A lot of hard work and a growing reputation for top-end dining has made Alan and Julie reid’s boutique hotel dream a reality
words Tim Siddons - images Angus Blackburn
Ten years ago Windlestraw Lodge in Walkerburn in the Borders was a delapidated, semi-derelict eyesore. An annexe of the Edwardian mansion and former shooting hotel had burned down and the interior of the main house was a garish Eighties nightmare. The place was in serious need of renovation and refurbishment.
Enter Alan Reid and his wife Julie, Borderers from Chirnside who had worked in a number of successful hotels and restaurants and were looking for a small hotel and restaurant they could practically run by themselves, that could also be their home. They saw Windlestraw as the project of a life- time and once they had ripped up the mouldering carpets to reveal the original oak flooring below, they knew they had made the right decision.
Since then the couple have worked tirelessly to restore Windlestraw back to its former glory. The oak panelling and ornate cornicing has been restored and the building has become a boutique hotel that is popular with both the fishermen who visit the Upper Tweed every year and visitors from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle looking for a special few days in the countryside.
Its rural location in the gorgeous Tweed Valley near the popular town of Peebles, and its five sumptuous bedrooms are undoubtedly part of Windlestraw's attraction, but so is the restaurant. Indeed, Alan's skill in the kitchen has become a big draw for locals; his menus contain the finest Borders beef, lamb, veal, shellfish and organic vegetables.
Reid also serves game that he has shot himself, which is somewhat fitting at Windlestraw. Back in its days as a shooting hotel, guests would often bring back their day's bounty to be prepared and cooked by the chef. And whilst change is important, and often necessary, like the old house itself, some things are definitely worth keeping alive.
2 plump woodpigeon, plucked and cleaned with skin left on
25g butter & a little olive oil
4 slices Stornoway black pudding
4 slices pancetta
300ml chicken stock 25ml port
1 shallot, chopped
1 sprig lemon thyme
half clove of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 dessertspoon balsamic vinegar half teaspoon dark brown sugar
Method: Place all the sauce ingredients in a pan and simmer gently until reduced by about half.
While the sauce is reducing, season the pigeons and gently seal in the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the butter and baste the birds with it and the oil. Once golden, place in a hot oven for seven minutes.
Take out and allow to rest for at least five minutes, then remove the skin from the birds and carefully take the 4 breasts from the carcasses. Add the bones and any juices to the sauce. Bring this back up to the boil for a few minutes, then strain into a clean pan. Whisk in 25g of butter and check the seasoning.
Put the black pudding and pancetta on a tray in a hot oven until the pancetta is crisp. Remove and place on kitchen paper to dry.
When you are ready to eat, place a slice of black pudding in the centre of each serving plate and pour a little of the jus around it. Cut each breast into three and arrange on top and garnish with the crisp pancetta and chives.
1 whole boned-out loin of Tweed Valley roe deer, trimmed and cut into 4 equal portions
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
16 crushed juniper berries
2 strips orange zest
450ml good red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon bramble jelly
50g unsalted butter
root vegetables (parsnip, carrot, turnip, potato)
Method: Place the shallot, garlic, thyme, juniper, orange zest and red wine in a bowl. Place the fillets in this marinade and leave for four hours.
Make a stock by roasting the venison bones and trimmings for 30 minutes in a hot oven, and then simmering these and the vegetable trimmings in 2 pints of water for two hours. Strain and return the liquid to a clean pan.
Lift the fillets out of the marinade and add the liquid to the strained stock, along with the bramble jelly. Place over the heat and allow to reduce by half. Strain again, then whisk in the butter a little at a time. This is your sauce.
Peel and trim the vegetables. If you have a parisienne scoop, use it to cut out little balls of veg, otherwise cut them into neat, same-sized chunks. Toss in a little seasoned butter and oil and gently roast in the oven.
When the vegetables are almost ready, sear the seasoned venison fillets on a heavy griddle pan, then place these on a tray in a hot oven for approx 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of the loin. Place a little butter on each fillet and set aside to rest for five minutes. Serve rare. Place the sliced venison in the centre of the hot plate, pour the sauce around the meat and garnish with the vegetables.
Alan Reid Gleneagles Hotel 1971 hot Grand Marnier soufflé
70g plain flour 530ml milk
5 eggs, separated 70g castor sugar 25ml Grand Marnier zest of 1 orange
Method: Over a gentle heat, make a roux with the butter and flour, then add the milk a little at a time, beating well as you do so.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and add to the sauce, beating in well, then add the liqueur and the orange zest.
Whisk the egg whites until very stiff peaks form. Beat a little of the whites into the mixture to slacken it off, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
Butter and sugar four ramekins. Pour the mixture into these and smooth the tops with a palette knife. Run a knife point around the edges to help the soufflés rise evenly.
Bake in the oven (preheated to 180 to 200°C) until golden brown. Serve with a dollop of Grand Marnier-infused whipped cream.
WIth thanks to the Scottish Field Magazine
Feel free to view the original version as it appeared in the Scottish FIeld here in PDF format