Nestled on a side street of Ballater lies one of the north-east’s hottest new restaurants.
It’s elegantly stylish inside, has a small but mighty menu and puts local at the heart of its offering.
Fish Shop, which opened in the former Rothesay Rooms restaurant, has had a complete makeover. Gone are the green walls and tweed Scottish influence of the Rothesay.
Instead, the building has been divided into a 40-seater restaurant with bar and small fishmonger where locals and tourists alike can pick up fresh fish from the window.
On my partner and I’s visit a few Fridays ago the fishmonger had just closed two hours before our 6pm seating, which can only mean a return trip is necessary.
Located on Netherley Place, the navy blue front of the seafood restaurant is hard to miss with the words ‘Fish Shop‘ boldly having their moment.
The weather was beautiful when we visited and its large shop front windows benefitted from this with light flooding the bright, trendy new space.
It’s a feast for the eyes when you step through the door. Fishing nets are carefully draped in front of elevated seating around a repurposed boat that doubles as the bottom of a table up the back, and the painted wave detailing carries throughout the room.
But it’s local artist Helen Jackson’s commissioned 120 basket-weave fish shoal suspended from the ceiling that is sure to catch your eye first.
Greeted with a friendly welcome, general manager Jasmine Sherry showed us to our table.
I benefitted from a view of the whole place, watching as plates began to make their way from the semi-open kitchen. It was fully booked for the night, however diners were spaced throughout the evening with majority joining us a little later.
I’d wanted to indulge the cocktail list, but didn’t want any alcohol so requested the Garden mocktail. Calum had already tried Burnside Brewery’s Right to Roam 0% ABV brew so opted for that.
The mocktail was made with ginger, apple and Seedlip and was very refreshing.
We ordered a few snacks including sourdough with butter (£3.50), East Coast Cured fennel salami (£5.50), two Macduff brown crab crumpets (£4 each) and I got a Champagne tempura oyster (£4) for good measure.
This was set to be our starters, until Jasmine enlightened me half portions of the Shetland mussels with East Coast Cured n’duja and tomato (£11) could be ordered. I couldn’t resist.
There were plenty other starters including pantan bree, pork collar tonnato and red mullet, but we were saving ourselves for mains.
Food trickled out of the kitchen as each dish was prepared. The spongey, warm bread with its crunchy crust and whipped butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, and the garlicy salami from the Leith-based butcher were a great way to start.
I didn’t really get much flavour from the Champagne tempura, but the oyster itself was lovely having been fried and there was a big dollop of mayonnaise served underneath it in the shell.
The crab crumpets were a highlight. Two bites and they were gone but the crumpet was loaded with butter. The light crab on top was delicious and it reminded me of a lobster dish I’d tried at Dean Banks’ Dulse in Edinburgh recently. Delicious.
Bread was also served with the mussels which we took great pleasure dunking into the sauce. The half portion was ideal and there were some huge ones in the mix of about 20. They had been cooked in a tomato and onion sauce, with the minced pieces of the spicier meat throughout.
Jasmine had been great in recommending some dishes for us so we’d opted for the Scrabster monkfish with cauliflower, pine nuts and sorrel (£35.35) and lobster tagliatelle (£24.5o).
A side of new potatoes with seaweed butter (£4) had been suggested by my dining partner, so we added those.
While we waited, we soaked up the restaurant’s vibe. I love the champagne and oyster bar with marbled worktop, but I equally appreciated the portrait artwork by Gideon Summerfield whose works can also be found in the Fife Arms, Fish Shop’s sister venue. He paints faces of the community, and it was lovely to see those involved in fishing locally feature.
Food soon arrived. The tagliatelle looked a treat and while the buttery sauce and lobster was moreish, I felt it lacked any real chunky pieces of the crustacean. Little flakes could be found throughout, but not many for the heftier price point.
The pasta was cooked perfectly (al dente) and it was easy to share.
Talking of perfection, the monkfish, too was finished expertly. Jasmine’s husband, Marcus, is the head chef at the venue and I always love how well these partnerships work out in restaurants.
The fish was easy to cut off the bone and the cauliflower puree was lovely and light. Served on the side was a bowl with sorrel, pine nuts, cauliflower and capers (fried and raw). There was a lot of oil in it so we used it sparingly, albeit the flavour was excellent and the textures all complementing.
Every new potato should come with seaweed butter. Having been drowned in the stuff, the five tatties were incredible. The skin crispy and soft as anything inside.
I do think the price point again was a little high with the potatoes not included in comparison to similar north-east restaurants of the same caliber.
We were bordering on being stuff at this point, but Jasmine worked her charm and persuaded us to order the rhubarb and cream with madeleines.
It had been pre-made and set before and the consistency of the cream was smooth while the rhubarb added a punch. The madeleines were used to mop up as much of the cream before we retired from it.
The restaurant was now full by 8pm when we were leaving and golden hour was in full swing. We headed to the bridge to catch a gorgeous sunset which rounded off our meal perfectly.
It is great to see another restaurant champion Scotland’s seafood offering and using produce from Shetland, the Western Isles, Macduff, Peterhead and even down the East Coast.
The price point of some of the dishes is higher than many other places with starters beginning at £9 to £19.50 and mains from £18.50 to £32.25, that’s not including the shellfish boards where you’ll find platters and lobster for much more.
I can imagine this will be a popular pitstop for tourists and for locals on special occasions, and the odd group popping in for Champagne and oysters.
The restaurant is beautiful and it is certainly worth a trip to see it in its full glory. The food is excellent with quality ingredients used, but be prepared to part with your money.
Watch my Reel of what the whole experience was like here.
Address: 3 Netherley Place, Ballater AB35 5QE
T: 01339 720250
Price: £123.75 for four snacks, an oyster, starter portion of mussels, two mains, a side and two desserts, plus two beers and a mocktail. A £1 donation for a local charity is added to your bill – this is communicated to diners.
- Food: 5/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5