PERCHED on a waterfront wall with the salty sea air breezing in – it is one of my favourite places in the world.
And where better to sample all the North Sea has to offer than an eatery overlooking Stonehaven’s picturesque harbour?
My pal and I popped in to The Tolbooth for a late lunch and, over a chilled glass of South African chenin blanc (£14.95 for the bottle) and some homemade crusty bread, decided to mix and match between the £12.95 two-course set menu and the a la carte offerings.
To start I opted for one of the specials – crayfish gratin (£6.75).
The deep coral-coloured shellfish was cooked to succulent perfection before being doused in a tangy hollandaise then topped with melted cheese all served on wilted spinach and juicy pieces of cherry tomatoes. The combination of salty crayfish and creamy sauce was delicious.
My dining partner went for the fish pie starter. A perfect little pot was filled with gently-cooked chunks of seafood in a creamy sauce then topped with fluffy mash.
For my main I chose something off the lunch menu, the mackerel with plum chutney. Two fillets were offset perfectly by the sweet and sour fruit and served with fresh vegetables.
My friend chose the monkfish main (17.95). A hearty piece of the meaty fish was wrapped in salty Parma ham and served on an aromatic saffron mash with citrus-dressed vegetables on the side. And my pal managed a clean plate.
For pudding my friend went for something on the set menu, chocolate and cinnamon meringue.
An enormous, crispy shell, flavoured with hazelnut and with a heavenly sticky centre was doused in cream and chocolate sauce – it couldn’t have been more wicked.
Well, that’s not quite true – my dessert, the chocolate delice (£5.95), was slightly naughtier. A rich, smooth mousse of dark chocolate set on a crunchy base with a side of fantastic peanut butter ice cream.
With a bottle of fizzy water the whole meal came just short of £70. And the only possible gripe was about one slightly unhappy waitress who seemed to want to be elsewhere.
It certainly was extravagant for a weekend lunch but the wonderful view was more than matched by the quality of food and the expert skill of the Tolbooth’s kitchen team.