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Restaurant review: Enjoy quality, honest food in the eye of the Buchan countryside at Saplinbrae Hotel near Mintlaw

Food and drink journalist Karla Sinclair found out there is something to suit all tastes at Saplinbrae Hotel near Mintlaw.

Saplinbrae Hotel's lunch menu features a wide variety of dishes. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Saplinbrae Hotel's lunch menu features a wide variety of dishes. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Travelling off the beaten track often results in the discovery of real hidden gems – whether it be a bay, monument, town or walk.

Noteworthy ones from personal experience include Loch Muick and Findlater Castle. Word of mouth resulted in me trekking a fair distance to both on separate occasions, and I was not left disappointed.

Pitfour Lake near Mintlaw is another that I cannot forget to mention. I remember the first time I stopped by.

There must have been no less than five dozen swans parading the pathways and gliding majestically across the lake. People of all ages greeted one another whilst soaking up the spring sunshine.

Saplinbrae Hotel. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

This was many years ago. And despite the location of Pitfour Lake being nowhere near the roads I take for my regular commutes, I still make an effort to visit on occasion.

The same cannot be said for one of my favourite restaurants in Aberdeenshire, Saplinbrae Hotel. This I hate to admit, but it is something I aim to rectify.

My boyfriend had been suggesting we stop by for some time before we eventually pinned down a date earlier this month.

Already elated about the trip, the pair of us decided to squeeze in a brief walk around the lake ahead of our lunchtime visit. A wholesome Saturday indeed.

Saplinbrae Hotel

On arrival I was instantly taken back to the first time I glanced at Saplinbrae Hotel.

Even back then, I couldn’t believe a building this impressive was so well hidden. If you didn’t know exactly where it was located, you would completely miss it if you’re cruising on Mintlaw Road.

I almost want to drag the hotel closer to the roadside so passers by can appreciate it to the fullest. But at the same time, I love this about the venue. It feels more exclusive and makes the experience of visiting that bit more magical.

The venue boasts a relaxed and homely feel. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

And while Saplinbrae Hotel is undeniably visually appealing from the outside – which on my latest visit was elevated due to the sun shining – the inside matches.

It has a nostalgic and homely feel to it. The walls are adorned with framed photographs and paintings, some of local attractions through the decades that allow you to step back in time.

There is also plenty of tartan décor which I adore.

Service with a smile

It was a lunchtime pitstop for us so we made our way through to the snug area.

There were three members of staff tending to tables on the day – and I didn’t see one drop their smile the entire time we were there. It was great.

Our drinks orders were taken swiftly. We requested a glass of fresh orange and lemonade and a Diet Coke.

The food

The lunch menu featured a combination of static dishes as well as specials. Reflecting on my experience, there were more specials than I have ever seen on a lunch menu.

I loved this as it means there is plenty of variety for regular customers.

My boyfriend and I are guilty of snooping at the plates of fellow diners whilst dining out. Our decisions changed on several occasions before placing our order because of how tempting everyone’s meals looked.

This also resulted in us opting for three courses rather than our usual two.

One of the chosen starters was brie wedges. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Two brie wedges (£9) were stacked on top of one another on my first plate of the afternoon. Not too big nor too small, they were just right. Both had been coated in a crispy, golden breadcrumb that crunched as soon as my cutlery pierced it ever so slightly.

As for the brie, it was creamy and subtle in flavour.

Anyone would struggle to find a better pairing for the wedges than the dollop of cranberry relish that they had been perched on top of. It was a delight, boasting the perfect amount of sweetness and juiciness.

A scattering of microgreens added some earthiness to the dish.


Saplinbrae Hotel & Lodges, located near Mintlaw 📍 @Saplinbraehotelandlodges #fyp #foodtiktok #scotlandfood #scotlandtiktok #scotland #food #foryoupage #visitaberdeenshire #aberdeenshire

♬ I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) (Pomo Remix) – Daryl Hall & John Oates

The soup of the day (£5) was lentil. After hearing this, it was all my boyfriend fancied on the starter front. Packed full of vegetables and perfectly seasoned, this was a hit.

It was served with two thick slices of white bread and butter. However, diners can choose between a cheese scone (for an additional £1) or oatcakes instead.

He was delighted with his choice and complimented the bread in particular on numerous occasions.

By this point the room had really began to fill up with families and couples. There was a lovely atmosphere and plenty of clean plates in sight. It was clear we weren’t the only ones enjoying the food.

Diners receive a hefty portion if opting for the battered Sandend haddock. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Our mains soon followed and, again, they looked the part.

I cannot emphasise enough how impressive my boyfriend’s battered Sandend haddock (£17) was. I would argue it appeared larger than the famous Ashvale Whale.

And if the portion wasn’t already substantial enough, it came with a hefty helping of handcut chips as well as garden peas, a vibrant salad and house tartare sauce.

There were so many textures on the go. The chips were fluffy while the peas were on the mealier side. The salad was crunchy while the sauce was creamy. Its tangy flavour wasn’t overpowering – as I find some tartare sauces can be.

The chicken and smoked bacon linguine. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

He polished his plate off which came as no surprise to me. The forkful of ingredients that I tried was incredible.

My chicken and smoked bacon linguine (£15) was also impressive in size. I straight away appreciated the big chunks of juicy chicken and thick streaks of bacon in the mix.

The pasta itself was perfectly cooked. The only thing that let this dish down in my eyes was the lack of seasoning, although there was a delightful smokiness coming from the bacon. This was one of my favourite ingredients of the entire meal.

After our mains – and despite the sheer amount we had consumed – our thoughts on dessert hadn’t swayed. We were going all in.

The sticky toffee sundae went down a treat. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

It worked out perfectly as there were two pudding specials available. If you spot either of them on the menu would urge you to opt for them.

My sticky toffee sundae (£9) was served in a tall glass and featured chunks of moist sticky toffee sponge, warm toffee sauce, vanilla ice cream and crushed Cadbury Flake chocolate.

The other dessert was an apple and rhubarb compote pavlova served with Chantilly cream (£9). It was bright, inviting and light. The tartness of the compote was quickly followed by the cream’s lovely sweet flavour.

The dishes consumed during Karla’s recent trip. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Each component was faultless on both plates. We requested the bill and left Saplinbrae Hotel feeling full and satisfied, that’s for sure.

The verdict

Saplinbrae Hotel may be located off the beaten track, but I can guarantee that a visit is more than worth it.

The service was fantastic and our dishes from the lunch menu – with prices ranging from £3 to £17 – were incredible value for money.

As for the ingredients, it was clear they were of exceptional quality.


Address: Mintlaw Road, Fetterangus AB42 4LP

T: 01771 623585


Price: £71.90 for two starters, two mains, two desserts and three soft drinks


  • Food: 4/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 5/5