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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Moray favourite back – and exceeding its former glory

Picture by Jason Hedges
Picture by Jason Hedges

The Seafield Arms in Cullen had long been a fine-dining fixture in the pretty coastal town before it sadly closed down eight years ago.

I had been lucky enough to eat there on a couple of occasions and in fact almost chose to have my wedding reception at the Seafield.

So there was something very sad about driving past the boarded-up hotel while it lay waiting for a new owner to give it the TLC it deserved.

And that is exactly what happened when a local businessman took it on and restored it to its former glory… and then some.

The menu states that £1.3 million has been spent on bringing life back to the Seafield, which reopened last May, but we were reliably informed that total now stands at just over the £2 million mark. No small sum to invest in a small town in Moray.

But that money has been spent wisely with the creation of the 40-seat Grant Dining Room serving quality, locally sourced food; the stylish 30-seat Bar 19 that offers a wide selection of traditional “gastro” dishes; and the Findlater Lounge, the perfect space to relax with a drink after your meal. Not to mention the luxurious bedrooms upstairs.

We opted to sample the Grant Dining Room. It’s a deceptively large space that feels intimate despite being able to cater for a number of tables. Split into two levels, a large window under the mezzanine level lets you see into the wine cellar. An unusual and interesting addition.

On our arrival on a stormy night, our welcome could not have been warmer as a friendly waitress took our jackets and showed us to our table.

Hotel manager Donald then came over with the menus and was happy to chat to us about the hotel and its plans, and then we got down to the serious business of scouring the menus and seeing what was on offer.

As well as the standard menu, we were offered a specials menu that certainly piqued my interest with venison, halibut and beef dishes. However, I was swayed by the main menu and was tempted by the black and white pudding bon bons – not to mention the scallops – before deciding on the Arbroath smokey souffle.

I ended up very pleased with my choice as this dish was full of flavour without the fish overpowering it. The prosciutto crisps were delicious, and the thick balsamic vinegar on the plate worked well with the souffle.

Across the table, my wife enjoyed her roast vegetable terrine with stone fruit chutney and toasted garlic and herb bread. It was beautifully presented and she finished every last bite.

For my main course, there was one clear winner – the Seafield platter. An enticing combination of mussels in white wine, beer-battered monkfish medallions, grilled king prawns and calamari rings. A seafood lover’s dream.

When it arrived, the platter looked fantastic.

A wooden board covered in perfectly cooked seafood, with the mussels in their own mini saucepan and a similar pan containing an indulgent lemon butter.

The monkfish was plentiful, the calamari tender and the mussels full of flavour, but it was the king prawns that stole the show. Covered in garlic and herbs, I have to say they were the best prawns I’ve ever eaten. Absolutely superb.

Tartare sauce and large hand-cut chips finished off the dish.

Pictures by Jason Hedges

For her main course, my wife chose the wild mushroom tart. Again, it was clear a lot of attention had been paid to the presentation of the food, and she enjoyed the intense flavour of the tart.

After eating so much, we were too full to order dessert, but instead took up the suggestion of a cocktail to round off proceedings. Sipping a combination of Prosecco and limoncello in the comfort of the Findlater Lounge was the ideal digestif. The lounge features framed black and white photographs of local landmarks, such as the Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie, and you can look out to the patio area which is now home to one of the famous Oor Wullie statues that raised so much money for the ARCHIE Foundation last year. In fact, this particular Wullie – Oor Highland Coo – is still raising money, as 10% from every Oor Highland Coo fillet steak is donated to the charity. A very nice touch.

I also appreciated the section at the back of the menu stating where the hotel sources all of its produce. From Huntly, Buckie, Portsoy and Cullen itself, it’s a great advert for local producers.

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at the Seafield Arms and I am delighted to see it back in business in the heart of Cullen.

The owners are working on plans to expand further, with the recent acquisition of the community hall next door. I can see this restored fine-dining favourite continuing to go from strength to strength.

The restaurant
  • The Seafield Arms
  • 17-19 Seafield Street, Cullen AB56 4SG
  • t: 01542 841604
  • w: www.seafieldarmscullen.co.uk
The bill
  • Arbroath smokey souffle £7.95
  • Vegetable terrine £7.50
  • Seafield platter £24
  • Mushroom tart £16.90
  • Limoncello cocktail x 2 £18
  • Bottle of Castello red wine £32

Total: £106.35

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