Bo'ness Spice is a small restaurant with a huge heart. This is a restaurant that it is well worth travelling to experience though, with its size in mind, we'd strongly recommend booking a table if you intend to do so. It also offers takeaway menu for those fortunate enough to live within the immediate area.
There are a number of factors that set Bo'ness Spice apart and make it so worth seeking out, but at the end of the day they all really come down to the thought, the care and the enthusiasm - the passion if you prefer - of those running it. Everything from the beautiful and highly effective website to the branding within the restaurant and the decor exudes quality: and then there's the food, which is simply outstanding.
You find Bo'ness Spice near the east end of South Street in the attractive little town of Bo'ness, which lies on the south bank of the River Forth just over two miles north of Linlithgow. This ancient link helps explain Bo'ness's unusual name. Although Bo'ness is the form of the name used on road signs and maps, it is actually a short form of Borrowstounness. This dates back to the early 1400s when the Burgh of Linlithgow built a harbour on a broad promontory (or "ness") projecting into the south side of the River Forth to allow it to export the ever-increasing amounts of coal being mined in the area. The "burgh's town on the ness" became Borrowstounness, and, eventually, Bo'ness. The history of the place actually goes back considerably further: the Roman Antonine Wall reached its eastern end on the shore of the River Forth here.
But let's come back to the food, because that's what ultimately decides whether a restaurant is successful or not. What we found most remarkable was the way that Bo'ness Spice has achieved two things that are extremely hard to combine. The menus - both the sit in and the takeaway menus - are very extensive. Yet all the food we saw and ate was prepared to order with fresh ingredients and its sheer quality was simply delightful. We're told that all the spices used are ground and prepared in-house and it's obvious that accompaniments like salads are super-fresh. Given what we've said already, it's perhaps less surprising that the food is also superbly presented when it arrives at your table. It also comes in very generous portions. If we have any regrets at all about our visit, it's that even after eating very little all day, we didn't feel we were able to do full justice to the sheer magnificence of what we were served when we visited for dinner. It is remarkable that one small restaurant can achieve all this. Having talked to the owner when we visited we think it very much comes back to the word we used a couple of paragraphs ago: passion.
You can perhaps get a sense of the scale of what has been achieved at Bo'ness Spice from a brief description of the menu, which of course is beautifully presented whether you are sitting in the restaurant or viewing online. We counted fifteen non-vegetarian starters and six vegetarian starters on offer. We chose a chicken puri which was simply sublime; and a haggis pakora, perhaps the ultimate fusion food for a Bangladeshi and Indian restaurant in Scotland. This was also delicious: and very generously proportioned, providing the first hint that we might have over-ordered.
The extent of the choices on offer for mains is so wide that it's hard to summarise effectively. Suffice it to say that the menu offers just about everything imaginable, and quite a lot you'll probably not have seen widely elsewhere. The chicken pasanda was superb, as were the accompanying aloo gobi massallam (spiced potatoes and cauliflower), ghee batt (basmati fried rice in purified butter with onions) and peshwari naan. The Bo'ness assorted tandoori, consisting of tandoori chicken, lamb tikka, chicken tikka, sheek kebabs and naan bread gave an excellent overview of what the restaurant can produce from a tandoori oven: but should only be considered by someone who has fasted for a day or two beforehand!
We were so sated by our starters and mains that we passed on the offer of desserts but have no doubt that they would have matched the standards we'd already experienced.
We've rather run out of superlatives in writing this review: but then it's hard to remember when we were last so impressed by anywhere as much as we were impressed by Bo'ness Spice. Go and experience it for yourself. You'll not be disappointed, unless perhaps if you forget to book: remember what we said about it being a small restaurant with a huge heart.