We were spending a night at a lovely new self-catering cottage in Aboyne but, while away from home, cooking is the last thing we wanted to do, so a hunt for a decent restaurant ensued.
We had heard some good things about The Boat Inn so after a lovely 10-minute stroll through the picturesque village we found the hotel on the banks of the River Dee.
The restaurant was doing great business, especially for a Sunday evening, although the waitress confirmed Sunday is one of their busiest nights.
Walking in you could sense a bustling ambience with families and groups of friends enjoying their food and sharing while catching up with the latest gossip. I also noticed a number of tourists poring over maps and guide books, possibly preparing for the next stage of their holiday.
The decor is quite rustic with painted wood panelling, a wood-burning stove and wooden tables and floors. We were seated at a small booth area with a bench scattered with small cushions while we perused the menus.
The menu is split into several sections including around half a dozen starters, 10 classic mains followed by a “from the grill” section.
It also lists on the menu their local suppliers which is really interesting with the majority of them coming from really close by – great to see. Another point worth mentioning is the welcome inclusion of vegetarian, gluten-free and even vegan choices on the menu.
For starter I chose the grilled asparagus, chorizo and poached hen’s egg while my husband chose the unusual sounding rolled pig’s head, apple, fennel and crispy pig’s ear (I hope our vegan daughter isn’t reading this!).
Asparagus is only in season for around eight weeks so it was nice to see it on the menu and what a wonderful combination. The flavoursome Spanish sausage gave the dish a nice spicy kick while the soft yoke from my poached egg oozed onto the perfectly cooked asparagus. My husband’s interesting choice of rolled pig’s head was in the form of a terrine and he said the tangy apple was a superb accompaniment to the pork.
Up next for myself was the Boat Inn Thai green chicken curry served in a large black bowl. The curry packed a punch that made my eyes water a little but my family refer to me as a lightweight when it comes to spice so it was probably just me. Served with delicious coconut rice and a sesame salad, this fragrant curry went down a treat. On the other side of the table my husband’s eyes lit up as his large wooden board arrived with lamb steak served with smokey roasts, some delicately sliced vegetables, salad and a cute little salad dressing bowl on the side.
The lamb was cooked pink just the way he likes it but unfortunately he found himself eating around it as the cut was quite fatty; he devoured all the top-notch accompaniments though.
As a nation, we British really do not like to complain and when the young waitress came to clear our plates she asked if everything was okay. I gave my husband “the sign” with a side nod of the head and raised eyebrows to encourage him to inform her of the lamb and he dutifully did, in the nicest way possible. Full of apologies she said she would inform the chef and she handed us dessert menus.
I was feeling rather full after my curry but I do have a sweet tooth and I spied a Callebaut white chocolate, saffron and cardamom mousse with ginger cookie crumb which I convinced myself would be really light.
Not usually one for desserts, hubby surprised me by going for the Callebaut dark chocolate, Royal Lochnagar whisky and orange cheesecake with burnt orange puree.
The restaurant had quietened down but the staff had handled the vast amount of diners admirably and were warm and friendly throughout our meal. The young waitress had returned after speaking to the chef who had passed on his apologies about the lamb and she said she would knock his dessert off the bill. Sometimes customers have genuine complaints and it’s testament to a restaurant how they handle it, so well done to this young girl for following up the complaint and offering a solution.
Once again beautifully presented were our desserts. My velvety white chocolate mousse was rich, creamy and full of flavour. The cardamom spice is an acquired taste and I found it a touch overpowering for me but I mixed the mousse in with the accompanying fromach frais which helped dilute the flavour a little. However, the triumphant dish of the day had to be the show stopping cheesecake.
The large slab of rich Belgian chocolate on a buttery biscuit base was one of the best I have ever tasted (for review purposes I had to try!). The combination of chocolate and orange is always a winner and this was without doubt tonight’s victor.
The Boat Inn change their menus seasonally and we vowed to return and try out some other creative dishes.
In the summer they have a beer garden for catching the rays while in the winter, with the log fire burning, cosy lighting and the snow outside I imagine it would be spectacular – just don’t get rid of the cheesecake!