Capon Tree celebrates top French restaurant award

Ashley and Alasdair Wilkie, Capon Tree Townhouse, French Restaurant of the Year 2019
Ashley and Alasdair Wilkie, Capon Tree Townhouse, French Restaurant of the Year 2019

It might be more than 600 miles away from the bistros of Paris, but a Jedburgh restaurant has been named the best in its own homeland for French cuisine.

The Capon Tree Town House’s bistro has been named the UK’s French restaurant of the year at the Travel and Hospitality Awards.

Judges, disguised as undercover diners, paid a visit to the High Street restaurant-cum-bed-and-breakfast earlier this year.

“We got a phone call in July to say we had won, and we were absolutely gobsmacked,” said Ashley Wilkie, co-owner of the Capon Tree with husband Alasdair.

“The restaurant is not classically French, though a lot of our cooking techniques are French-inspired, but it still came as a huge shock as we don’t market ourselves as a French restaurant.”

The couple have owned the restaurant for the last three-and-a-half years and have transformed the former pub into a fine dining restaurant and cocktail lounge downstairs and a B&B upstairs.

Ashley,27, originally from Northern Ireland, runs the front of house of the town house, and Alasdair, 35, originally from Tweedbank, works in the kitchen alongside fellow chef Ian Barr.

Ian and Alasdair spent 17 and four years respectively working at Marmions Brasserie in Melrose, but they say they enjoy creating a more modern style of French cuisine these days.

“Our style is quite French,” said Alasdair. “Ian makes a lot of very, very rich sauces. Our veal with a red wine reduction is done in the expected style of French cooking.

“We make tournedos Rossini, which is an absolute French classic, but we put our own twist on it by using Scottish chanterelles foraged especially for us.

“We still follow the classic French recipe but create it with a more modern style.

“We are quite experimental with everything we do, and we try to change our menu regularly.

“There’s always at least one or two tweaks to our menu every week or two.”

The restaurant, able to seat 35 diners, is decked out with crisp linen and traditional crystal glasses.

“It was more of a bistro to begin with but has evolved into a more fine dining restaurant,” Alasdair added.

“We have stuck with a classic style with a carpeted floor and white linen tablecloths.”

Ian, 52, added: “The whole background of French cooking is about having a really good imagination and knowing what is going to go with what when you are presented with new ingredients.

“We are quite experimental with everything.”

Ashley added: “We didn’t really plan to go down this route. We just hoped to do well. It makes it easier when you love what you do.

“We have transformed the bar into a cocktail lounge-style bar with a vast array of gins and wines.

“We have our own sommelier now and we try to pick exclusives wines and have our own gin, called King of the Woods.”

The Travel and Hospitality Awards, held annually and judged by travel writers and bloggers, industry experts and public or media figures, recognise the best customer-nominated hotels, spas, restaurants and tour operators across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.