Restaurant review: Franco's, Peebles
My food odyssey continues with a Scottish Borders pizza adventure
There is a vintage travel poster that proudly proclaims, Peebles is for pleasure.
It was created by the artist, George Ayling, to encourage visitors to make their way to this Border town by rail back in the days when there was a station here.
While this place is lovely, it perhaps does not have quite the same hedonistic pull as say, the 'kiss me quick' pleasure beach at Blackpool. However, it is still an ideal destination for a rather pleasant day out.
There are lots of things to do in the area: you can visit castles, mountain bike at Glentress, walk in the stunning scenery, hunt, shoot, and fish on the Tweed, or relax and visit spa resorts. The best part for me is that it is right on my doorstep, so not affected by any movement restrictions.
But I'm a big fan of its sedate charms, I believe this place has got the lot. A favourite pre-covid activity of mine would be wandering along the quaint high street, serenaded by the tolling of church bells, grabbing a coffee and a cake at Cocoa Black, or going to Forsyth the butchers, before a visit to the bank or dentist. So, pretty racy stuff.
As I'm missing more carefree times, I have invented a verb for these sedate non-essential Peebles-based activities - "poble." In the past, after a prolonged period of pobling, I'd find myself slightly peckish. If you visit and find yourself in a similar predicament try and support a local business to cure your hunger pangs, as it is vitally important that we support these independents, otherwise we risk losing them.
I've travelled here with the specific purpose to review a local Italian institution called Franco’s.
The younger teen and I drove to collect the goods in the bewitching time between day and night when the Borders countryside looks at its most beguiling. The hills and forests were bathed in the last warm rays of sunlight before the sky darkens into velvety blackness. By the time we arrived, I was completely moonstruck by the lunar rays dancing on the Tweed as it flowed under the bridge.
Franco's is not a flashy or showy kind of place, so completely understated. It is situated at the church end of the high street just along from the Bridge Inn, in the wooden gabled building which dates from the 1900s. Although you can choose to eat in at the moment, it is a bit on the bijou side and in these Covid cautious times, I'm here to grab the grub and go.
You enter the trattoria up a small flight of stairs, and inside you'll find traditional decor, so a bar at one side, small tables and photographs of Italian screen actresses on the wall. I had phoned in my order for our family feast earlier on in the day. Swayed by Franco's delightful descriptions of the special puds on offer, a homemade coccomisu or coconut covered tiramisu, and a chocolate orange and fig sponge, both proved to be bellissimo.
The handover complete, my nostrils flared with the delicious smells coming from the packages, and I was almost tempted to rip open the boxes and make a start but I leave that kind of louche reckless behaviour for Blackpool.
We started with two portions of garlic bread (£1.80 each) , and you can tell a great deal from this simple dish. Good bread and lashings of the smelly stuff, so we were won over from the beginning. Although Franco's have a reduced takeaway menu selection, it still features 26 pizza options, so we went for A = Margharita (£4) , Z = Pizza Mazza (£6.50), (that's spicy beef to you and me). Plus a further choice as I've thrown caution to the wind, and opted for Pizza Francesco (£6.50), which featured tomatoes, mozzarella, aubergines, courgettes, mushroom, and broccoli.
I like my pizza like my men: piping hot, rustic and very tasty, so the fella's selection did not disappoint. There was a blisteringly good base, all oven scorched with a chunky crust to tear into, plus the thinnest layer of tomato, so as not to distract from the spicy beef topping.
My vegetable medley could be described as round and lukewarm, but that says more about my current waistline, and taking far too long to photograph the dishes of food. No matter it was quickly refreshed by a short spell in the oven. For me the best part was savouring every distinct flavour, as no one ingredient overpowered another. Our younger daughter who is an expert in margherita pizzas declared herself to be well satisfied.
The elder girl selected her main course from the extensive pasta options. Penne al Lorna (£8.50), smothered in a tomato, pepperoni and cream sauce was perhaps a bit of a paprika overload, but none the worse for it. We all fought over the side order of unctuous and delicious Melenzane alla parmigiana (£5.50) and I polished off the final remnants with a grin as wide as the Tweed.
So perhaps a new slogan should be, visit Peebles for pizza, pasta, and puddings please.
The verdictFood 7/10Ambiance 7/10Total 14/20Cost: £42.60 without drinks