Emerald Street editor Kat Poole retreats from the real world at a new Scottish gastronomic bolthole from Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin and his wife Michaela
When the weather outside is frightful, the last thing you want to do is book a mini-break somewhere even colder, right? Wrong, as I discovered during one recent, very chilly weekend in Scotland.
The mini-break destination in question was Gullane, a picturesque town (if that picture was a patchwork of bright sky, bottle-green sea and soft sand) on the southern shore of the Forth of Firth in East Lothian. From January to March, the temperatures rarely reach 5°C and the winds are bracing – but it’s also irresistibly beautiful. No wonder, then, that Michelin-starred Scottish chef Tom Kitchin and his wife and business partner Michaela chose here to set up The Bonnie Badger, their first restaurant with rooms.
If you are travelling from outside Scotland, the quickest route is a flight to Edinburgh followed by a taxi to the hotel, which takes about 40 minutes. In these parts, even the roadside scenery is breathtaking, and it’s worth asking your driver to take the scenic route for a four-wheel tour that passes farms, historic buildings, golf clubs (this is Muirfield territory), and Prestonpans, a coastal village lined with storytelling murals.
Gullane itself is a quiet and almost quaint village – the caveat being that amidst the pretty buildings and well-kept greens sits The Bonnie Badger. A village hotel has been situated here since 1836, but this incarnation is no regular country inn; the whole place has been restored into a perfect hybrid of homely modernity and high-spec tech. Our room, Goose Green (all 14 rooms are named after local spots) was at the top of the building, a heavenly meeting of plush white sheets and textured, grey marle touches.
Every bedroom has Sky TV, but when there’s a view of Gullane Bents beach from your en suite window there’s really no competition. We obligingly walked the 10 minutes to this stunning stretch lined with sand dunes (take boots or wellies, trainers won’t cut it if the weather’s wretched), where you can either stroll the length of the water or take one of the wending paths, which pop with the bright, burnt orange of sea buckthorn.
My advice: work up an appetite walking because the main attraction at The Bonnie Badger is the food. Kitchin and his team have created something of a gastronomic super tour, with everything from the afternoon tea (freshly baked Nordic cake – a delight) to the cocktails (we sipped our Apple Crumbles in the botanically inspired Green Room) served with care and attention.
But it’s the hotel’s restaurant, The Stables, where the magic really happens. Food is served under a double-height ceiling that exposes the building’s original beams, with a huge fireplace and simple, pared-back table settings. Everything on the menu is a celebration of Kitchin’s ‘nature to plate’ food philosophy, from the fresh, zingy Loch Fyne oysters to the lamb that had come straight from local neighbours at the Brand Family Farm.
The culinary excellence doesn’t stop there. For breakfast, we were treated to a wooden board towering with homemade pastries, rye bread, smoked salmon, Jarlsberg and charcuterie, plus yoghurt with seeds and rhubarb compote. And so we headed home with full stomachs, warm cheeks and truly not a care for the weather.
Rooms at The Bonnie Badger start from £195 bed and breakfast; bonniebadger.com
Images: The Bonnie Badger, Kat Poole