“ Address: 1 Auchmithie / nr Arbroath / DD11 5SQ / Scotland „
The first time I visited this small restaurant was on a very cold and windy lunchtime, just before Christmas, around 17 years ago. The office where I worked decided to have their festive lunch there and it was so good that it wasn't long before I was booking a table there one evening.
Since then my visits have been kept to mainly special occasions and I was delighted the other week to hear that hubby was taking me there for a birthday treat.
Auchmithie is a small fishing village just north of Arbroath on the East Coast of Scotland. It's not the easiest to find but the best way from Arbroath is to head out towards Montrose on the A92. On the outskirts of Arbroath you turn right at the Meadowbank Inn and then follow the road to the end where you make a left along tiny country roads. Keep going until you see a sign for Auchmithie leading you down towards the sea and you'll find this small restaurant easily.
Parking is available on the street and by way of a small public car park just round the back of the restaurant. In summer you can have a gentle stroll down to the sea but it winter it can be pretty wild so dress accordingly if you want to round off your meal with a blast of sea air.
Any fans of The Broons from the Sunday Post will know that the family often spend holidays at their But 'n' Ben, which is a little cottage in the country. This restaurant is well named because on first glance this looks like someone's home and as you enter, it has a warming atmosphere too.
In winter there is always a real fire blazing away and the décor of this quaint establishment has a very welcoming and homely approach to it. There are artworks on the walls from various local artists that often depict pictures of local scenes such as the cliffs, the wild sea and Arbroath Abbey. These can be bought on site if you want to take home a small reminder of the area.
Making a booking can be done over the phone but don't expect to go there on a whim especially during the holiday periods, as this out of the way spot is well known amongst locals and regular visitors to the area and it can often be difficult to get a spur of the moment booking. When my hubby phoned on the Thursday to make an appointment for Monday night, he was told that it was lucky that it wasn't the weekend we needed, as they were fully booked.
What gives this spot it's charm though is the fact that it has been family run for many years and it has a certain old-fashioned feel to it with a gorgeous welsh dresser and wine unit near the kitchen area, along with the big open fireplaces.
On arrival we were warmly welcomed and immediately seated at our table. We could see right away that it was going to be another packed night for them but this didn't really worry us. We were seated in cosy little corner at an intimate table for two, which was decorated with a small vase with freshly cut flowers.
Our menus and the wine list was given to us as we were seated and after only a couple of minutes after we had set the menus down, the waitress came back to take our order and brought us our drinks. We had also been informed of the Soups of the Day and other specials available for the night but it's worth mentioning that if you plan to have something from the sweet trolley, that it might be better to skip the starter because main meals and desserts are very filling here. This is exactly what we decided to do.
We were then brought a choice of cheese scones or wholemeal bread to keep us going while our main courses were being prepared. This took a little bit longer than it would normally take because a large order had been taken just before we arrived but we were informed about this and more scones and bread were brought to us with an apology, which we thought was a nice touch.
I had decided to have a favourite dish of mine, mainly because it is not exactly available in most restaurants and I know they cook it to perfection here. Medallions of Venison cooked with red wine, rowan jelly and juniper berries, accompanied by a redcurrant tartlet was my choice and hubby decided to try something a little bit different too and ordered the Game Pie, which had pheasant, rabbit and wood pigeon in it and was covered with shortcrust pastry.
One thing I really like about this restaurant is that what you order is what you get on your plate and the accompanying vegetables come in side dishes so you can take exactly what you want. In this case there were three dishes to choose from. Broccoli cooked with toasted almonds, an oven cooked selection of vegetables including courgette, onion and tomatoes and some lovely boiled potatoes, still wrapped in their tasty skins.
As always I thoroughly enjoyed the venison, which was cooked to perfection and was so tender due to the way that it had been prepared with the wine and juniper berry sauce. The meat was easy to cut through and broke up well in the mouth and the strong flavour of the venison was tamed with the sweetness of the tartlet. The vegetables were also cooked just right and tasted delicious.
I have to say that although I wouldn't have gone for the game pie myself, it did look very appealing and hubby said that the flavours of the three different meats blended in well together with a pastry that was to die for.
We savoured every morsel with great pleasure, knowing that we had to leave some room for the sweet trolley, which is really a favourite of mine here. I often find that with dessert menus you are never quite sure what to have and when this sweet trolley is brought out to your table, you know that one dessert is not going to be enough. Don't get me wrong, the portions are more than adequate, in fact I would go as far as saying they are on the large side, but you are encouraged to take a bit of this and a bit of that to fill your pudding bowl and this is something that is most welcome when you see all that is on offer.
Seeing the desserts first hand is much better than just reading from a list on a menu and that is really what gets your mouth watering here. There were a couple of hot options to choose from including the traditional Clootie Dumpling and the ever-popular Apple Pie but these were not the ones that really got my juices flowing. With a choice of delights such as Coffee and Walnut Cake, Rich Chocolate Fudge Cake and Fresh Strawberry and Cream Sponge, it was always going to be a difficult decision to make and I finally chose a section of Coffee and Rum Cake along with a slice of the amazing looking Lemon Cheesecake. Hubby also liked the look of the Lemon Cheesecake and decided that he couldn't resist trying the Strawberry Sponge Cake alongside it. All these can be served with cream or ice cream and there were more strawberries available too if you wanted them.
We both tried each other's desserts and had to decide that although the Strawberry sponge and the Coffee and Rum Cakes were delicious, the winner of the night had to be the Lemon Cheesecake as it was unlike any other we had ever tasted. The mixture of the sweet biscuit base and the tartness of the lemon blended together in a way that had our taste buds jumping all over the place and the creaminess of the fluffy topping finished it off perfectly. This has to have been one of the best desserts I have every tasted, and I do like my puddings.
After all that we felt we didn't have room for coffee and finished our drinks before going for a pleasant stroll down towards the sea. As we paid we were chatted to in a friendly manner and we were asked if everything had been to our liking as well as receiving another apology for the wait for our main meal. I immediately said that this was more than okay as I didn't think 30 minutes was too long to wait for a meal that good.
Nowadays, restaurants are applauded for sourcing their stock locally, but the But 'N' Ben has been well known for serving local fare for many years and I think that is what keeps it so popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
Arbroath is a big fishing area and is famous for The Smokie, which is also known as smoked haddock. With this in mind, a lot of the dishes are fish based so if you are a fan of seafood then this is definitely the place to come. It's not all about fish though and you can have Chicken, Beef or some of the more unusual meats like we sampled on our visit.
For starters there is always a selection of homemade soups along with delights such as oysters, mussels or the more usual dishes of Prawn Cocktail or Garlic Mushrooms. Also on the menu are Hot Buttered Smokie and Smoked Salmon.
Main courses start with a wide selection of fish dishes and the one that is most impressive is the Fruits de Mer platter. This large plate is served completely covered in many different varieties of smoke fish and shellfish. Also available and highly recommended by friends of ours is the Smokie Pancake.
Other meat courses include Boeuf Bourguignon and Chicken Breasts with Prawns as well as a selection of Angus Steaks and for vegetarians there are choices of Pasta or the Vegetarian Flan of the Day.
As well as the sweet trolley there is also the choice to have a cheese board and coffee is served with good old Tablet here. Although I didn't have this on my birthday visit, I have had it in the past and the tablet is gorgeous. Liqueur coffees are also available.
For our two main courses, two desserts and two drinks our bill came to £37.10, which was extremely reasonable given the quality of the food.
Most of the starters are under £5 and the main courses range from £7.95 for the pasta, through to £16.50 for the Fruit de Mer platter. A full pudding bowl from the sweet trolley will cost you £4.20 or the cheese board will set you back £4.50.
This small but exceptional restaurant doesn't really advertise much but then again it doesn't really need to because I'm sure that most people who eat there go on to tell others about the fantastic food and pleasant atmosphere. It has been my favourite spot to go to for a treat for many years and I'm sure it will continue to be so for many more.
So if you are visiting the East Coast of Scotland and want to treat your taste buds to a variety of delicious local dishes, this is the place to go.
This review also appears on Ciao with photos of the food and surrounding views.
Traditional Scottish Cuisine.