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September 5, 2018

Edinburgh’s Kyloe Restaurant aims to provide the ‘best Scottish steak experience’ and the beef they use from Hardiesmill in the Borders plays a major role in that ambition.

Named after an old Scots word for cattle, Kyloe has been one of Edinburgh’s top steakhouses since it opened seven years ago.

Over the last couple of years, competition in the form of major UK players such as Hawksmoor and Gaucho have arrived in the capital.

The response of John Rutter, Executive Chef at Kyloe, has been to refocus their menus to showcase the best Scottish produce they can source.

This policy goes across the board from their smoked fish to the cured meats they buy from East coast charcuterie.

‘We work with small producers,’ says the chef, ‘because they have a story to tell about their food and they have a real passion for what they do.’

Fine tuning beef production

From charcuterie to their smoked salmon, Kyloe sources from Scotland.

From charcuterie to their smoked salmon, Kyloe sources from Scotland.

Taking pride of place on the revamped menus is the beef supplied by Hardiesmill Place Farm, located by Gordon in the Scottish Borders.

Earlier this week, the 5pm Dining blog was invited to Kyloe to meet Alison and Robin Tuke, the couple who farm Hardiesmill, and to taste their beef.

The Tukes started farming there in 2001 and, like many a sports team, have adopted a regime of continuous marginal gains to improve the beef they produce.

The fundamentals of breeding, feeding and handling are the building blocks which determine the quality of the beef at the end of the product.

What the Tukes have done is to break down every stage of the process and look at it in minute detail, examining it for strengths and weaknesses.

The attention to detail is meticulous. If you want to discuss the importance of using both diploid and tetraploid grasses (no, I don’t know the difference) in the cattle’s diet then speak to the Tukes.

While the couple are continually fine tuning the entire beef production process, they figured that the weakest link in the chain was formed of some of the final steps: the journey to the abattoir; lairage – the time spent at the abattoir before slaughter – and the processing of the meat afterwards.

Hardiesmill operate a farm to fork philosophy

They decided that the best way to deal with these problems was to build their own micro-abattoir on the their farm.

The UK has a problem with abattoirs. In 1970, there were 1,890 red meat abattoirs in the UK, but that number has now dropped to 249.

The number of abattoirs in the UK falls as the industry moves increasingly towards animal slaughter on a mass scale. Small abattoirs are closing and only large ones remain.

This is not good news. A recent report by the Sustainable Food Trust, A Good Life and A Good Death, indicated that the closure of small abattoirs has led to increased stress on animals, decreased traceability and decreased farming sustainability.

To pick up on just one aspect of this, fewer abattoirs mean cattle have to travel longer distances from the farm. This is stressful for them. Good farmers want happy animals. This isn’t a trite marketing trope. Welfare is an important concern for farmers and consumers alike. There is also the consideration that stressed animals release adrenaline and lactic acid, neither of which make for great meat.

Hardiesmill have managed those problems by creating their own micro-abattoir on their farm. Their cattle can now be slaughtered and processed on farm – no haulage, no lairage. The Tukes operate a farm-to-fork philosophy and this new development strengthens that.

They can maintain the cattle’s welfare through every stage of the farming process. Uniquely, Hardiesmill cattle will now never have to leave the farm, growing slowly on a natural diet of grass, hay and silage.

Top five in the world

Happy cows make great steak at Hardiesmill.

Happy cows make great steak at Hardiesmill. Pic: Facebook

The project took four and a half years and involved in-depth consultation with no less than eleven regulatory bodies. It is the first of its kind in the UK. And it may well become a model for other farmers who value quality over quantity. Other people are already in contact with the Tukes asking for advice on how to go about building their own mini-abattoirs.

Is it worth it? We had fillet, sirloin and bavette cuts of beef from Hardiesmill. They were all outstanding with a real depth of flavour and long finish.

Of course, what I say doesn’t matter. Globally recognised steak experts place Hardiesmill beef in the top five in the world. Let’s repeat that – we have a Scottish product from a small farm in the Borders which is hailed as one of the best in the world. Check out Franck Ribière’s Steak (R)Evolution film for more accolades.

Having their own abattoir on their farm is only going to improve the meat. As Robin noted, ‘It has been said that we are in the top five. It is fun to try and get the number one spot.’

Book Kyloe via 5pm Dining

Kyloe has magnificent views of Edinburgh Castle.

Kyloe has magnificent views of Edinburgh Castle.

Owners of Hardiesmill, Robin and Alison Tuke, said: ‘Kyloe has always supported us and that is why they are the only restaurant in Edinburgh we supply. Our micro-abattoir has been four and a half, very long years in the making and it seemed only right to celebrate the opening with Kyloe during Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight. Over the years, we have built a brilliant partnership with Executive Chef, John Rutter and the Kyloe team. We are proud that the Taste of Hardiesmill is savoured by diners here and that the chefs know how special the beef is.’

Executive Chef of Kyloe and The Rutland Hotel, John Rutter, said: ‘There is no better way to celebrate Scotland Food and Drink Fortnight than to recognise a true food pioneer who champions provenance and food quality. Hardiesmill are at the forefront of beef farming and have created a philosophy to benefit the animal’s entire life. This will undoubtedly mean a better product for chefs and ultimately for diners.’

You can book Kyloe via 5pm Dining.