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Restaurant review: Chargrilled wood pigeon is a succulent sensation at The Stack

Located in the pretty coastal village of Muchalls, this hidden gem of a restaurant is making serious waves when it comes to seasonal cuisine inspired by the sea.

Food is a work of culinary art at The Stack in Muchalls. 
Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson
Food is a work of culinary art at The Stack in Muchalls. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Not many people can say they’ve cooked for Hollywood stars and royalty but Andy Smart is an exception, just like the fresh, seasonal and local cuisine he whips up.

From the late Sir Sean Connery to King Charles, the talented chef, who started working in the food and drink industry when he was just 15, has filled the bellies of many famous faces during his time at the prestigious Old Course Hotel in St Andrews.

Inspired by the sea, The Stack is a deep dive into delicious seasonal ingredients and flavours. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Today Andy is riding the crest of a different culinary wave at The Stack, the family friendly restaurant and bar he opened in the picturesque seaside village of Muchalls back in 2015.

Intrigued by The Stack’s ever changing seasonal menu featuring fresh fish and the best local larder, myself and my other half ditched the cooking for the evening and made the short 10-minute drive from Aberdeen to Muchalls.

The Stack Restaurant and Bar

Tucked away up a lane off a pretty seaside street, The Stack is the epitome of a hidden gem.

In fact the venue is so intimate that it almost felt like we were parking in the driveway of a friend’s house as I squeezed my car into the last remaining space.

The homely vibes continued inside where Connor, our lovely server for the evening, greeted us enthusiastically, inviting us to take our pick of the tables.

Far from pretentious, The Stack offers a relaxed dining experience. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Settling into our seats, we drank in our surroundings with olive green hues, copper lampshades and wooden floors creating a relaxed and laid back atmosphere.

It wasn’t long before Connor was back over to take our drinks order – a San Pellegrino lemon soft drink for me and for the non designated driver, a pint of craft beer from the Abereenshire based Burnside Brewery.

The food

Opening the food menu was an extensive feast for the eyes with 12 starters, 14 mains, six sides and seven desserts to choose from not to mention the specials and tapas menus.

As a seafood lover, my eye was instantly drawn to the calamari coated in house Japanese spices with miso mayo and daikon (a Chinese white radish).

I could also feel my mouth salivate when spotting the pan fried scallops with celeriac puree, apple, Stornoway black pudding and raison gel.

Mouthwatering monkfish passed the taste test. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

After intense deliberation, I eventually opted for the beetroot mousse while across the table a bold decision had been made: the chargrilled wood pigeon.

Orders taken, we sipped on our drinks while greedily eyeing up the dishes being served up around us.

Giving us just enough time to chew the fat, our starters arrived and we wasted no time in getting stuck right in.

Bringing the white dinner plate to life, the vivid rich red beetroot mousse was enticingly served on top of four circles of marinated heritage beetroot with a generous dollop of creamy goats cheese crottin and walnut crumble at the centre.

The beetroot mousse with marinated heritage beetroot, goats cheese crottin and walnut crumble was a delicious revelation. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

With a palate more accustomed to beetroot straight out of a jar, the beetroot mousse was a melt in the mouth revelation.

Oozing its distinctive earthy flavour and slight bitterness, the moreish mousse was perfectly balanced with the creaminess of the goats cheese while the walnut crumble and marinated heritage beetroot brought some crunch to the party.

Suffice to say the plate was wiped clean.

Succulent wood pigeon

The reaction from the other side of the table was also one of satisfaction.

Succulent, tender and blushing pink, the chargrilled wood pigeon’s slight sweetness was complemented by the saltiness of the Stornoway black pudding croquette, the spice of curried plums and the acidity of the sea buckthorn.

Leaning back further into our seats in a subconscious effort to make room for our mains, anticipation was high.

The chargrilled wood pigeon, Stornoway black pudding croquette, sea buckthorn and Thai curries plum was a winner. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Keen to sample the local seafood, I opted for the barbecue monkfish with langoustines in a Vietnamese crab and ginger bisque and a separate plate of pak-choi fried rice.

Mild and sweet without being too fishy, the monkfish and the plump langoustines tasted wonderful in their own right but the crab and ginger bisque added a depth of flavour that sent my tastebuds wild and left me wanting to tip up the plate and drink it.

As for the pak-choi fried rice, delicious would be an understatement.

Seafood fans are sure to love the grilled monkfish and langoustine with Vietnamese crab bisque and pak choi fried rice. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Bursting with flavour, the distinctive taste of lemongrass cutting through, the rice was so good that I could’ve happily sat and ate a bowl of it on its own.

Across the table, short work was being made of the trio of pork with jerk spiced belly, sherry braised cheek, pulled pork croquette, served with sweetcorn and wild mushrooms.

Remarking that he never usually eats the fatty bits of the pork due to their chewiness, my partner said that the pork was so tender and the fat so soft that he couldn’t resist.

Tender and bursting with flavour, the trio of pork hit the spot.  Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Stealing a forkful myself, the pork was indeed tender and flavoursome and that sherry sauce – devine.

With our heads telling us we’re full and our hearts telling us otherwise we decided to make room for dessert.

Waistband digging into my stomach, I opted for a single scoop of the Iron Bru ice cream which came in a sweet sundae glass with a mini meringue on the top.

Creamy and with a hint of that distinctive orange fizz flavour, it was the after dinner sugar fix I needed.

Sweet sensation, the warm apple and cinnamon at Tart tatin with calvados caramel and double cream ice cream<br />Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Dessert envy struck when the apple and cinnamon tart tatin with calvados caramel and double cream ice cream was served up opposite me.

Opening up that spare stomach pocket, I stole a spoonful and wow.

The topsy-turvy apple and caramel tart, baked upside down so the apples stay soft and jammy and the pastry on top crisp was a sweet sensation.

The Verdict

To see a restaurant making the most of the amazing local larder we have on our doorstep is a reason to celebrate.

From the foraged sea buckthorn and wild mushrooms to the local seafood and game, The Stack is flying the flag for seasonal Scottish cuisine.

And the food is truly excellent with an extensive menu bursting with inventive dishes while the service was friendly and efficient.

We’ll definitely be back.

The Stack is a warm and homely both inside and outside. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson


Address: 14 Dunnyfell Rd, Muchalls, Stonehaven AB39 3RP

T: 01569 730393


Price: £92.10 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, two espressos, one soft drink, two glasses of wine and a beer.