Not every restaurant can boast dinner on a barge, so its canal-side location is a big part of the charm of The Bridge Inn at Ratho.Â The other, less obvious, selling point is around 300 yards downstream – its very own walled garden, so you can be sure that some of the vegetables in front of you were picked hours earlier. Now that really is what you call field to fork.
The Bridge Inn is possibly the only restaurant in Scotland which employs a full time gardener. Charlie manages a 12-month planting, growing and picking programme and works with Head Chef, Ben, to ensure the freshest, in-season produce goes into the dishes.
The restaurant even has its own Saddleback pigs which graze happily outdoors, until they also become part of the menu, and chickens and ducks produce eggs for breakfast for those staying over in one of the four rooms.
For this review, we sat in the airy restaurant which has 90 covers and a perfect view of the Union Canal. There is an outdoor terrace and seating area, but as summer hadnâ€™t yet arrived we were happy to watch the rain dribble down the windows from inside.
As a starter, I selected sautÃ©ed mushrooms with pine nuts and almonds. I love all those ingredients and the dish fully lived up to my expectations.
My partner devoured butter seared scallops, carrot and stem ginger purÑe, Stornoway black pudding, smoked bacon and pan glaze. He loved it.
For main course, I ordered the rolled pork loin, braised belly, toasted oats & walnuts, crispy black pudding and early asparagus, thinking â€œitâ€™s got to be special if it comes from happy pigsâ€. It was a work of art with three columns of pork loin, topped with lumps of braised belly with a long, thin strip of crackling laid along the top. It was divine. Melt-in-the-mouth pork, succulent asparagus and crackling to take me back to my childhood.
My partner swithered before choosing Ardgay venison loin, crispy haunch boudin, spring cabbage, clotted cream mash and tawny port jus. Veg was not included so we ordered new potatoes and buttery market vegetables on the side, which came in two charming plant pots, reinforcing the market garden approach.
My partner chomped through the dish making those noises which say â€œthis is deliciousâ€ without actually using words. Afterwards, he confirmed that it was delicious, however the haunch boudin (basically a fancy sausage) was well over-seasoned, and thatâ€™s coming from someone who is keen on seasoning. He said it was as if it had been seasoned twice.
By this time, we were reaching capacity so we shared a dessert â€“ lemon posset, topped with fruit compote and served with generous amounts of shortbread. It was so good it started a small pudding spoon skirmish and was finished in a flash.
Owners Graham and Rachel Bucknall have transformed The Bridge Inn from a very average pub with food into something really special. The whitewashed interiors and excellent staff (who really knew the menu) made The Bridge Inn a great place to dine.
Itâ€™s easy to see why it has won multiple awards since they took over in 2010, including an AA Rosette, and AA Pub of the Year in Scotland and TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
An outdoor eating area where BBQs are regularly fired up and the childrenâ€™s outdoor play area make this a great place to eat for families and dog walkers alike, and there is a bike rack for those who arrive on two wheels.
However you get there â€“ on foot, bike, boat, kayak, bus or car, itâ€™s worth getting out of town to experience The Bridge Innâ€™s many charms.
The Bridge Inn, 27 Baird Road, Ratho, EH28 8RA. Tel: 0131 333 1320