At the tailend of the recent summer holidays, we were looking for something memorable to do to mark my son’s 14th birthday.
My wife being the one with the ideas, she suggested we give paddle-boarding a try. Not really thinking about it too much, I agreed and left her to book us all in.
As the day approached, I started thinking more about the paddle-boarding, especially the fact it was going to take place at Stonehaven harbour. The North Sea isn’t renowned for its forgiving temperature, and I wasn’t too keen on taking a dook in it.
However, there was no escaping it, and after an early start for some gift opening, we jumped in the car for the short drive from Aberdeen to picturesque Stonehaven.
Thankfully wetsuits were provided and instructions doled out, then we were off out into the blue yonder to test our balancing skills.
It turns out I’m not a natural on a paddle-board and I gave everyone a hearty laugh as I crashed into the chilly water. My wife did the same, but the kids took to it very naturally and we spent a good 90 minutes honing our technique and exploring beautiful coves along the coast.
But after all this exercise and seawater, our bellies were rumbling and it was time for food.
The Captain’s Table
Being a harbour town, Stonehaven boasts some excellent seafood options and I had been keen to visit the popular Seafood Bothy, but unfortunately it was closed. However, The Captain’s Table also has a fantastic reputation so we made the short journey along the harbour to see if they could squeeze us in.
The Ship Inn is a large, bright-white building boasting a prime spot on the edge of the harbour. As well as accommodation, it offers an outdoor terrace, a traditional bar and The Captain’s Table restaurant, where I’d heard great things happen.
Thankfully they had space and we were shown through to the restaurant and given menus to pore over.
A good number of tables were full of a mix of foreign and local tourists, creating a nice buzz while enjoying their meals, and large windows offered beautiful views of the harbour
The kitchen doors were kept very busy throughout our visit and we watched with great interest as an array of meals was delivered to eager diners.
While The Captain’s Table may have a well-earned reputation for great seafood, it caters for many other tastes too. The specials board offered chicken shish kebabs, while the starters menu had haggis croquettes which I was tempted by.
But I was there for the seafood, and after failing to convince my son to tackle a sharing platter with me – containing haddock goujons, salmon bon bons, tempura prawns and more – I decided to try something I hadn’t eaten before and ordered the salt and pepper whitebait.
This dish was a real showstopper, with a good number of small fish in a little bowl, accompanied by a salad and a sweet chilli mayo dip.
With whitebait, you eat the whole fish – head, tail, the lot. And it tasted delicious, a bit like fish roe.
The sauce was really tasty too, but took away the lovely fishy flavour a little so I went between sauce and no sauce along with fish.
The birthday boy loves Cullen skink, and even makes his own at home, and he declared this one the best he had ever eaten (apologies to his granny who also makes a lovely Cullen skink!).
After the chill of the North Sea, my wife felt comforted by the warm lentil soup, while my daughter enjoyed her crispy garlic bread.
Being seafood lovers, my son and I struggled to narrow down our choices for main course. He was keen on a tuna steak while I was between the mussels and frites and the seafood risotto. The surf and turf on the chargrill menu also caught my eye.
In the end, the risotto won out for me. Big pieces of sticky arborio rice came with lots of king prawns, salmon, lobster, mussels and samphire.
The salmon was the standout, with the mussels coming a close second. The pieces of lobster were a little bit tough and gritty and there was a bit too much samphire for my liking, but overall this was a delicious dish.
My son’s mussels and frites were huge. The mussels were cooked in a white wine garlic sauce and were fantastic. They were big, juicy and fresh and the sauce was lovely. The fries were nicely cooked and perfect for soaking up the tasty sauce.
My wife also thoroughly enjoyed her tofu Thai green curry with vegetables. The tofu batons were cooked in breadcrumbs and served alongside coconut rice and veg in a mild sauce. Spring onions sprinkled over the dish added another texture.
My daughter ate up her chicken goujons from the children’s menu, which is always a good sign.
A range of desserts tried to tempt us, including Eton Mess trifle and Black Forest panna cotta. Not to mention ice cream, sorbets and frozen yoghurts from Stonehaven’s very own E Giulianotti – caramelised fig ripple flavour anyone?
But we were stuffed after a great feed so resisted.
The Captain’s Table deserves its reputation for superb food.
The overall mark I’m giving our experience is a little lower due to the welcome and the service not being the friendliest on our visit.
I also felt the surroundings were a little functional and bare, with numerous signs up informing diners of the two-hour maximum time limit on each table. There’s an extra point for the harbour views on display though.
The variety on the menu ensures there is food to cater for all tastes. And while prices are quite high, quality is assured with every dish.
You can’t beat fresh produce, and we were treated to some of the best seafood we’ve had.
While our family trip to Stonehaven will be remembered for the paddle-boarding adventure, we won’t forget the fabulous meal we enjoyed at The Captain’s Table either.
Address: The Ship Inn, 5 Shorehead, Stonehaven AB39 2JY
T: 01569 762617
Price: £94.15 for two courses for four people and three soft drinks
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 3/5
- Surroundings: 4/5