Coltman's Delicatessen and Kitchen 71-73 High Street, Peebles (01721 720405, www.coltmans.co.uk) How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £37.85
SCONE? Sandwich? Can't I have the soup?" My mum doesn't always get the restaurant reviewing thing. She needs to understand that there are strict rules. After all, nobody wants to read about the time that you had a lovely slice of buttered toast accompanied by a cup of tea, do they? Sometimes – actually, make that most of the time – I would love to order the fish and chips or a big juicy steak. But this is forbidden. Too boring, you see.
Still, the takeaway sarnies do look tempting at four-month-old Coltman's Delicatessen and Kitchen in Peebles, as do the colourful salads and tarts, which are displayed in a chiller cabinet in the cafe area at the front of this building.
Towards the rear of the space – which used to be WJ Whitie bookseller, but is now owned by Kenny Coltman, former head chef at the Caledonian Hilton – there's a large bistro area, with Timorous Beasties thistle-print wallpaper and dark wood furniture. We sat right at the back, with a view out to the River Tweed, as well as what looked like Mr McGregor's ramshackle garden (will someone please harvest the forest of rhubarb that's out there, or I will?).
Once I'd steered my mother away from the club sandwich (9.95), she settled on the smoked haddock risotto (9.95), from a choice of seven main courses, while I chose the grilled lamb's liver (11.95) and we decided to share the prosciutto and shaved fennel (6.95) from their list of five salad options. Unfortunately, my dining partner's choice was a little bit disappointing, as the arborio rice was far too wet.
"I could have done with a spoon," she said, as her forkful of this soupy mixture dripped back into the bowl.
Still, what it lacked in texture, it made up for in decent flavour, thanks to plenty of nut-coloured flaked haddock, blanched spinach, trimmings of parsley and a poached egg.
Fine, and mum managed to polish off the whole rice puddingy caboodle.
My option was also a bit watery, thanks to a ladleful of thin, meaty jus which made the smooth mash turn instantly blobby and disperse. Still, the main element – a generous helping of iron-tasting livers – was good and soft (if slightly stringy in parts). This was perched on top of a thick blanket of Ayrshire bacon, which was rather pale and blubbery. However, the whole dish was lifted by a stickily sweet blob of ruby-hued caramelised onion compote.
Not bad. Unfortunately, I wasn't that thrilled by our side dish. The salads in the deli section had looked vibrant and imaginative, but this option was perfunctory. It consisted of a mixture of rocket, endive and bouncy lollo rosso leaves, shaved fennel and a couple of strips of crisp prosciutto on the top. There was no detectable dressing, seasoning, bells or whistles. I suppose I shouldn't have expected more than was billed, but one lives in hope of a chefly flourish or two.
Pudding was much better. Mum went for the elegantly presented chocolate mousse (4.50), which was a four-inch-high tower of frothy, bubbly and milky sweetness, topped and tailed with discs of dark chocolate. It came with fat raspberries and blackberries, an arty smear of ganache and a tart, orangey cream.
My wedge of canary yellow lemon tart (4.50) featured a sandy biscuit base, with a mouth-coatingly curdy citrus topping. According to the menu it was supposed to come with marmalade ice-cream. Instead, there was a scoop of a vanilla-flecked, honey-flavoured glace that would do any bumblebee proud.
Good desserts. However, after checking out the food in their more casual section of this place, I couldn't help but think I should've listened to mum's advice, and had a sandwich for lunch. I'm pretty sure that you wouldn't have found this very interesting to read about. Still, as the main dishes in this place seem to need a little refinement, I might have had a better lunch.