Growing up my sister and I used to hate family walks.
Our parents would tell us it was good to get out and make memories but it was hard to hear them over our dragging of feet, moody stares and at times, tantrums.
The only times we went willingly was when our mum said the magic words: “We’ll stop and get food after” – which usually meant a stop off at a pub and a bowl of chips.
And that was when my love of pub grub and rough, cosy decor was born.
While my thoughts on walks have changed over the years, it is still always a treat to find a welcoming space filled with good food to rest the wearied pegs.
And The Boat Inn in Aboyne looked like it fit the bill.
Unfortunately, my husband’s recently sprained ankle scuppered any idea of a walk but some good scran was still on the cards.
So on an overcast Sunday afternoon, my husband Chris and I ventured out to Aboyne.
The Boat Inn Aboyne
We parked up easily on Charlestown Road and within a few steps, the white-painted inn was in sight.
As we pushed through the doors, a notice in the lobby greeted us welcoming muddy boots and kids. Something which we thought was a good sign.
Hearing the buzz of voices from busy tables, we then turned the narrow corner to pop our heads into the restaurant.
Our curiosity was greeted by a light and airy space but the slightly lower, inn ceiling made it feel more intimate and cosy.
A large gathering was spread across several tables near the front while a family with two kids were playing dominos and at the back, a group of glammed-up ladies were enjoying a catch-up.
It was clear it was a popular space for a range of reasons and celebrations.
A toy train going around tracks on the outside of the room also added a fun feature and the slight rattling added to the bustling atmosphere.
After taking a little of it in, we were quickly shown to our table which to my delight, was in front of a warm fire.
Side-eyeing each other’s starters
When a restaurant names a dish after itself it would be rude not to give it try, so I decided to go for the Boat Inn Nachos (£10) to start.
I was not disappointed.
The nachos came presented in a small skillet with melted cheese, fresh avocado, jalapenos and Pico de Gallo.
The corn chips were warm and salty and the lack of salsa meant they kept their crispness. This balanced well with the creaminess of the cheese and toppings and the skillet meant the dish stayed hot throughout.
It was a light but tasty take on a dish that can be quite stodgy at times.
Not long into eating it, I could feel Chris side-eying me after I remembered we had agreed to share the starters.
So we swapped dishes and I had a try of the pulled crispy duck (£10).
Set in a salad, the crispy duck was well-cooked and had a lot of flavour to it and the dish was definitely more adventurous than my choice.
The meat was paired with a beetroot rosti which took centre stage while pieces of freshly cut orange were dotted in the greenery adding a nice tang.
The salad had a subtle dressing which helped to ensure the dish was not too dry with the rosti which Chris had described as a sort of onion bhaji.
Generous and hearty portions
Polishing it all off fairly quickly, we thought we would do the same with our main. That was until I saw the portions.
I had gone for the Pan Roast Vension (£19.50) for something a little different.
However, when it arrived, I realised my stomach might have met its match.
The medium-cooked venison was sliced and presented over a generous bed of creamy mash, red cabbage and a slice of black haggis.
The meat, which there was also a lot of, was roasted well and worked nicely together with the rest of the meal which was topped with crispy kale – an aspect I really enjoyed – and a red wine and juniper jus.
Chris’s steak and ale pie of the day (£13) was slightly smaller in size but came with a good amount of chips and seasonal veg.
The pie’s golden pastry was crisp and flaky while the filling was flavoursome, hot and substantial, everything you could want from a good pub pie.
You could definitely taste the ale which added an almost sweet aftertaste.
Chris had also ordered a side of onion rings (£4) which he seemed very happy with.
Dessert provided a much-needed jolt of energy
After our plates were taken away and feeling the effects of a heavy main, we decided to finish off with a dessert.
Thankfully my full stomach and the looming drive home made the decision between several tempting options easier.
I thought the Highland Affagato (£6.50) would make a good choice and give me a needed boost after my food coma while Chris went for the apple tart tatin (£8.50).
Never having tried the dessert before, I enjoyed pouring the espresso and Drambuie over my ice cream.
On my first dip of the spoon, I realised I was certainly getting the jolt I needed and the mix of ice cream and drinks made for an energising and refreshing end.
Although I was a little jealous of Chris’s apple tart tatin with caramel sauce and ice cream which tasted as good as it looked.
When booking The Boat Inn in Aboyne, we had been looking for a warm and cosy nook with comforting pub grub and it certainly delivered.
The restaurant itself was a very relaxing and inviting space to sit in and we enjoyed the bustling atmosphere.
We also really liked that the restaurant promotes and uses produce from local suppliers and displayed this on their menu.
The portion sizes were generous, the staff were lovely and we will certainly be going back.
We just maybe will stick to one or two courses next time.
Address: The Boat Inn, Charlestown Rd, Aboyne AB34 5EL
T: 01339 886137
Price: £77.50 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, one side, one soft drink and a tea.
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 5/5