‘FUNCTIONING as an emergency cake and coffee pit stop’, our writer Gaby Soutar was bowled over by the quality of the bistro food at Broughton’s Laurel Bank Tea Room near Biggar
Lunch for three, excluding drinks,
DUE to bay’s history of being associated with victory and success, it has been used as a powerful herb in many prosperity and money rituals. “As you create this recipe, think about the success you want to bring to your life and all the good money can do for you” (The Faerie’s Guide to Green Magick from the Garden by Jamie Wood).This is followed by instructions on how to create Prosperity Soup, with ingredients including bay (aka laurel) leaves.
I need some of this, as my faeries and I are all poor as newly bankrupt church mice. Our lottery tickets go un-won, and if we had two pennies, we’d be spending them on bills rather than rubbing them together. Maybe some laurel leaf magick will work on me, I thought, when I visited this tea room, which, according to Tripadvisor, is #1 of one restaurant in Broughton. Praise indeed.
It also functions as an emergency cake and coffee pit stop.
Evidence: a contingent of luminous jacketed cyclists drinking flat whites and eating sugary slabs, with their curly horned steeds parked (unlocked, as this is the countryside) outside.
For longer stop-offs, there are also more substantial bistro dishes, courtesy of the clever people from Osso in Peebles, who took over this place at the end of last summer.
As well as burgers and fish and chips, the menu also features goodies like pork nuggets (£6), which is a title that totally undersells. We’d braced ourselves for a KFC-style goujon affair.
Instead, there were two large cubes of oozy pork belly in a russet crispy crumb, with a zesty gremolata dip on the side and an artful salad of oiled pink-edged petals of sliced radish and various herbs and cressy sprigs.
All served on a slate, not in a cardboard bucket with a bearded Colonel Sanders on it.
The Tunisian dish, chakchouka (£6), which sounds a bit like a Haka if you shout it then stick your tongue out, was a vibrant chilli and cumin scented ramekin full of stewed peppers, onion and tomato, with a soft poached egg on top. The cyclists should have ordered this soul food dish, as it was perfect to defrost those frozen of finger, nose and other extremities.
My main of slow cooked harissa lamb neck (£11) featured a huge block of spiced and gelatinously soft meat. It came with a pile of feathery yellow couscous, which was dotted with peppers, and moisturised by a puddle of minty yoghurt.
We’d also ordered two specials – duck confit (£13.50) and sea bass (£14.50). That variety of fish is ridiculously ubiquitous on menus (the big bands of the sea will currently be heavy on the brass section and low on the strings). However, its accompaniments were a bit more exciting than the norm.
There were three thickly encrusted hula-hoops of batter, with soft centres of lovely squid, and, on the side, a scoop of piquant and roughly textured nut and pepper romesco sauce, as well as some blanched spinach and lots of crushed potato. Great.
Our duck option was elegantly presented rustic fare. It featured a cassoulet of white beans in a spring onion and red pepper sauce, with a confit leg on the top and a hubcap of fleshy and dappled pink and white Morteau sausage.
A pudding of chocolate brownie (£5.50) was sticky and runny inside, with a pleasingly cracked surface like crazy paving, served with a generous topping of condensed milk ice-cream. Meanwhile, the chocolate mousse (£5.50) consisted of a kilner jar filled quarter-way with yolky textured caramel, then a layer of frothy chocolate. On the top: chunks of cinder toffee and hand puffed (as opposed to Flumps out of a bag) baby pink marshmallows.
Lovely, and all reasonably priced considering the quality. Which means, tonight, the faeries can afford to eat something other than prosperity soup.
Laurel Bank Tea Room
(01899 830 462, www.laurelbanktearoom.co.uk)