A BORDERS restaurant is now officially one of the very best in Scotland, having been awarded its third AA Rosette.
John and Sylvia Matthews have run Windlestraw, in Walkerburn, since 2015.
But now their restaurant has hit new heights, its latest gong putting it among the top one per cent of restaurants in the country.
The third rosette was awarded in recognition of the work of chef Stuart Waterston.
Mr Matthews hopes the acclaim will help put the Borders on the map as a “luxury destination”.
“The Borders is seen as an outdoor destination,” he said.
“People would find us [Windlestraw] by accident, be surprised by us, and then come back.
“I think people come to the Borders with low expectations.”
But Mr Matthews believes the region is already making strides – and he think Windlestraw’s third rosette provides a great opportunity for the whole of the Borders.
He said: “The ripple effect is already happening. When we first came here we spoke to Business Scotland about coming up with an accreditation scheme.
“Someone coming to Scotland or the Borders for fine dining wouldn’t know where to go because there’s no fine dining benchmark in Scotland.
“So we joined the AA and started to go for rosettes.
“Now, Cringletie House Hotel has two rosettes and a restaurant in Jedburgh has one rosette. It’s enormous news for the region.
“I’m completely passionate about the area – I can see the potential.”
Now, having achieved three rosettes, is Windlestraw planning on achieving a fourth?
No – and with good reason.
Mr Matthews explained that in order to achieve a fourth rosette, he would have to double his prices and his staff.
He added: “Our ambition is to retain our three rosettes. To retain them is a big achievement.”
Across the UK there are 43 restaurants with a four rosette rating – only one of those is in Scotland.
“We want to respect the people who got us here,” Mr Matthews said.
But the hoteliers are keen to point out that this achievement wouldn’t have been possible without their chef.
“We are delighted that chef Stuart Waterston’s talent, hard work and exceptional cuisine, long appreciated locally, has now been recognised on the national stage,” said Mr and Mrs Matthews.
“We use locally sourced produce and locally sourced staff,” Mr Matthews added.
“We love being able to take on local staff – we’d much rather that than look elsewhere.”
Before moving to Walkerburn, Mr and Mrs Matthews had lived in Dubai. And when they were looking for a home close to Edinburgh they came across Ballantyne House, now Windlestraw, and fell in love.
“It’s a beautiful property,” Mr Matthews said. “We saw potential in the house and knew we could take it further.
“The house drew us in, then we got to know the area. The area is beautiful.
“Everyone always goes to the Highlands and I don’t know why. The Borders has so much to offer.”
He added: “We need to take the quality of Edinburgh restaurants and bring it to the Borders.
“We need to believe in ourselves more.”
The latest AA Rosette award winners were announced on Tuesday.