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Dine on the wild side on this East Lothian foodie adventure

Glenkinchie Distillery is a must visit.
Glenkinchie Distillery is a must visit.

East Lothian has become somewhat of a foodie haven over the past few years with top restaurants and food and drink producers popping up across the region.

It boasts a wide offering, with plenty for all to enjoy.

From the sea and coast, to the rolling farmland and hills, exploring this part of the world is a feast not just for the eyes.

Carberry Tower Mansion House and Estate is a luxurious, privately owned four-star establishment.

The castle is surrounded by the most stunning grounds, and the drive up to the entrance, lined with trees, is a sight to behold.

Carberry Tower, East Lothian.

It is steeped in history, and we stayed in the Strathmore suite, which although comfortable, was a little dated and lacked the grand appearance of the venue’s exterior.

It boasted a four-poster bed and the view out the front of the house to the lawn was something I enjoyed waking up to.

The Strathmore suite.

The food and drink offering was the complete opposite and was rather modern, in fact.

There were plenty of local drinks firms to sample in the bar, and in the restaurant there was a small but mouth-watering menu filled with a variety of flavours to indulge in.

The first night of our two-night trip included dinner, so we took great pleasure in trying out a range of dishes.

Dining in

Up first was the smoked cheese, spinach and spring onion roulade with caramelised onion and smoked salmon and prawn bruschetta with cream cheese.

Both dishes were rather impressive but the small prawns tossed in garlic stood out.

For mains, and a highlight for me, was the grilled rump of lamb with carrot and horseradish puree, broad beans, spring greens and mashed potato.

The knife glided through the lamb and the veggies were perfectly cooked.

The lamb main with the rib-eye in the background.
The lamb main with the rib-eye in the background.

My boyfriend’s 8oz rib-eye steak was a little over done, past his request of rare, however the peppercorn sauce it came served with and the chips, grilled tomato, mushroom and caramelised onion and rocket made up for it.

To finish, we pushed ourselves to share the iced cranachan parfait. It was delicious and our favourite dish of the night.

Iced cranachan parfait.
Iced cranachan parfait.

During our trip we paid a visit to numerous local businesses dotted across East Lothian, using the hotel as our base.

The Brand Family Farm in East Fortune, North Berwick, was one of our destinations.

Owned by the fourth generation of the Brand family, Jane Brand showed me around her premises, which has grown to become a farm with a farm shop and also boasts two caravan sites.

Jane Brand.
Jane Brand.

The livestock and arable farm slowly rears its own rare breed saddleback pigs and Hampshire Down pedigree sheep, and also has 350 hens.

All of the animals are reared to produce stock for the farm shop and the produce is popular on local restaurant menus.

While the farm shop is small, it stocks more than 750 products and the business employs a team of around 10.

During our visit, Jane prepared us two tagine dishes of her pork and lamb to try, and the quality was outstanding.

This isn’t something that is usually offered to guests or customers, but the touch was very much appreciated.

I purchased a few local goods, including macarons and bon bons, before jetting off back for some rest and relaxation at the hotel.

Pork tagine at The Brand Family Farm.
Pork tagine at The Brand Family Farm.

Another firm we visited was food and drinks innovators Buck and Birch.

Producers of multi-award-winning Scottish spirits, liqueurs and cocktails inspired by the wilderness, the owners are Rupert Waites and Tom Chisholm.

Currently, they boast a wild sipping rum, a birch botanical spirit, a wild elderberry liqueur and a birch syrup caramel liqueur, to name a few.

Inside Buck and Wild's premises.
Inside Buck and Birch’s premises.

Their venue is nestled in the unlikely spot of an industrial estate in Macmerry, but as soon as you step through the door you are steeped in the wild with foraged botanicals, wood and greenery lining the walls.

During the distillery tour, which lasted an hour and a half, we learned about the firm, the methods Rupert and Tom use to create the drinks and also got to sample a few of the products alongside some tasty nibbles Rupert had made.

One of the nibbles I sampled.
One of the nibbles I sampled.

On-site there is also a shop to purchase the products from, so it is definitely worth sampling them when offered.

As an added bonus, the duo took us out to a local woodland to learn about the art of foraging and pointed out key findings to us.

The Aelder liqueur was delicious.
The Aelder liqueur was delicious.

Our last business to visit as part of our expedition around East Lothian was Glenkinchie Distillery, the lowland home of Johnnie Walker.

The state-of-the-art venue has recently undergone a £150 million refurbishment.

Its tours are fully interactive and immersive, and our tour guide for the afternoon was incredibly knowledgeable and humorous.

The Glenkinchie flavour journey tour was filled with stories of the brand’s rich heritage, insight into its field-to-glass process and also included a behind-the-scenes look at multiple areas of the distillery, as well as a flight of three drams and a cocktail to round it all off in the tasting room.

My boyfriend was the designated driver in this instance so I took full advantage, although he did get his drams away in a driver’s pack.

What I loved most about this was that the children on the tour (who were over eight) got their own tasting experience, using soft drinks.

One of the tasting rooms.
One of the tasting rooms.

To finish our trip we took a drive to Musselburgh for dinner on the second night at an Italian called Caprice Restaurant.

The family-run venue was busy and pizzas were flying out of their wood-fire oven.

We had to try them and ended up getting the same one, the calabrese, because we loved the sound of it so much – and after an afternoon of drinking whisky, it was exactly what was needed.

It came with mozzarella, pepperoni, n’duja and fresh chillies, although I swapped the pepperoni for chicken.

The calabrese pizza with chicken.
The calabrese pizza with chicken.

Breakfast at the hotel each morning was enjoyable and there was plenty to choose from.

With a mix of cold and hot options, the cold buffet was filled with cereals, yoghurts, pastries and more, while the hot food was pre-ordered and served to your table.

For those who love to explore and are keen on trying out various different food and drink experiences, a trip to East Lothian is well worth considering.

With a vast variety of food and drink producers to sample, plus restaurants, cafes, hotels and more to dine out in, there’s something to suit all tastes.


Information

Prices of the rooms vary at Carberry Tower and they are subject to availability. As well as staying in the hotel, guests can also book the homes there, too.

Prices in the hotel’s dining restaurant start from £4.50 to £6.50 for starters, £13.50 to £23.50 for mains and £6.50 to £7.95 for desserts.

Buck and Birch distillery tour is priced at £10 per person and you must be 18 to participate. Sessions run from noon to 1pm and 3pm to 4pm every Wednesday and Saturday.

The Glenkinchie flavour journey tour costs £17.50 per person. Other tours are available.


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