The world of youth football certainly broadens your horizons and takes you to places you wouldn’t necessarily visit otherwise.
With my son having just made the step up to competitive 11-a-side matches, we had an early start one Sunday morning recently to get from Aberdeen to Whitehills, near Banff, for a 10.30am kick off.
Noting that his match would finish around lunchtime, and he – and the rest of us – would likely be ravenous by then, I had a look online for somewhere nice to visit for Sunday lunch.
I didn’t know much about the quaint little fishing village beforehand and was surprised to find not one but two well-respected eateries – The Seafield Arms and The Galley.
As we were going to have our dog with us that day, we were delighted to discover that not only is The Seafield Arms dog-friendly, it positively welcomes our four-legged friends with offers of free drinks and dog treats.
So we booked a table in the bar area and looked forward to our meal.
Driving through the narrow streets of Whitehills is a bit like stepping back in time, passing little houses that look out over the Moray Firth.
The village has a pretty little harbour with a marina, and a walk around the area would prove the perfect post-prandial pastime. But first we needed to eat.
I was really impressed by the ambition of the large and varied menu. This is a trend I have noticed over the past few years – even in the smallest or unlikeliest of locations, you can find great food on offer.
The Seafield Arms uses local fresh produce and its menu includes a selection of fresh Scottish fish supplied locally. This was evident in my son’s starter of Cullen skink made from Downies of Whitehills smoked haddock. You can’t get more local than that.
Despite his starter being charged at a kids’ menu price, it was a very hearty portion served with chunky bread and he wolfed down every last spoonful. He thoroughly enjoyed it and it looked and smelled delicious.
Another fine choice was my wife’s deep fried Camembert rounds which were served with chutney and a mixed leaf salad. This gooey delight didn’t last long on the plate despite it being another generous helping.
With so many tempting offerings on the menu, I was torn between a few different starters.
I almost ordered the hand-rolled haggis and black pudding bites, but in the end I opted for the impressive-sounding crab and crayfish ravioli from the Market Menu.
The ravioli parcels were served in a tomato sauce which was sweet and creamy and worked well with the crab and crayfish. I was definitely pleased with my choice.
We took in our surroundings in the bar area as we waited for our main courses to arrive. With such a strong fishing heritage in the village, it is no surprise that The Seafield Arms is decorated with old seafaring trinkets such as instruments taken from fishing vessels, an old-fashioned life ring, maps and lots of photos of boats.
The dog-friendly policy is a well-used one as we were not alone in having our pooch with us, and she lapped up the company of the other well-behaved dining dogs. She also enjoyed the complimentary doggie treats that were dished out and it all made for a nice atmosphere in which to enjoy our meal.
For those who prefer to dine without a dog, there is an attractive conservatory-style dining room overlooking a lovely outdoor area complete with wooden gazebos that were erected during lockdown, and a super play area for children. It’s a great set-up offering options for everyone.
Back to the food, and again I had a tough decision to make as I was very tempted by the fish pie, but I finally chose the medallions of pork fillet and Stornoway black pudding tower. I can never resist anything with Stornoway black pudding.
Resting on a bed of mashed potatoes and served with a pink peppercorn sauce and seasonal vegetables, this dish was a sight to behold.
The black pudding was as good as I had hoped and the pork medallions were tender and tasty. It was a big, flavoursome feast of a dish.
The only element I didn’t enjoy was the peppercorn sauce as I felt it was a bit heavy on the peppercorns, but that was my own fault as I’m not a huge fan of peppercorn sauce.
My wife was pleased with her choice of vegetable red Thai curry from the vegetarian menu – a vegan menu is also available – and my son did well again with a big serving of scampi and chips. He was certainly refuelling well after the exertions of his football match that morning.
My wife and I were pleasantly full from our two courses so didn’t order a dessert, but somehow my son felt he could manage a sticky toffee pudding and my daughter’s eyes lit up when she heard the description of the candy box.
She was even happier when she saw it arrive, and what a thing of beauty it was.
Three scoops of ice cream served with little pots of sweeties, sprinkles and sauce. The perfect dessert for an eight-year-old with a very sweet tooth.
That rounded our meal off beautifully, and we were certainly all in need of that aforementioned walk along the harbour.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to The Seafield Arms. The welcome was warm, the service friendly and the food well thought-out and nicely presented.
We returned to Aberdeen pleasantly sated and secretly hoping our Sunday morning football travels will take us back to Whitehills at some point in the future.
Address: Seafield Arms, 5 Chapel Street, Whitehills, Aberdeenshire AB45 2NA
T: 01261 861209
Price: £74.30 for two courses for two adults, three courses for two children and two soft drinks.