There’s not much call for millers these days, so David has done the next best thing, and got the plum cooking job in what was formerly a Victorian paper mill. Owned and refurbished by a pair of senior employees at Montpeliers Edinburgh Ltd, this place has been open for six weeks. However, a fortnight after throwing open their doors, they were flooded by the neighbouring River Esk.
“It was up to here,” said a waiter, gesturing to just under his kneecap.
There’s no evidence of this. The 140 cover restaurant is now pristine. Our trio were seated at a mezzanine area at the back. Breakfast looks good, and dinner too, but we ate from the lunch menu. Despite the fact that this place was almost at capacity, service was efficient (they haven’t scrimped on front-of-house staff, hurrah).
A meat-free option – carpaccio of pickled local beetroot (£5.95) – was breezy and elegant. There were six crimson leaves of lightly acidic veg, topped with tissue-thin sheets of radish, and a pair of fried mushrooms in a crispy, golden honeycomb batter. Good, though I would have liked more than three fingertip-sized nibs of home-smoked goats cheese, which I only discovered after a good poke around in a cloud of frisee.
Smoked North Sea salmon (£5.95) featured a large helping of oaky fish. There was lots of detail on the plate, with teensy cubes of red-wine marinated shallots, miniscule croutons and Lilliputian capers, plus a quail’s egg-sized blob of crème fraîche. Texture and interest; various accessories to team with the protein; fine-dining for Sylvanian Families. Like.
Our farmhouse terrine (£5.95) was a treat too, with a slab of pork and sage loaf that had a papyrus-white chicken heart. It was encircled by bits of stewed pears and raisins, for contrast. On the side – a nebulous-looking block of slightly over-toasted sourdough (it really needed butter, which we asked for, and swiftly got).
The best of our mains was probably the simplest option. Scrabster haddock (£8.95) was fishy soul food. It consisted of a cheddar and butter-glazed fillet of melty, smoky haddie, a bank of chive-flecked mash and a perfect poached egg. Easy peasy loveliness.
Crispy confit duck leg (£7.95) was soft and bronze-skinned – no stringiness here. It came with a mixture of neat brunoise carrots, garden peas and haricot beans, plus a burly hunk of chorizo. I kind of craved something else – a sweetness, or tartness – on the plate, but it was satisfying enough.
We thought the local shellfish ravioli (£8.95) were more like dim sum, with a minced and dense fishy mixture bulging out of two pasta parcels, each like The Incredible Hulk in a bodycon frock. These were dunked into a rich and sweet, rust-coloured langoustine bisque. This was a small portion, but it was intensely flavoursome.
Desserts include crowd pleasers such as sticky toffee pudding (£4.95), but we shared more sophisticated options – Laphroaig and Scottish heather honey parfait (£4.95) and the poached meringue (£4.95). The latter was a feathery ile flottante, topped by crumbs of praline, in a moat of cold, vanilla custard. Joy.
When it came to our other dessert – a pale creamy tower – the single malt’s TCP-esque note prevented the honey ingredient from being too cloying. It came with a handful of summery berries that were more than purely decorative.
The Paper Mill is pretty impressive.
It seems like a bunch of savvy business people have designed a restaurant, and ticked all the appropriate boxes, including the one marked Get a Good Chef In.
Well done David Millar, according to the rules of nominative determinism, you’ve found your calling (one day, I just might be in men’s fashion).
• The Paper Mill, 2-4 Westmill Road, Lasswade (0131-663 1412, www.thepapermill-lasswade.com)
How much? Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £58.55