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Restaurant review: For the best seafood and views to die for pay a visit to Tolbooth in Stonehaven

For the most stunning views and quality seafood, the Tolbooth in Stonehaven is the place to go

Tuck into some of the best seafood at Tolbooth in Stonehaven. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
Tuck into some of the best seafood at Tolbooth in Stonehaven. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

There’s not many seafood restaurants in the north-east where you can say you’re spoiled for both seaside views and quality food.

Silver Darling in Aberdeen is probably the first that comes to many a mind, but now that the Tolbooth in Stonehaven has reopened under new ownership, I cannot encourage you more to go try it out.

Paul Mair is the new owner of the restaurant and after his continued success with Cafe Boheme on Aberdeen’s Windmill Brae and The Old Pier in Stonehaven, it is great to see him get his teeth into his third venue.

Outside the Tollbooth at Stonehaven Harbour.
Outside the Tolbooth at Stonehaven Harbour. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Having worked as a head chef, this businessman puts food and service at the forefront of all of his venues, the Tolbooth included.

Visiting with Society editor, Ellie House, just a few weeks ago, I had already convinced numerous friends and family to try the restaurant at Stonehaven’s harbour, with plenty giving it the thumbs up.

Ellie was no different.

Her partner, like mine, isn’t a big seafood fan so with this in mind, I knew she’d appreciate the invite.

After work one Thursday we hopped in my car and made the drive from Aberdeen to Stonehaven. The weather was gorgeous and I knew, having already visited a few weeks before, that if we managed to bag a window seat, Ellie would be in awe of the place.

Interior of the Stonehaven seafood restaurant.
Inside the restaurant with its minimalist feel. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The Tolbooth

Welcoming us with open arms, sommelier Gus showed us to our table by the window. We’d hit the jackpot.

He offered us the drinks menu and shared the specials of the day. The scallops in yuzu sounded divine, as did the market fish.

The RNLI were out training so we had a front row view of the full operation. Scanning the drinks list it was the mocktails that piqued our interest. Ellie opted for the Spring Garden with seedlip while Gus offered to rustle me up something different. A non-alcoholic spiced rum with blueberry, vanilla syrup and orange was presented. Both looked vibrant and refreshing.

Another view inside Tolbooth.
Just one perspective of the view from the restaurant’s window. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Tolbooth’s interior is minimalist and elegant. There’s different shades of blue, whitewash walls, portraits of the venue and the surrounding area hanging and dried flower arrangements in vases dotted on the odd table.

The natural light floods the venue and I can imagine come rain or shine, the views won’t disappoint. Although it is especially beautiful on a summers day.

Our drinks arrived promptly and we placed our order.

The food

Ellie hadn’t had an oyster in a long time so I insisted we try one, that was before hearing the story of her last attempt.

Gus presented the oysters with some mignonette (vinegar and shallot sauce) and a bottle of Angus and Oink’s Red Dawg Apache hot sauce which I carefully dripped onto it.

Plate of oysters.
Oysters are a great way to kick off your experience. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

I watched as Ellie slid it into her mouth, ending said encounter with a smile. I did the same a little more confidently, not before squeezing a little lemon on it, too.

Her starter was to be the gin cured sea trout while I’d opted for the mussels.

The sea trout was a vision when it was placed in front of us. A bright orange, the fish looked incredible.

She described it as “joy on a plate” and commented on the intense flavour which somehow was incredibly delicate all at the same time. The avocado dip with caviar on top was subtle but added some more zing, and the pickled cucumber and toasted soda bread added different textures.

It was her favourite dish of the evening.

Table spread at Tolbooth.
Don’t forget to look up when dining at Tolbooth. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

I’d had the langoustine bisque before (this is a must try!) so I wanted to order something different. The roasted garlic, shallot and white wine cream sauce sounded too tempting and the mussels dish was the perfect size for a starter. Each one had popped open and I used the sourdough slices to soak up the rest of the sauce.

Off to an excellent start, we were excited for mains.

Diners had now began to pile in by around 6.45pm and there was a real buzz to the place.

Ellie had selected the hake while I’d ordered the langoustine special, which was an absolute treat if I do say so myself.

The rock turbot dish.
The rock turbot dish I tried on a previous visit. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Her hake came with a haricot and chorizo cassoulet, baby courgettes and tomato and cumin while mine was served with new potatoes and a veg salad.

I was given a seafood fork and crab crackers to open the claws and get every last morsel of meat out. And that I did.

As Ellie tucked in I was pulling off heads, crunching claws and slurping as much of that delicious meat up as I could. Not being greedy, I offered her some of the six or seven langoustines I was devouring, which she immediately responded “yes please!”.

Close up of the rock turbot dish.
The quality of the fish is outstanding. Pictured is the rock turbot. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

While it did take me a little longer to tackle my dish I polished off every single piece. The tatties were soft and boiled to perfection and I loved the warm salad with broccoli, tomato, mignonette, green beans and more in. They complemented the seafood and let the shellfish do the talking.

Ellie’s halibut flaked on the fork. It was very light and there were no bones in the excellently cooked piece of fish. The pommes puree matched perfectly, as did the cassoulet, and the portion size was spot on.

On a previous visit I tried the rock turbot with olive oil pomes puree, grapes, verjus and vermouth beurre blanc and it was exceptional. I’d also highly recommend trying it.

We couldn’t bring ourselves to pass up on dessert, despite feeling full, so we ordered the lemon curd.

Lemon dessert.
The lemon dessert was a winner for something a little lighter. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Ellie loved the concept of the lemon curd, not overly sour and when you mixed the lemon with the shortbread crumb it created a delicious texture. She commented on how she thought a lot of thought has gone into the dish and how ideal it was for the summer months when you don’t want something rich.

It “tasted like a summer by the beach,” she added.

Just like every dish before it, it looked a vision. Expertly plated with care and precision, it was the poppy seed meringue and elderflower sorbet I enjoyed the most. If you’re a chocolate lover though, be sure to order their gianduja cheesecake!

My favourite part of the night though was watching the couple who shared the beautiful window view with being transfixed with the view. They were taking pictures throughout their meal and ended up sitting side by side to enjoy the last of the sun before it hid behind the cliff edge that surrounds the harbour.

Stonehaven Harbour.
Stonehaven Harbour. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

In the end everyone was trying to get a glimpse of the view, with many tables benefitting from it thanks to the big windows.

We left with a skip in our step and our hearts and bellies full. While I think this restaurant is the perfect date location, it’s also somewhere different to catch up with friends and watch the world go by.

The verdict

Tolbooth has a very relaxed atmosphere but serves up some of the best seafood you’ll find in the north-east.

There’s no pretense here, just good cooking and stellar service. Not to mention a cracking view that will change with every visit. The way the sun shifted like the tide through the restaurant as it hugged the cliffs brings a magical feeling into the venue.

Paul and his team have done an excellent job in reigniting the community’s love for a beloved restaurant and I can’t wait to see what is next for them.


Address: Harbour, Old Pier, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire AB39 2JU

T: 01569 762287


Price: £111.25 for two oysters, two mocktails, one Diet Coke, two mains and a dessert


  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surrounding: 5/5