Ancrum pub joining AA’s elite

The Ancrum Cross Keys in Ancrum has won two AA rosettes. Part of Born in the Borders. Chef David Malcolm.
The Ancrum Cross Keys in Ancrum has won two AA rosettes. Part of Born in the Borders. Chef David Malcolm.

A Borders pub has become only the fourth establishment in the region to be awarded two rosettes under the prestigious AA grading scheme.

It means the Cross Keys at Ancrum joins such illustrious eateries as Edinburgh’s Timberyard, Ondine and Martin Wishart’s The Honours.

The owner of the Cross Keys, John Henderson, said the rosettes are a fitting tribute to the hard work put in by his chef, David Malcolm, and the rest of the team at the Ancrum establishment, to renovate the property and build up its trade in time to celebrate its 200th anniversary last year – the unannounced visit by AA inspectors took place in 2014.

“Last year was also the year which saw us appear in the Michelin Guide for the first time as well,” a delighted Mr Henderson, who also owns the nearby Scottish Borders Brewery, told The Southern this week.

The Cross Keys has enjoyed rave reviews for its food, thanks to Mr Malcolm, a former chef at Michelin-starred London restaurants such as The Greenhouse in Mayfair and Gordon Ramsay’s La Noisette in Sloane Street, where the Australian was head chef.

Mr Henderson took over the Ancrum pub – one of the region’s oldest – in the summer of 2012, with the aim of turning the two-centuries-old establishment into a Mecca for real ale enthusiasts.

His “plough-to-pint” microbrewery, based at his 1,800-acre Chesters Estate, was set up four years ago and supplies beer for the Cross Keys, among other well-known local watering holes.

Mr Henderson told The Southern that it had been a huge effort by all those involved to get the pub to the stage it is at now, with a growing reputation for great food and beer, but at value-for-money prices affordable for families.

“It has been a fairly steep curve getting up to this level this quickly, but all that is down to the hard work of David and the rest of the team here at the Cross Keys, who have all worked incredibly hard to get the Cross Keys to the standard it is now,” he explained.

Mr Malcolm, who is assisted in the Cross Keys kitchen primarily by chef Robert Hume, from Chirnside, says the emphasis on doing something a little bit different to what is found on menus elsewhere in the area seems to be paying dividends.

“People certainly seem to like what we’re producing and the aim is to build on that, and these awards, and keep growing and developing what we are doing,” he told The Southern.

“Such awards are definitely worthwhile as they allow you to do a bit of self-promotion and generate useful publicity, and it’s always nice to get the feedback and perspective of someone else.

“People seem really happy with what we are producing and we will keep on aiming to use the best of Borders ingredients and progressing.”