We had a trip to Stonehaven this afternoon to look after the family dog while my folks were away for the day, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to have some lunch down at the harbour. Stonehaven harbour on a sunny summer’s day is a great place to go and spend some time. When the sun’s shining the sea wall is full of people sitting around enjoying a few pints from the pubs on the quayside and contemplating which one to have dinner in or whether to trade up to the well regarded Tolbooth seafood restaurant further round the bay or to head into the town centre for other fare. There’s certainly plenty of choice anyway.
The sun wasn’t shining today but it was dry, so while there wasn’t the throngs of people often seen enjoying the harbour it was still a pleasant walk along the beachfront from the town centre itself. We opted for the Marine Hotel as I’d recently been discussing this pub with some friends and was keen to try it again having had mixed results with the food in the past.
We arrived to a busy room and grabbed a table for two in the centre before I headed to the bar to select from the always excellent choice of ales. Returning with a pint of a hoppy and citrusy pale ale from the Deeside Brewery near Aboyne we dove into the menu. My girlfriend decided pretty quickly on the haddock and chips while I had much more difficulty. A special of pork loin, chorizo, tomato and basil was very tempting but in the end I opted for guinea fowl, stuffed with wild mushrooms and pistachios with a Madeira and red berry jus. It occurred to me after ordering that the menu didn’t actually describe the rest of the dish, what would it arrive with we wondered? We decided it must be mash as it just sounded like a good mash dish to soak up that jus and the stuffing.
One of the criticisms of the Marine which came up in the conversation I mentioned at the start of this article was the inconsistency. When I’d eaten here in the past I was frustrated by the specials board reading like complete dishes but the standard menu items arriving with the same bog-standard veg selection on the side and some fairly average looking chips (one dish in particular annoyed me as being described as having “Belgian frites” but in reality was served with the same pub chips as every other dish). Ordinarily in a pub this isn’t a problem but the Marine doesn’t charge normal pub prices, it’s menu is closer to the restaurant end of the spectrum for cost and so should reflect that in it’s delivery. Unfortunately when our food arrived it was obvious that these problems were still present. The haddock looked fantastic, buy the lovely big bit of fish still arrived with some fairly average chips and no veg. Not even some peas. Excusable at £5 in a pub but less forgiveable when you’re paying £10 for the dish. Similarly my guinea fowl was impressive. It looked the part and smelled amazing but I was disappointed to see it accompanied by a generic selection of steamed veg which didn’t add anything to the guinea fowl at all.
However, not all is lost. While the accompaniments were a let down the main events themselves were beautiful. The haddock was perfectly cooked with a crisp, moist, golden batter. Then there was the guinea fowl, with it’s wild mushroom and pistachio stuffing. Cutting into the bird it was soft, juicy and let off a delicious aroma. Taking a fork full of fowl, stuffing and jus was a true joy. The stuffing lent a deep, meaty flavour to the dish with it’s wild mushrooms while the pistachio added a nutty note and a bit of texture to bite into. I’d have liked a bit more sauce on the plate, what there was soaked into the mash and disappeared quite quickly but that just added more flavour to the mash which was great for mopping up the remains of the bird and stuffing on the plate. Yum!
The Marine Hotel is capable of great food and it’s worth visiting just for it’s ale selection alone, I just wish they’d put a little more thought into the overall dishes, especially with the menu items which don’t seem as focussed as the specials board. No veg with the fish and chips is a bit bizarre and the same old boring steamed veg accompanying the rest of the dishes is tired and a bit much when you’re charging restaurant prices (though to be fair there are plenty of local restaurants also guilty of this). All told we’ll definitely be back to the Marine but it’s still got a bit of work to do before it becomes our favourite stop in Stoney for a feed.