The Fat Pheasant Country Pub, Newton, by Edinburgh


The Fat Pheasant Country Pub

13 -15 Main Street, Newton, EH52 6QE West Lothian

0131 629 8671

Fat Pheasant Interior 2

The Bill

A la carte

Starters  £5.95- £12.95 | Mains £15.95 - £29.95

Desserts £7.50

The Score

Team L

Cooking  3/10 | Service 4/5

Flavour  2/5 | Value 2/5 

TOTAL 11/25

Team T

Cooking 8.5/10 | Service 4/5

Flavour 5/5 | Value 5/5

TOTAL 22.5/25


When writing about football or rugby, it can sometimes be impossible to avoid referring to a game of two halves. For a great example, consider Scotland's recent 27-26 scraped victory over Wales. We don't usually encounter anything analogous in the food writing game. Until today that is.

This is the tale of two lunches (eaten at the same table on the same date). It's also the tale of a kitchen salt bucket which, on this showing, needs to be replenished at the end of each service.

As the title suggests this is a country pub in the unassuming village of Newton in West Lothian, not far from Edinburgh. It is perhaps not unfair to say that one of its main claims to fame must be the stunning view of the three bridges which span the Forth. Before Karina Bowlby bought the place it was a fairly ordinary boozer, sometimes doing food, sometimes not, depending on the aptitude of the tenants. Karina was a regular and when the place closed down she decided to buy it. I have to say that this is usually a recipe for disaster.

Then again, Ms Bowlby is not a typical first time bar owner. I have known and represented hundreds of licensees over the years. Many have had interesting or unusual careers before entering the trade. But to my certain knowledge, none of them has been a polo coach and club owner (Stewarton Polo Club, just a few miles away, which she founded in 2004). Before that she played softball and tennis to international level.

She's also transformed the place. The interior is now dark wood with stripped wooden tables and log burning stoves. Staff recruitment, so often an issue, seems to have been done well. We are greeted and looked after by a cheery lady named Jack: Chef David (?) lists a spell at Gleneagles on his CV: they source much of their produce from our good friends at nearby Castle Game. What's not to like?

The menu, as you might expect from the name, is quite big on game. I'm always keen to try it cooked by a professional. I still have memories from decades ago of turning a pal into a vegetarian by serving her hideously undercooked pheasant. I then over reacted by spending years horribly overcooking it.

To the two halves. Let's name the players Team L and Team T. Soup of the day (Friday) was cauliflower and cheese. Tasty but oversalted. That's a rookie mistake which is quite easy to make. You adjust the seasoning on your soup, but then decide it needs more cheese which obviously boosts the salt level. Shouldn't happen, but, hey, we're all human. And we all know that too many cooks spoil the broth, or in this case the ragù. The website says that food is cooked to order, and I have no problem with that. The wild boar ragù to accompany the spaghetti would of course have been bubbling for a good long time. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that each chef (there are at least two) when passing had chucked some more salt in, then had had a very heavy hand with the salt in the pasta water. A few forkfuls in, L declared the dish inedible. An offer was made to make another plate, but the lady had had enough with the small quantity consumed.

For Team T, a pheasant breast could not have been more perfectly cooked, with just a hint of pink in the middle. The garnish involved baby apples about the size of cherries and fabulous Brussels sprouts. I know that for many that's an oxymoron, but these were cooked, halved and then seared to give a caramel exterior with, I think, some sort of meaty juice.

To follow, large and tender chunks of venison loin with a variety of seasonal veg, the celeriac and carrots nicely al dente, the red cabbage very finely shredded and slow cooked, and some cranberry for fruitiness and colour.

I confess I was rather too busy rhapsodising to pay attention to just how poor the experience of Team L had been. We shared possibly the best sticky toffee pud ever and left having had completely different experiences.

I am baffled by the salt issue. I just can't believe that a kitchen which is capable of such heights can make such basic errors on a regular basis. Team T would be happy to go back for a rematch Sadly, I fear the same can't be said for Team L, as you will note from our separate scores.



The spate of restaurant closures show no signs of abating. I was sorry to see that La Piazza has closed its doors. There is, however, some good news.

Dean Banks

I have it from impeccable sources that Dean Banks and Dan

Dan Ashmore

Dan Ashmore

Ashmore will be opening a new venture in Leith. While still part of the Dean Banks group, it will be under Dan's stewardship, and will feature a lot of food cooked over fire. Watch this space - you heard it here first.


  1. L on 24th February 2024 at 3:04 pm

    Still recovering from my salt bath. I’m lying on pavements to prevent frost.

  2. Karina on 27th February 2024 at 12:17 am

    Thank you for this write up, Tom. Many apologies for the salt issue. Not sure what happened there. Please convince Team L to do a rematch and I am sure she will be as delighted as you next time.

    • Tom Johnston on 28th February 2024 at 8:30 am

      Thanks for getting in touch. Certainly one of the oddest reviews. All the best.

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