Peace, rest and fantastic food in the Borders
The Lodge at Carfraemill is a family-run hotel in the Scottish borders a mere 21 miles from Edinburgh, situated in the countryside on the A697 at the point where it forks from the A68. The village of Oxton is a short drive or walk away (about a mile) and the nearest town is Lauder a further 4 miles south.
We arrived on a quiet Saturday afternoon (we were told everyone was in Edinburgh watching the rugby game against England!) and were greeted by the friendly staff at the bar (which is also the reception). After a quick check-in we were helped with our bags upstairs to our room.
The bedroom & en-suite bathroom
Our room was first on the right as soon as you reached the first floor. It was spacious, bright & clean with a large bed, plenty of lights (and 3 switches by the bed to control them), 3 chairs, a wardrobe, phone, desk, mirror, flat-screen TV, plenty of in-room information and came supplied with local Brodies tea & coffee, homemade shortbread and bottles of Strathmore still & sparkling water.
On top of our bed were 2 big pillows and 2 cushions each - and a teddy bear which you can buy for £15 with £3 going to Barnardos.
The toilet was bright, clean and spacious too with both a bath and shower unit and included were some Gilchrist & Soames toiletries. We didn't have a bath but the shower worked well.
After relaxing for a few hours we headed down for dinner. There's a choice of areas to eat - the bistro bar, Jo's kitchen, the conservatory, and there are also 2 private dining areas - the Campbell Room on the ground floor and the Gallery upstairs (which also has a real fire). Here's a peak at the Gallery:
But we'd reserved a table in the bistro and were seated right by the roaring fireplace which was roasting - they also have an Aga in Jo's kitchen so the Lodge at Carfraemill is unlikely to ever get cold in winter!
On the wall was interestingly quirky Victorian-style wallpaper, the same design also adorns their main menu, we were handed this as well as their "Taste of the Borders" menu - you can mix and match dishes from both but we decided to eat locally and picked everything from the Borders menu.
It was quiet when we arrived but despite being in the countryside miles between towns it was soon very very busy - England had just beaten Scotland in the Six Nations (again!) and the bistro quickly filled up with people returning from Edinburgh - everyone arriving for dinner seemed to be local so there was quite a bit of chat between staff and diners.
We'd heard good things about the beef dishes at Carfraemill and so we opted for some red wine, a Domaine Santa Duc Les Plans, Vin de Pays du Vaucluse, France at £22.50 a bottle, to accompany our meaty dishes. It was deep red in colour and full of flavour.
Absolutely delicious strips of succulent beef with polenta (such an under-used ingredient in the UK) cubes, peppery rocket and a mild horseradish.
A large fishcake topped with greens in a bisque, which was pleasant and not overpowering. The fishcake tasted of fish - always a good sign! Crisp exterior and creamy centre with haddock chunks. Yum!
A great pheasant to veg ratio - more meat than vegetables! The pheasant rested on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, in a creamy sauce. A good-sized portion and really tasty.
Another huge portion - lively gravy strong sauce. The meat came off the shank easily (as it should). Crispy tatties with fluffy interiors. Divine!
The best Eton Mess ever? It was absolutely huge and filled with fresh fruit, fresh meringue and cream. Exactly everything a good Eton Mess should be!
Double chocolate fudge brownie
It had that lovely just-cooked brownie smell - soft, sweet & gooey with full pecans - I could go this right now. Mmm...
Breakfast at Jo's Kitchen
Breakfast is served in Jo's Kitchen - a bright airy area with cold breakfast buffet area and hot breakfast menu.
There's an eclectic selection of items old and new upon the shelves.
Who let the cat out of the bag?
We were given a warm welcome and seated with some hot coffee not far behind (and toast was soon delivered too)
From the breakfast buffet table...
Home-made oatcakes and honey
Granola and mixed berries
I can confirm that the granola and fruit mixed together was delicious!
Scrambled eggs & salmon
Good quality Scottish salmon and lovely non-watery or rubbery scrambled egg. Served with a lemon wedge.
Sadly they'd run out of potato scone! But they did warn us and offered us an extra sausage or rasher of bacon instead. All items were of good quality and well cooked. The black pudding slice was especially thick & peppery.
The best bit about our stay was the fabulous food, which could not be faulted, there was a great dinner selection spread across 2 menus so we struggled to make our choices. It was great to see a menu favouring local produce and everything we picked from this menu was extremely tasty and well-cooked. At first we were surprised by how busy the restaurants was, yes it was a Saturday night but we were miles from any big towns - so they must have built up an impressive reputation and from our evidence it's well-deserved (all the other diners seemed to be returning customers from what we could tell). Thankfully there were plenty of staff working that night so there were no delays with the food, everything came out quickly and more-importantly hot.
The wine selection was pretty good and if you like beer they have real ale (from the Inveralmond Brewery when we visited) and both male and female toilets were clean.
Jo and Jim Sutherland are the owners and we were surprised to see Jo on waiting duties at both dinner time and the following morning at breakfast but this shows good commitment to the business at busy times.
We had a wonderful peaceful stay, all the staff were great, the food and drinks were great and our room was warm & comfortable. Our only gripe was that the free WIFI was quite slow in the bedroom so perhaps they could do with a signal booster. Also neither of us could get a phone signal (with o2) but that's not the fault of the hotel.
If you like walking ask staff for details and they will direct you on various local walks. We did the walk to nearby Oxton, there's a quiet B-road you can take there and it's only a mile away but sadly the pub (Tower Hotel Bar) was shut when we got there.
We got to/from The Lodge at Carfraemill by using Perryman's buses. The 51 and 52 depart from Edinburgh's St.Andrew's bus station (or South Bridge 5 minutes later if you're connecting from Waverley station) It's £4.70 per person for a single and takes about 70 minutes; the bus stop is on the A68 just opposite the hotel - it's the stop just after the town of Oxton. If you're driving then from Edinburgh city centre it will take about 45 minutes and there's plenty of parking in the car park opposite the hotel too.
The owners also have a villa in Provence, which can be hired - ask staff for details.
For more details visit www.carfraemill.co.uk