Restaurant Review: The Paper Mill, Lasswade (click and collect)
Nellie Bly was a groundbreaking American investigative journalist, in the days before such roles existed.
You might not be familiar with her work, but in 1887 she went the extra mile for her two-part exclusive scoop for the New York World.
In an age before Woodward and Bernstein, she went deep undercover and actually got herself committed to The Women's Lunatic Asylum, Blackwell's Island, all in the name of journalism. Although being sectioned perhaps should be a prerequisite for all budding reporters thinking about embarking on a career in journalism these days.
Nellie, (not her actual name), was recruited by Joseph Pulitzer, of the journalistic prize fame, to boost circulation for one of his newspapers with this sensational exposé.
She managed to rock the crazy woman look quite convincingly and was carted away and committed to the asylum where she was able to experience the awful conditions first-hand. After ten days the asylum released Nellie at the request of the newspaper, a level of trust with an editor I'm not sure I'd be willing to risk. What a gal.
One of her next editorial projects was to recreate the fictional Jules Verne adventure, Around the World in Eighty Days. On November 14, 1889, she boarded a steamer and set off on her around-the-world adventure, taking an overcoat, the clothes she was wearing, her undies and toiletries, plus some banknotes disguised about her person. Circumnavigating the globe took her only 72 days in the end.
I’m not prepared to get myself locked up on the behest of my employer, but I can carry off a crazed woman impersonation with gusto. To mark the anniversary of Nellie’s trip, just prior to the introduction of the Scottish Government coronavirus tier system as a last hurrah I have racked my brains and come up with a plan which I think is a goer. I want to harness some of that same spirit of daring-do for my restaurant reviews as sadly my expense account won't run a global jolly.
The world may no longer be my oyster, due to being slap bang in the middle of a pandemic. but I've decided that I'll attempt my own spin on Jules and Nellie's expeditions by visiting 80 takeaways in Scotland. It may take years, due to the current guidance on non-essential travel, but I'll do my best.
Anyway, following in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg, turned out alright for Michael Palin, he certainly had a jolly good time conversing with the natives. I checked my travel plans with the fella and he's 100 per cent up for carrying my portmanteau in exchange for some nosh.
As a first outing, I'm not going far, just under the wire of my neighbouring region Midlothian, as I'll be Borders-based for the foreseeable. The first port of call is a place overlooking the beautiful River Esk in the tranquil conservation village of Lasswade, Midlothian. The Paper Mill is normally a bustling all-day bar and restaurant, inside there are old type cases pinned to the wall, a memento of its previous industrial heritage.
I placed our order online, which was a pretty painless experience. I agreed without question to lots of conditions, no idea what I signed myself up for, but I lucked out with a ten percent discount on my first order. So with all our stomachs rumbling, we collected the pre-ordered goods in the trusty Kia Picanto, the scent of warm food filling our nostrils.
We unpacked the sharing charcuterie platter first. The eldest, youngest and the bloke scoffed the lot, leaving nothing but crumbs. There was prosciutto, chorizo, salami, smoked Applewood cheddar, diddy pots of olives, sun-blushed tomatoes and the standout favourite of all a pot of sweet bulbous balsamic onions, eminently moreish. We dipped fresh slices of bread into dipping oils flavoured with garlic, truffle and lemon and vinegar to take the edge off our hunger, while we decanted the main courses.
Elder daughter had settled upon a buttermilk chicken burger with guacamole and cajun fries with the addition of bacon. She wasn't entirely enamoured of this dish but his nibs gamely stepped up for the leftovers. Seasoned globe trotter that I am, I opted for the exotic and fragrant sweet potato and lentil dhal with wilted spinach and saffron giant couscous, which made a pleasant change from the usual rice.
Ever predictable, the luggage carrier in my life chose a foil-wrapped Scotch beef burger, which was encased in a brioche bun stuffed with lettuce, tomatoes and gherkins with some extra blue cheese for good measure, burger sauce and a side order of chunky chips. He mumbled something incoherently but nodded appreciatively.
For the finale we all shared the Scottish cheeseboard with oatcakes. Blue Murder, a fromage made by Ruaridh Stone from Highland Fine Cheeses in Tain, which was ivory blue streaked perfection, and the Morangie brie, which tasted, sweet, smooth and creamy. Then the stranger in the house, Applewood cheddar from Ilchester, deep in the heart of Somerset. As it was a fellow traveller, we let that geographic slip-up pass, before we plunged into sticky toffee pudding and butterscotch sauce with vanilla ice cream, which was magnificently fortifying.
I'm not sure where my next takeaway adventure will be but if I can channel any of the indefatigable spirit of Nellie Bly, I won't go far wrong.
The Paper Mill2-4 Westmill Road, Lasswade
EH18 1LX0131-663 1412https://www.thepapermill-lasswade.co.uk/