A Foraging day with Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel

When I saw that the girls at Liberty & Cole were advertising a Foraging Day organised by The Balmoral on twitter I knew instantly it was something I wanted to go on. Nostalgically I immediately thought of my childhood where we were rarely without bowls or bags on weekend outings to collect any fruits, hips, haws etc that we came across, that my parents would then turn into wine, jam, pickles or cakes.

The day itself comprised of Breakfast in Hadrian’s Brasserie, a trip to an undisclosed location in Perthshire where we would be foraging with food expert Andy Fraser and two of No1 Restaurant’s Michelin starred chefs Jeff Bland & Craig Sandle followed by an al fresco lunch and all finished off with a Glenmorangie Whisky Tasting in The Balmoral Bar.

Luckily for us, after a week of rain and general ‘dreach-ness’ the skies were blue and the sun on parade and I jauntily set off to walk into town for the first part of the day, the breakfast, and to meet my fellow foragers!

Breakfast at The Balmoral is a real treat!

On arrival I was met in the main entrance by Corina, The Balmoral’s F&B Coordinator, with whom I had been corresponding prior to the event and taken through to our table in Hadrian’s where I was introduced to the two couples who were also signed up. OMG & what a breakfast! I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen it’s equal. There was everything you could wish for from hot plate through to meats, cheeses, fish, fruit, cereal, yoghurts & patiserrie items. Andy joined us for breakfast and Jeff dropped by to say hello too. (Unfortunately I really didn’t even begin to do it justice but fully intend to return for a more leisurely attempt)

Foraging expert Andy Fraser in action

Craig joined us and we all piled into a minibus to take us up to Perthshire to begin our foraging, for me the main event. It really was great fun, wandering about the forest all picking up different mushrooms for Andy to identify and tell us if they were ones to go in to our lunch ‘collection’ or not. We found plenty of Chanterelles (also known as Girolles), a cheerful yellow colour with a slight peachy scent under the beech trees, and were soon able to add a number of other types including Ceps and the delightfully coloured, tiny, Amethyst Deceiver.

It was fascinating to learn that all preconceptions on mushrooms are actually to be ignored, brightly coloured/patterned doesn’t necessarily mean poisonous and likewise dull/unassuming can be deadly. (Andy was very quick to tell us that we should never ever go foraging alone or without an expert as even regular foragers can get it wrong citing the author of The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans, who became very ill after getting it wrong a couple of years ago.)  We also found blueberries and wood sorrel although we didn’t harvest any of these.

Our haul

On to lunch, this I think, will forever be one of my favourite lunches, out in the sunshine in the beautiful countryside sampling a lovely red wine (specially chosen by The Balmoral’s sommelier, Peter Adshead) and chatting with Craig & Jeff as they cooked us up an absolute treat and Andy cleaned and prepped the fruits of our wanderings. Cheesy polenta, Venison from the borders, mushrooms (of course) and crusty farmhouse bread all served on proper china and with silver cutlery. Simply perfect!

The Chefs getting down to business

A very intricate dessert was also eagerly polished off by all and then Craig, Jeff and Andrew wandered off into the forest with a few baskets to collect some more mushrooms to take back. 20 minutes later they had 3 baskets full (definitely a secret spot of Andy’s I would say).

And so back down the road to the final part of the day, the Glenmorangie Whisky tasting with Fredrik Laseen, The Balmoral Bar’s Manager and mixologist. This for me, not being a spirit drinker, was really just an extra but the other couples all had an interest in it. The Beauty & The Beast, a Glenmorangie Original and an Ardberg, both at complete opposite ends of the scale (apparently). After the tasting Jeff came in bearing a tray full of little No1 takeaway boxes containing Chanterelles for each of us to take home, a really lovely touch!

The Beauty & The Beast, Glenmorangie Whisky Tasting

To summarise, Wow! It’s not every day you get to have an ‘intimate’ lunch cooked by two Michelin starred chefs, out in the beautiful sunshine in the countryside using ingredients you’ve found yourself. Was the day worth the £100 price tag? Hell yes!

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3 Responses to “A Foraging day with Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel”

  1. Marina Paul
    October 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    Sounds like a brilliant foodie day out and better value than Valvona &Crolla tho would like to road test their foraging!

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