Stonehaven is one of those places I love to visit, I don’t do it enough.
But in the space of two weeks, I found myself in the city of Aberdeenshire on numerous occasions, either for walks with a dog or to celebrate the engagement of two friends of my boyfriend and me.
Although I’m sure the Marine Hotel at the port has hosted many engagement parties, this trip saw Calum and I bring his parents’ black Labrador, Millie, with whom we were babysitting, for a lunch.
We were in the mood for a nice pub lunch and thought we’d kill two birds with one stone. We’d have a bite to eat and take Millie to the beach so she could go wild.
The marine hotel
Although Stonehaven is a tourist hotspot, it’s not exactly built for the many cars parked in its small streets, especially around the harbor area, so we decided to grab the first spot we could find and walk to The Marine which is on the sea front.
Our appetites had grown from days of long walks with the dog and I looked forward to filling my stomach with lots of good food.
I remembered that only the hotel bar allows dogs, so I chose to sit there instead of the restaurant. It wasn’t crowded when we arrived, so we sat in the furthest corner and Millie propped her butt up in front of the fireplace, which wasn’t lit at the time.
A friendly member of staff informed us of the specials by handing us our menus leaving a small blackboard on the table and leaving to get our drinks. The usual – two pints of Diet Coke.
The offer sounded very enticing and although I had trouble accessing the menu online, I checked out various review platforms to get an idea of what to expect. The first thing I noticed on this menu was how each course had a recommended beer pairing alongside. After all, The Marine is the home of northeast brewers Six Degrees North.
As expected there was plenty of beer on tap and in the fridges but alas we refrained.
I also noted that there were plenty of gluten-free options on the food menu and the ability to make some dishes gluten-free as well, which I’m sure would be appreciated by many.
I really liked the offer, which is still a promising start. But, to be honest, I couldn’t see past the beat up Chinese bar.
Served with sizzling ginger, chilli and spring onions and lime soy sauce (£8.75), it all seemed to come together beautifully, and it does.
When our mains arrived I was glad I had opted for something hot as opposed to the hummus board placed in front of my boyfriend.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the hummus selection – basil pesto, sun-dried tomato hummus and beetroot, all served with raw vegetables such as cucumber and carrot plus pita (£7.45) – but the smell of mine made me lick my lips in anticipation.
“Sounds good, doesn’t it?” Calum is more reassured.
We both returned and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by both.
The fried battered fish was laid on the bed of fresh, tangy ginger that had also been fried with the spring onion. Micro vegetables were layered over the three reasonably sized pieces of fish, and a small metal ramekin filled with sauce was on the side. The Asian influenced sauce was delicious and I loved the addition of the chili peppers that were hidden underneath.
The best part about the hummus board was actually the variety available. I managed to sneak a little of each and they were all very enjoyable. I think the beetroot and basil stand out the most, but I wasn’t sure if the price was a bit high, given that our little metal ramekins were about half full and it was bread with vegetable sticks.
I don’t normally do this with reviews, but I also ordered from the main bar. The two dishes were served very differently but my first option of marinated monkfish in harissa (£19.45) wasn’t available so I decided to stick with the fish theme, albeit of the same species.
The place had started to fill up by the time our dishes were served, so it was busy, but manageable for the staff. Most people were just there for a few drinks, while the couple next to us enjoyed their fish and chips (which smelled good) while feeding their young child mac and cheese.
Every time a plate came to the table, Millie’s little nose popped up on my knee, sniffing at what treats she might, or most likely not, be able to sneak past. Unfortunately, puppy eyes don’t work so well on me, especially when it comes to food.
Calum didn’t follow in my footsteps and opted for guinea fowl instead. Although it’s not something he usually orders, he really enjoyed it.
Served with Jerusalem artichokes, mashed beetroot, chicory and jus de jus (£18.45), he also ordered a side of chips, mainly because it’s hard not to when he’s dine in a pub.
The juice was very rich and the beet puree paired favorably with the bird, which was simply delicious.
What I noticed about our two plates was that it wasn’t your usual pub grub, it was more than that. He had real finesse and was tackled with precision.
My sea bass fillet sat on a smoked haddock and pea risotto cooked in a garlic cream sauce (£17.95).
Both fish were cooked well, but the crispy skin of the sea bass almost overtook it as my favorite. However, the smoke of the haddock was too much to resist, and with that buttery risotto and mouth-popping peas, it stole the show.
We had flirted with the idea of venison and lamb dishes, and if the hake had been served in the risotto, I would certainly have tried that. But I was looking for something simple and hearty and the hake with langoustine bisque – as tempting as that sounds – was much lighter.
It was exceptionally filling too. So filling that I actually couldn’t digest the dessert.
Desserts included everything from an apple and plum crumble to a cheesecake of the day, a triple chocolate semifreddo, an Eton caramel and pear mess, a cheese platter and ice cream.
They all sounded divine, but with a huge helping of risotto in my belly, I figured it was about time I moved and Millie stretched her legs.
I settled the bill at the bar, where other punters were now gathering for a pint, and we headed along the beach promenade.
I really enjoyed our trip to Stonehaven and the fact that the food, weather and company were great, couldn’t fault it.
The pub atmosphere was perfect for what it is. And I loved the interior nautical touches with fishing net, paintings, doors with portholes and more, especially when you have a view of the sea from most of the tables inside.
The menu is also relatively new, so there’s plenty of time to go back and buy that monkfish. I won’t leave my next visit to Stonehaven for so long.
A pub is very different from a restaurant, so I gave 3.5 as a service rating. The staff were very friendly but there was little interaction with them given they were busy at the bar, and I couldn’t build such a solid rapport because of where we were seated.
Address: The Marine Hotel, 9-10 Shorehead, Stonehaven AB39 2JY
P: 01569 762155
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[The Marine Hotel in Stonehaven]