cheese pasta with the same vivid sauces, chunks of courgette, and wilted kale and broccoli with a pile of roasted beetroot spirals on top.

However I wolfed the lot down and washed it all down with a ruby badger beer made here on the premises, well it would have been rude not to sample an onsite ale.

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My carnivorous dining companion had no complaints about her grilled chicken breast, doused in peppercorn cream sauce served with greens and carrot and mash, and singular haggis ball.

For dessert, we devoured both the 1881 Pavilion Pink Hydro Gin flavoured rhubarb crème brûlée, and the cranachan toasted oat cheesecake which was served with a particularly boozy Drambuie cream.

The verdict, a perfectly pleasant meal with not one nightmarish dish, so I might be tempted back, as every evening, the Sun Lounge here transforms into an Asian inspired oasis and provides a colonial taste of Indian but after a quick scan of their menu, I won't be ordering the Bombay cheese on toast.

Peebles Hydro
1881 Pavilion Pink Hydro Gin flavoured rhubarb crème brûlée



Peebles Hydro

(Innerleithen Road, Peebles,
Scottish Borders EH45 8LX)
Tel: 01764 651846,

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A version of this article first appeared on The Scotsman.

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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