Reivers Restaurant at The Cairndale in Dumfries is enjoying a renaissance under head chef Alan Halkett, who returned in 2022 and has been winning rave reviews for his exciting menus which reflect the ambition of the family-run hotel as it gears up to open its new £2million spa. He shares his passion for cooking 

‘When you see clean plates coming back, and you get great feedback, and everyone’s happy; that’s the best reward,” says Alan Halkett, head chef at Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries, where he first worked as a sous chef 14 years ago.

He was delighted to return in September 2022, to head up an international team of chefs and steer the kitchen in a new and exciting direction as the family-run hotel embarks on an ambitious new era as a spa hotel .

What Alan has been creating in the last 20-or-so-months has brought a new dining dimension to Dumfries, much to the surprise of locals who had perhaps passed over the traditional hotel restaurant they thought they knew, in favour of one of the new eateries in the town.

House favourite: the duck dish in Reivers RestaurantHouse favourite: the duck dish in Reivers Restaurant (Image: Jenny Woolgar)

But hotel director Matthew Wallace Jr, believes Alan and his team have helped put Reivers Restaurant back on the map, creating a must-visit dining destination for Dumfries, for locals and national and international guests.

“We’re extremely proud of the way that our food and restaurant service has evolved. The chef, kitchen and front-of-house teams are delivering at an exceptional level and the feedback we’ve had from both residents and local visitors has been amazing,” he says.

“For me, the most satisfying thing is hearing the surprise from local visitors who have not dined with us for some time. I think it’s fair to say that if you think you know what The Cairndale has to offer, but haven’t been for a while, you might want to think again and book a table.”

Alan and his team of chefs, who hail from Scotland and Kenya, are passionate about serving the best modern British classic cooking, French cuisine, and traditional Scottish food, and showcasing the best in local produce and seasonal ingredients.

Reivers restaurant showcases the best in local produce and seasonal ingredients.Reivers restaurant showcases the best in local produce and seasonal ingredients. (Image: Jenny Woolgar)

Alan refreshes the à la carte menu with two different starers, main courses, and desserts, each month, and uses local suppliers including Barony Foods for his fish, Galloway Foods, and Thomsons Food Service.

Originally from Newton Stewart, the 43-year-old has been cooking since he left school at 16. He had been thinking of staying on and going to catering college but when a job came up at the Kirroughtree House Hotel, which had three AA rosettes at the time, he took it, starting as a commis chef and working his way up to second chef. He then moved to Dumfries, where he spent a year at The Station Hotel and a couple of years at Hetland Hall, before another move, to be second d chef at Dryfesdale Country House Hotel in Lockerbie.

A return to Newton Stewart saw him join the team at Creebridge Hotel, where he met his wife Eloise. The couple, who two children, have worked together ever since. A move with Creebridge owners took Alan to Perthshire and Glen Devon near Glenagles, before he returned to Dumfries in 2010 and joined Cairndale Hotel as sous chef. He was there for two years and returned 10 years later, to take on the top job.

Alan Halkett dishes up a plate of the cod dishAlan Halkett dishes up a plate of the cod dish (Image: Jenny Woolgar)

“I was excited to come back as head chef. The restaurant is going in a new direction, and these are exciting times here, with the opening of the spa,” he says.

Of course, Alan’s role at the 91-bedroom hotel extends beyond the 50-cover Reivers Restaurant, which caters for residents, and non-residents, golfing parties, corporate clients, and is the home of the Rotary Club of Dumfries, with members meeting there every Friday: there’s also the Cairndale’s popular dining domes, the Park House, which caters for up to 300 people, with a further 100 in the Empire Suite, and the new restaurant and café being created as part of the £2 million, two-storey spa development opening soon.

Alan is looking forward to creating menus for those new ventures which reflect his passion and pride in and perfection for all that he does.

“I love cooking. It’s all I have done since I have 16. You do have to love it because it’s a pressured environment, but we all get on really well here; we have a good wee squad.

“Cooking is a rewarding career and I’d love to get some young people in from the high schools who are looking to get started because we don’t have enough young ones coming through. There are a lot of exciting opportunities.”

Try the recipes for two of his most popular dishes at Reivers Restaurant


Pan Roasted Atlantic Cod Nori Butter and Asparagus recipe

Chocolate Delice with orange and white chocolate recipe