The Ship Inn: Stonehaven Harbour

Christmas is coming and you know what that means … wall-to-wall festive menus wherever you go.

So, before the onslaught of turkey and all the trimmings, Mrs B and I decided to have a quiet night out with year-round food.

This prompted our discussion about who was designated driver last time (it was me, honest).

It’s a debate that has an easy solution – ditch the car and walk.

That’s why we ended up popping into the Ship Inn – or to give the restaurant wing its Sunday name, the Captain’s Table – for supper on a quiet midweek evening.

It’s been a while since we dined at this popular eatery in its prime harbour setting.

A few things have changed, including the presentation of the menu, coming in a wooden-clad codex. Funky.

The food was different too, mixed in with the traditional fare as befits a traditional North-east hotel, there were some fancy bits and bobs.

I decided to step out with one of those for a starter, the haggis croquettes.

Mrs B waved away the idea of a starter, wanting to save herself for the mains. It was a bold move which lasted until said croquettes arrived at the table.

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Two big breadcrumb-encased beauties lolled across the plate, fighting for elbow room with a neep puree and a pot of whisky sauce.

“Is it okay to have a taste” from the other side of the table turned into full-blown sharesies.

The croquettes were very fine indeed, the crisp coating giving way to a soft filling. That said, the tattie to haggis ratio involved was more potato than our national dish. But the spicy haggis did infuse the whole thing, while the whisky sauce added a velvet richness. The neep puree was a real crowd-pleaser, essence of turnip in a creamy splash.

We made short work of the starter and settled back, enjoying the gentle hubbub and warmth of the place.

For our main courses, Mrs B had kept things simple with a gourmet Ship Inn burger.

Opting for the chicken iteration (beef is available too) she was on to a winner.

A whole chicken breast, perfectly chargrilled, hunkered down inside a rich brioche bun.

This delight was kept company by a tower of onion rings, tomato and bacon.

To set the whole thing off nicely – and according to Mrs B the best bit – was a slice of smoked cheddar.

The cheese added real depth to the burger, complementing the salty bacon and tender chicken.

It was good and hearty, so much so she struggled with the home-made coleslaw and fries.

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Not that I’m competitive, but I wasn’t to be outdone on the burger front. I had three.

Okay, I had three mini-versions with the meat slider selection – an unattractive name for a very attractive plate of food.

The Cajun chicken breast delivered a full-on flavour burst of spices that had me grinning like an idiot.

Matching that bite for bite for flavour was the beef and chorizo, the spicy sausage ramping up the zing factor.

Faced with that formidable duo’s assault on the tastebuds, the venison and black pepper struggled to make its presence felt. But if you stopped to savour it, it was a fabulous wee burger. For the record, I had no problems finishing of the chips and coleslaw.

All washed down with a fine bottle of Merlot, this was exactly the tasty treat we were looking for.

Oh, and Ship’s Christmas menu looks fine, too.

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