A boutique (three people and one office dog) butter producer established in 2017, The Balmoral was one of The Edinburgh Butter Co’s first clients and we continue to work with them today. Their high-quality butter is created following the traditional French method, and is a valuable addition to sauces, pastries and other dishes at Number One, Brasserie Prince and Palm Court.
Focusing on an ethos of locally-sourced produce, the butter is considered highly rich and full of flavour. We sat down for a chat with Director, Hilary Sinclair to find out more about their business and product.
What did you do before getting into butter production? Did you have any prior experience?
“I have a background in cooking; I attended Ballymaloe Cookery School, where I was taught by Darina Allen, Rory O'Connell and Rachel Allen and learnt, very briefly, how to make butter. Nick had worked in shipping in London for 10 years when we met so didn't have the background that I had, but had a love for food.
It’s been a great combination as Nick has grasped the day-to-day running of the business with gusto, whilst giving me the ability to work on developing our product. Now, however, we have a completely different way of working; everybody within the company (Nick, Chloe and myself) do all the roles within the company, which leads to a great understanding of the full responsibility of running a small business, from production to invoicing.”
What would you say makes your butter unique?
“Whilst your typical table butters sold in supermarkets and through wholesale take around 2-4 hours to produce from cream to butter, our process takes five days. We take great pride in the quality of the product and over the past two years, have worked alongside our customers to improve and tweak the butter to make it what it is today.
I think a great USP for our customers has been the ability for them to work with us along the start-up of the business; their input has and always will be invaluable. It's a great feeling seeing our butter in top hotels and restaurants.”
Sustainability is a key issue at the moment. What does your business do to work towards it?
“Within the company we try and use very little plastic within production and have worked to lower the amount of vans we use to deliver our product. We also don’t have a distributor, which keeps client relationships special and food miles down. We have some exciting ideas to help offset our carbon emissions over the next few years, which will hopefully do our bit.
Dairy and its farming has had a hard run of it recently within the press; but the heart of sustainability is education. Educating on locality, farming, recycling, reusing etc. It's a never-ending school day on all of these subjects, and I think we all have duty to learn more.”
Where do you source your cream? How far does your butter have to travel, once made, to reach The Balmoral?
“Our cream comes from Graham's Family Dairy and our butter is made at Ratho, about nine miles from The Balmoral, so really not far.”
How did you start working with The Balmoral?
“We were first approached by Kev at The Balmoral to send in a sample. Shortly after, we had a meeting and were asked to supply their VIP function butter. At 10-20kg of butter a week it was by far our biggest client and gave us the confidence to believe our business had potential. Without the financial security offered by The Balmoral we wouldn't have been able to expand into having one full time member of staff (me)!
Not long after, Nick left his previous job to join the business full-time. Whilst the first two years of the business were hard, we’ve very quickly become an established brand in Edinburgh, Scotland and now London.”
Have you tried your own produce at The Balmoral?
“We haven't but it's great to get a snapshot from friends of them at dinners and functions with our butter on the tables! Although we are working with Ross Sneddon, the hotel’s Executive Pastry Chef, so have tasted quite a bit in the croissants - for research purposes only, you understand...”
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In what kind of dish do you find that a high-quality butter makes the most difference?
“Really good butter, like any quality ingredient, can be the making of a dish. Seeing as the viennoiserie we produce in the hotel are 50% butter, these are a perfect example of a fantastic ingredient making that difference.”
Is there a particular recipe or dish where you can clearly discern Edinburgh Butter Co’s produce?
“Because the cultured butter we take from Hilary and Nick has such a distinctive flavour, it would be a travesty to hide it away inside recipes all the time. We recently hosted a small group of diners who started their menu with a light brioche flecked with black garlic, which, when slathered with the Edinburgh butter, was an utter joy in itself.”
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Find out more about The Edinburgh Butter Company here