The Aberdeenshire coast is no doubt one of the vital spellbindingly attractive, however comparatively ignored, elements of the UK. It’s ruggedly fairly, blustery even in summer time and has 165 miles of shoreline to pooter alongside, consuming cullen skink, stovies and fish recent from Peterhead. From the seawalls at Footdee, you possibly can eat a type of fearsome lard croissants known as butteries (or rowies), unfold thickly with jam, whereas staring appreciatively at a trawler within the North Sea merely for breaking apart the never-ending, shimmery nothingness.
In case you start your journey in Aberdeen, you’d be hard-pressed to discover a extra coastal eating expertise than The Silver Darling, as a result of it’s proper on Pocra Quay, contained in the previous customs home. The quaint, cobbled harbour was first registered as a enterprise in 1136 beneath King David I, and the customs home would by no means have gained any magnificence contests; it was made to outlive, hewn from granite with a flat roof and a panoramic view of all of the ships and boats approaching. There’s a way from the second you enter, passing the grand non-public eating room and up the steps to the restaurant correct, that these partitions have heard their justifiable share of gossip. Even when, these days, it’s the kind of charming place Dame Judi Dench stops off at on her method again from the Braemar Video games, to dine on cumin and coriander-spiced monkfish, battered oysters and crispy Szechuan squid.
Instances definitely change, particularly for the herring, after which the restaurant is known as: “silver darling” is an previous nickname for these fish, again after they have been consumed by the ton and revered for holding fishing households financially afloat. Reduce to 2022, nonetheless, and the poor herring can’t even discover a starring position on the Silver Darling’s menu out of sentimentality. It’s there, in rollmop type and in very small letters, on the backside of the £40 combined platter menu, beneath the extra glamorous-sounding mussels marinière, gravadlax and crevettes, however if you happen to go for the posher, £75 “full home” platter that includes the likes of a langoustine bisque “espresso”, you gained’t should face a herring in any respect.
The Silver Darling is a type of eating places that can all the time appeal to company merely for the view, so be clear when reserving that you really want a seat by the window. In case you’re not bothered about seeing the ocean, nonetheless, there may be extra thrilling cooking occurring inland at Café 52, which I swear by. Nonetheless, that is an affable technique to spend time on a chilly, rain-battered day with a bowl of fancy cullen skink made with native haddock, toasted oats and chives. Or, when the solar shines, sit looking over the seaside and knock again Loch Fyne rock oysters with purple wine shallot vinegar whereas consuming glasses of the home white, Il Barroccio Bianco. Oysters are an acquired style for a lot of, so if slimy issues aren’t your bag, the beer-battered Cape Wrath ones right here is likely to be the place you may have an epiphany. Battering and deep-frying makes oysters spongier and extra refined, and offers them a beautiful, portobello mushroom mouthfeel, they usually’re great dipped in do-it-yourself candy chilli sauce or seaweed mayonnaise.
Subsequent, a plate of properly seared Shetland scallops with a dainty salad of pickled samphire and fennel laced with sea buckthorn gel. Roast Stonehaven langoustines with garlic and lemon butter are easy but scrumptious. We selected the North Sea jumbo haddock with hand-cut chips and crushed peas, which, like all posh fish and chips, misplaced a few of its appeal within the bid to be posh. Nonetheless, the batter was delicate and light-weight and the fish properly pale and flaky. The haddock was definitely jumbo. I chipped away at mine for what felt like an hour, making little impression on the beast, and completed off two pots of scrumptious, caper-laden tartare sauce within the course of. It ought to be mentioned, the menu isn’t utterly fishy: there are Scottish sirloin steaks, chana masala vegan burgers and kale linguine, if that floats your day boat, however actually this can be a place to have a good time the ocean. Don’t belief me, belief Rod Stewart: his face is on the wall wanting ecstatic.
The pudding menu incorporates a sea buckthorn creme brulee, however the dish that might make me pine for land if I used to be ever away on an oil rig could be the nice and cozy triple-chocolate espresso-and-pecan-nut brownie with PX ice-cream, festooned with crystallised pecan nuts. By no means has a pastry chef rammed so a lot of my favorite vices in a single bowl concurrently. There’s additionally a bramble crumble with rosemary ice-cream that feels extra homespun and consistent with the standard ancestors who labored right here and by no means tasted a caramelised banana bavarois with pineapple glaze. This port is historic, mighty and can stay on longer than all of us; the Silver Darling is a nice technique to cease by and pay tribute.
The Silver Darling Pocra Quay, Aberdeen, 01224 576229. Open all week, Mon-Fri lunch noon-2pm (2.30pm Fri), dinner 5-8.30pm (9pm Fri), Sat noon-9pm, Solar noon-8pm. About £45 a head, plus drinks and repair
This text was edited on 7 October 2022, to appropriate a misspelling of Dame Judi Dench’s first title in an earlier model.