“ Cuisine: Seafood / Contact: Catterline Stonehaven, AB39 2UL / Tel: +44 (0)1569 750254 „
The Creel Inn in Catterline, on the Aberdeenshire coast, is renowned locally for its seafood dishes and welcoming atmosphere. Catterline is a small fishing village, located between Inverbervie and Stonehaven, and the Creel itself is perched on the cliffs overlooking the bay.
The Creel has a restaurant and lounge bar, both offering the same menu. Having never eaten in the restaurant, I can't comment on that but as the menu is the same, I expect it to be similar to the lounge. My family and I have eaten at the Creel numerous times since we moved to the area 20 years ago, and it has changed hands a few times during that time. We went back very recently after I had not been there for several years since I moved to London. This was my first visit since I started eating fish several years ago (after a decade of proper vegetarianism), so I was keen to see what was on the menu.
The first thing to note about the Creel is that it can be difficult to find. If you're not local, you probably don't have a chance without a map. Further to that, Catterline itself has narrow roads, and the Creel car park is up a steep little slope, and will only hold a few cars at a time. You can park on the street if you can find a space.
The lounge bar has a pleasant atmosphere, with padded benches around the wall, a good number of tables without being cramped, and exposed beams. Adjacent to the lounge is the bar, which has a lovely fire going in winter. We visited on a weeknight recently, and so the lounge bar was very quiet, so it was a bit cool - we were moved to a table in front of the fire in the bar, which was nice and cosy. My dad and I found it a bit warm after a while, but my mum was very happy!
The Creel always has a choice of real ales on offer, and you can see what it has served in the past from the collection of labels in the bar. As there was no cider on draught I stuck to Tennents, but my dad sampled the Creal ale which they were serving, and enjoyed it (and yes I have spelt the name of the ale correctly, it is Creal not Creel!).
The menu, predictably, features a lot of seafood dishes. There are a number of daily specials available, which will always include a vegetarian option. There is also a good selection of meat dishes. As we hadn't visited the Creel for a while, we had spoken to a friend who had been recently, who raved about the crab soup - so I decided to be brave (having never eaten crab) and tried that for a starter. It was delicious - very strongly flavoured, with tomato and a slightly tangy base. It was very hot, so it lasted a while as I waited for it to cool down! It was served with bread and butter, which was very fresh.
For main course, I decided to be a little adventurous again. I often see seafood dishes on menus which sound nice, but having not tried the type of fish in question, I usually wimp out and stick to haddock, cod or scampi. So I decided I would try the Seafood Trio, a trio of fish selected from the market every day. This was salmon, haddock and sea bass on the day we visited. I knew I liked salmon and haddock, and thought this would be a good chance to try sea bass without committing to a whole meal of it. Served with a parsley sauce and a small amount of risotto, the sea bass and salmon was lovely. I know now that I love sea bass! Unfortunately, my first mouthful of haddock was chock full of bones - I've never known anything quite like it. The rest actually seemed ok after that first bite, but by that point I was too nervous about bones to be able to relax and enjoy the haddock, so I left it and finished the rest.
We were served with potatoes and vegetables along with our main courses, which my dad was looking forward to as he remembered the Creel being very good at vegetables! The potatoes were really nice, the vegetables were also good but not ones which I am particularly fond of even when cooked nicely - mashed turnip (neep) and cabbage.
My parents both enjoyed their meals - my dad chose the Corn Fed Chicken and my mum had the Salmon en Croute, although she did feel that the pastry wasn't quite right on it, as if it had been reheated after being cooked.
My mum and I shared a Chocolate Baileys Bread and Butter Pudding, which was very nice but far too much for us - so my dad had to finish it!
The service at the Creel was good as well. We didn't wait too long for any of our food, and the waitress was more than happy to set up the table by the fire for us. Service was attentive and with a smile, and although the staff were slightly informal (the Creel being a local restaurant and bar), this was not a problem and fitted perfectly with the surroundings.
Prices are a little steeper than the average pub, starting from around £10 for a main course, but averaging £12-£13. Our bill came to £63 including drinks.
I was thoroughly impressed by the Creel, and also very relieved it lived up to my memories. I'm glad I chose to be a little more adventurous than usual with my meal, and I think I chose the right place to do so, as the crab soup and sea bass were spot on. It's a shame about the haddock, but that happens with fish from time to time, so I won't hold it against the Creel.