He’s best known for his Michelin-starred restaurant, The Kitchin, in Leith, Edinburgh, and, with his wife and business partner, Michaela, also owns Castle Terrace, The Scran & Scallie and Southside Scran. But for his latest venture, Tom Kitchin has chosen to open a pub-meets-inn further along the coast in the East Lothian town of Gullane.
We sat down for a chat with the couple after an overnight stay at The Bonnie Badger.
So why a pub? And why Gullane?
Tom: As a family we’ve always been drawn to Gullane and often go for walks along its beaches. It’s one of the nicest seaside towns within easy traveling distance of Edinburgh.
All of our businesses are within close proximity of each other. If you’re opening a restaurant or a pub, I feel it’s important to choose an area you know well. It’s also essential to be close by so you can be as hands-on as possible. The Bonnie Badger is a historic coaching inn on the old London-to-Edinburgh road. It was formerly known as the Golf Inn and was owned for many years by the local Corbett Family (of Ronnie Corbett fame). When we heard it was on the market we had to take a look, and then, pretty much as soon as we saw it, we knew it was right for us.
We wanted to bring to life our vision of what a pub should be—a place that the locals can call their own; somewhere that serves good food and also offers stylish rooms for an overnight stop or a longer stay. The timing could definitely have been better though, as it meant that we were overseeing the extensive conversion and refurbishment of the pub just as we were also launching our third venue, Southside Scran, in Edinburgh.
Tell us about the food.
Tom: We adhere as much as possible to the "nature to plate" philosophy, using fresh, seasonal local produce. And the menu we offer is along the same lines as the one at The Scran & Scallie—wholesome, classic dishes which are at home in a pub.
We serve a traditional roast beef Sunday lunch cooked in a Big Green Egg—last week was our busiest ever with over 200 covers throughout the day!
And the rooms?
Michaela: Before I met Tom, my background was working in hotels, so I always wanted us to have somewhere that offered accommodation. There are 13 rooms altogether at The Bonnie Badger and these range from cozy rooms under the eaves to secluded cottages at the back of the pub. As a business, we promote all things Scottish. We have managed to maintain this philosophy in the bedrooms, supporting small businesses who have provided us with wall coverings, fabrics and linen—as well as our bespoke toiletries.
The team you have really stands out as being a strength here.
Tom: We always maintain that we have grown our business in order to retain the great members of staff that we are lucky enough to have. When we know that people are ready to progress to the next level—be they front-of-house or in the kitchen—we try to find a role that is just right for them. We like the service to come naturally and for staff to show their personalities. Above all, we want our staff to work as a team and to make the place they work in very much their own.
What do you see in your future?
Tom: Naturally we want people out there to come and discover us and, to this end, we offer a great value weekday lunch menu at just under £18 [$23].
The pub side is growing organically with the locals coming in for a game of pool, to watch some sport or just to eat and chat. We recently had our first evening of live music and we’ve got some quiz nights planned too.
Michaela: Our open fireplace is an amazing asset in the winter—and I can’t wait for our courtyard garden to come alive once the good weather is upon us. We have plans ahead involving guest chef events—and maybe even some cookery classes too. It’s all very exciting.