Stroll along Chapel Street and you will happen upon Howies, no fanfare, no neon sign. And that tasteful and understated yet quirky Scottishness is echoed throughout the newly refurbished restaurant. Muted tones and natural materials blend with eclectic decoration and a joyful rediscovery of the original tiled floor of the legendary Gerrards.
Lunch service was busy but very efficient and friendly, with manager Paul Jeffrey at the helm. With prices starting at two courses for £10, the lunch menu offers a choice which focuses on local produce and fresh ingredients. My starter salad was a divine blend of roast butternut squash, barley and red chard with juicy slices of orange (don’t you just love it when someone else peels an orange for you?), basil and toasted seeds – or as my companion put it, ‘a proper ladies who lunch salad’. Her roasted parsnip and cumin falafel with lemon houmous was also voted a success, and the rest of the starter selection really does focus on the local with Eyemouth Crab Bisque, Ham Hock and Smoked Pheasant Terrine and Steamed Shetland Mussels lining up to tickle your tastebuds.
I am a sucker for risotto and the golden beetroot and thyme Howies’ version did not disappoint, with crispy kale and a poached egg for good measure. My friend went for the Howies burger which comes on a brioche bun with (drum roll) hand cut chips and bell pepper ketchup. I think I can say without fear of reprisal that this lady may have sampled a chip or two in her time, and she pronounced them excellent, along with the fresh-tasting pepper ketchup.
Desserts were mandatory and we went for an affogato with lovely creamy homemade ice cream and a chocolate and beetroot torte which was light, tasty and calorie-free… well it was light and tasty anyway.
Howies is full of little things to catch your eye, an old sign, recycled whisky barrels, brass candlesticks and a canteen of bone-handled cutlery on the sideboard of one of the splendid new private rooms, both of which have a large table which you can just imagine having a family gathering or party around. The chairs are upholstered in contrasting tweeds, the walls painted dove grey and the whole effect is a mixture of the traditional and contemporary, with a Scottish underlay.