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Restaurant Review: The Bay Fish & Chips, Stonehaven

This week Gaby Soutar ordered some award-winning fish, chips and white pudding.

Published: June 4, 2021
Categories:
Food: 
8/10
Ambience: 
8/10

If you’re reading this in The Scotsman Magazine, National Fish and Chip Day (June 4) was yesterday.

If you’re online, it might not have passed yet, or perhaps it’s 2062 and you’ve found this article on an obsolete device and are reminiscing about when there used to be life in the ocean.

Anyway, I’d like to propose that every day be fish and chips day.

It certainly is for the team behind this 15-year-old place, which has won a display cabinet’s worth of prizes, from organisations including the Sustainable Restaurant Association and Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards. 

Currently, you order in advance, then pick up at the allocated time.

I felt sorry for the poor woman at their hatch.

I could see horror in her eyes, every time someone tapped at the glass.

“Two fish suppers please”.

“Have you ordered?”

“No. Is there any chance…?”

And again, ad infinitum. It’s like being the bouncer at the pearly gates, with everyone trying to plead and weedle their way in.

There are signs on the door and window, explaining how to work the current system.

However, they may have to employ someone to walk around wearing a sandwich board, or maybe I could dress up as a haddock and hand out leaflets.

Order online in advance, people.

We were smugly organised, and got there 30 minutes early.

To kill time, we had tea at one of the outdoor tables at next door’s cafe, Molly’s.

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We’d enjoyed watching a seagull’s cack-winged attempts to steal Jammie Dodger blondies off someone’s table, and feeling the haar settling round our shoulders, like an aura.

At collection time, we presented our order number at The Bay’s hatch and lingered until they handed over our brown paper bag.

As well as our suppers, it contained their special of the day - a set of hand-dived scallops (£18) from The Ethical Shellfish Company, which is owned by former The Scotsman colleague Guy Grieve. 

It was strange, but rather lovely, eating these pearlescent gems from a low rent cardboard box in the back seat of our banger.

They were plastered in wares from The Edinburgh Butter Company and Blackthorn Sea Salt, as well as a wild garlicky herb mixture.

This was our starter - three for me, two for him, each eaten reverently.

My plus one is a self-styled global expert in the art of white pudding.

Thus, the Mealie Meister ordered this, which is made from The Bay’s own recipe at butcher John Davidson of Inverurie, along with a helping of chips (£5.70 in total).

He often complains that central belt white pudding is too dry and oatmeal-y, and that there’s some sort of dividing line, which means the further north you go, the more likely it is that you’ll get one that’s suitably claggy and sticks to the roof of your mouth.

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I imagined a drum roll, as he stuffed the batter covered creation into his beak.

The gulls fell silent and the waves ceased crashing, as he chewed.

This was a winner. The Pudding King would have pinned a little medal to its chest, if there had been anything left.

Alongside this, he drank a fancy digestif that they call Coke (£1.30) and I got my sugar hit from a San Pellegrino Lemon (£1.80).

I’d also gone for the fishy tombola, aka the seafood platter (£9.50), with chips.

It included two dollops of Amity scampi - “hand-peeled Scottish langoustines supplied by Amity, John Buchan” - one of which was in a little heart shape, aw, at least somebody loves me.

Both nuggets were great, with a tight jacket of crumb, to corset their squishy middles.

A second off the ships, a lifetime on the hips.

There was also a half fillet of soft MSC certified haddock fish in a perfectly robust and knobbly, Trump-coloured batter, which looked kinetic, like it was still bubbling in the fryer.

I also had a single fish cake, which was supposed to be made from haddock, but had more of a mackerel-y tang.

All fantastic, as were the fat chips.

My only sadness is that I should have asked for extra salt and vinegar.

You can add these, along with a lemon wedge, on the order form, and I had done, but there wasn’t enough.

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I’m the John Haigh of frites, because I like them drowned in vats of acid (and then plastered in salt).

At least I had ordered a pot of their own tartare sauce (70p), with capers and gherkins for the additional zip that I crave.

Still, even without extra condiments, this place deserves its plaudits.

There couldn’t be a better place to celebrate it probably not being National Fish and Chip Day.

The Bay Fish & Chips

Beach Road, Stonehaven, 01569 762000)

How much? Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £33.90

Places to try Nearby

Molly’s Cafe Bar, The Promenade, Stonehaven (01569 762 378, www.mollyscafebar.co.uk)

If you’re early to collect your fish and chips, or fancy a digestif, this place is right next door to The Bay. They do cakes, sharing boards, burgers and there’s a kids menu.

The Ship Inn, 5 Shore Head, Stonehaven (01569 762 617, www.shipinnstonehaven.com)

This dog-friendly venue serves real ales and appetite slaying dishes including haggis with neeps and tatties and bratwurst chilli dog with cheese and skinny fries.

The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant, Harbour, Old Pier (01569 762287, www.tolbooth-restaurant.co.uk)

This place reopened at the end of May, and is back, offering its menu of locally caught lobster with lemon and garlic butter or thermidor sauce. You could also have Shetland mussels or Loch Fyne oysters

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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