Never a better time for gastronomic trip
DEAN KIRBY enjoys the fresh local food of the north east of Scotland on a weekend trip to Aberdeenshire
THE north east of Scotland might seem a long way to go for a bite to eat, but with direct flights from Manchester, Aberdeenshire is much closer than you think.
You can be there in just over an hour and can be sitting at your dining table for a real culinary treat shortly afterwards.
And there is no better time to head north and celebrate Aberdeenshire’s natural larder, as 2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink.
Our first stop from Aberdeen Airport was the pretty coastal town of Stonehaven, where we were promised the country’s best fish and chips.
We were not disappointed by the multi-award winning The Bay Fish and Chips, which takes the humble fish and chip shop to a whole new level.
Owner Calum Richardson is able to tell you which boat landed your North Sea haddock and which local farmer grew the potatoes for your chips. The fish is then gently fried in Calum’s homemade batter.
Our first taste of Aberdeenshire was a box of haddock and chips supplied with perfection by Aberdeenshire’s local trawler fleet.
We sat eating our fish and chips overlooking the North Sea – followed by a delicious box of langoustines.
After taking a quick peak at the nearby stunning cliff-top Dunnottar Castle, we turned northwards to the picturesque fishing town of Ellon, where we were staying.
Our billet for the next few nights was the town’s family-owned Buchan Hotel, which prides itself on delivering good, locally-sourced food and traditional Scottish hospitality.
We settled down that night to a platter of smoked seafood, followed by a moreish plate of beef medallions with a wonderful oatmeal stuffing and whisky sauce.
After a good night’s sleep, we set off next morning on a drive through miles of rolling Aberdeenshire farmland, until we reached Formartine’s on the edge of the Haddo Estate.
John Cooper, Formartine’s visionary owner, gave us a tour of his remarkable eatery and shop, which sells products including Haddo venison and fish from Formartine’s own smokehouse, followed by a stunning woodland walk around the neighbouring trout lake.
The fine but unpretentious food, the friendly atmosphere and rural surroundings make Formartine’s a must-see visit on any trip to Aberdeenshire.
After our walk, we settled down to two house specials – warm toasted Gruyère scone and Formartine’s perfect scotch eggs – followed by homemade cake and marvellous coffee, which is freshly roasted in Scotland. There are plenty of sites of interest nearby, including Haddo House itself, the Pitmedden Gardens and a host of other castles and whisky distilleries.
But we set off north to the coastal trail that took us through the pretty fishing villages of Collieston and Cruden Bay.
The following morning, we made a beeline for the fabulous Eat On The Green restaurant in Udny Green. Owner and inspirational chef Craig Wilson told us the story of the restaurant, which reflects his passion for fine food served with traditional north east hospitality.
Only the best ingredients make it on to the Eat on the Green menu – from locally reared Angus beef to Stornoway black pudding, Highland venison and homegrown fruit and vegetables. Craig even took us to the restaurant’s polytunnels and picked some parsley which was on our plates less than an hour later.
Our fabulous meal in the restaurant – complete with its own champagne lounge – included a starter of haggis and beef kofta, spinach, nutmeg creme fraiche soup, confit duck with apple and ginger and goats cheese salad.
This was followed by fillet of Aberdeenshire beef with caramelised onion and mushroom, hand cut chips and a pink peppercorn cream.
It was a perfect lunch for a perfect day.
The final stop on our gastronomic tour of Aberdeenshire was The Store in Foveran.
This excellent farm shop was established by the Booth family of beef farmers who have been working the land for four generations.
Their aim is simple – to promote high quality regional food with a passion.
The shop now stocks products including fresh vegetables, cheese and local berries to complement the farm’s finest Aberdeenshire Angus beef – which is matured for a minimum of 21 days.
During our visit, we were able to see the butchery and even had a trip up to the farm to see the herd for ourselves.
It was fantastic to be able to see where some of the best local produce on the region’s tables is made.
We took home some Angus beef sausages and, just over an hour after taking off from Aberdeen Airport, we were back home eating them for our tea.