Whitekirk Hill is East Lothian's new 'lifestyle hub', review - does the food measure up to the facilities?

There's lots to do at this destination, but we try their casual restaurant

I’ve always thought there should be soft play centres for adults.

It’d work a bit like primal scream therapy, and would be a great ice-breaking day out with colleagues you haven’t seen since lockdown.

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First, you’d imbibe sugar, then you could bounce a few hollow and brightly coloured balls off other people’s heads, scream as you go face first down the bumpy slide, slip a disc on the climbing nets, then have a little cry before napping in a padded tunnel. Very therapeutic.

Whitekirk Hill

There’s a popular Play Barn at this ‘lifestyle hub’ destination, which opened before lockdown. It’s not the primary coloured melted Skittles migraine that you might expect, but more Scandi design house, all muted tones, gentle pops of yellow and blue and some judicious Mork & Mindy rainbow stripes.

Anyway, grown-ups aren’t allowed a shot (boo), though this destination also boasts other attractions that aren’t just for kids. There are some new luxury holiday lodges and, in the main body of the warehouse-like building, a gorgeous Spa, and casual dining restaurant, The Orangery, with a new outdoor area, The Walled Terrace. These two spaces share a menu, which sounds a little MOR, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My mind has never been blown by haggis bon-bons or soup of the day, but that doesn’t mean it’ll never happen. I’m open to possibilities.

However, instead of those, we tried the starter of chicken liver pate (£7.50), which featured a moussey scoop of smooth meatiness, as well as two palm-sized pieces of wafer thin crostini and a rather watery beetroot chutney. This dish pushed all the right salty, sweet and earthy buttons, though we would’ve liked a bit more bread. This problem isn’t unique to this place. Nobody ever gets the ratio right. It’s like mixing too much grout when you’re doing the bathroom tiles.

My chicken satay skewers (£7) consisted of three yoghurt marinated pieces of pale yellow and mouse-sized soft poultry lollipops, peanut and frisee salad, a wedge of lime and another thin condiment, this time a pleasantly tangy satay one. However, as I couldn’t fit my skewers in the small ramekin, the chicken had to be basted, as if I was washing giant babies in the sink. I also tried the Whitekirk Bliss (£5.95) mocktail, which was like a tingly and sophisticated take on Um Bungo, with a blend of passionfruit, orange juice, lime, grenadine and soda.

Pate

We could have done kedgeree, croque monsieur or burgers for main courses, but instead I went for the warm lamb salad (£13.95). Annoyingly, they’d gone a bit full on with the rocket for my liking, since it hadn’t even been billed. It’s a bit like going to a film, when nobody tells you that The Hoff is its love interest. Maybe they’re a bit embarrassed about it. Apart from all that shrubbery, I enjoyed the medley of warm shredded lamb, red onion, black sesame seeds, small chunks of feta, red pepper and an opaque lemon dressing.

We also tried the roast duck breast, pumpkin and spinach (£17.50), which came with a pool of jammy port and raspberry jus, with a bit of orange in there too. The sou'wester yellow risotto had good bite, and was topped by toasted planks of pumpkin. It was a fruity and sweet plateful.

They’ve got three desserts on the menu - sticky toffee pudding, vanilla panna cotta and chocolate cheesecake.

However, the cake counter had been directly in our eyeline throughout our visit, and we'd been seduced by a couple of under cloche items.

Chicken satay

We took away a four-tier caramel cake (£4) and a slice of New York cheesecake (£4). Both hit the spot. The sandy hued sponge was layered and topped with thick buttercream and Biscoff crumbs, and the cheesecake was not-too-sweet, with a snow white topping and biscuity base.

The food may not be terribly exciting, but The Orangery is not really about destination dining. Rather, it’s hearty serviceable grub and generous portions for those who’ve been walking nearby, using the spa or staying in the lodges.

We were well fed, though the perfect ending would've been a postprandial nap in a Play Barn tunnel before getting back in the car.

Sadly, it seems that grown-ups aren't allowed ANY fun.

Whitekirk

(01820 671 700, www.whitekirkhill.co.uk)

The Verdict

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £53.95

Food 7/10

Ambience 7/10

14/20

Places to try Nearby

The Grange Restaurant & Steakhouse, 35 High Street, North Berwick (01620 893 344, www.grangenorthberwick.co.uk)

We’ve heard good things about this restaurant’s Bass Rock Burger, which contains black pudding, haggis, bacon, onion rings, cheddar and mozzarella. They're also known for their steaks, platters, hot dogs and sundaes.

The Watchman Hotel and Restaurant, East Links Road, Gullane (01620 842 299, www.watchmanhotel.co.uk)

The menu looks pretty impressive at this new hotel and restaurant. As well as hearty comfort food staples, they do dishes like confit duck leg with potato and truffle slice and sweetheart cabbage. There’s sticky toffee pudding, as well as honey and poppy seed souffle.

Bostock Bakery, 42 High Street, North Berwick (01620 895 5515, www.bostockbakery.co.uk)

If you’re all about the pastry over Christmas, then keep an eye on this bakery’s social accounts. It’s about to share its Festive order form, so you can bag some goodies to collect from here (or the East Linton branch) on Christmas Eve.

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