The Marine Hotel has been a graceful presence on the North Berwick shoreline since the 1800s, when it was built as a Hydropathic Institute, which was converted by Marine Hotel Company.
Up until last year, it was one of the jewels in the Macdonald Hotel’s crown (along with the Rusacks in St Andrews). But these were sold to Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners in early 2021.
After an extensive renovation, the hotel reopened in late 2021 with a new-look restaurant, The Lawn and Bass Rock bar and afternoon tea lounge.
The team say that the ‘grand old lady’ is back to her former glory as a luxury landmark on Scotland’s golf coast. This is evident from the moment guests arrive into the now bright and spacious reception and lounge area, with its views out to the garden and Firth of Forth.
Everything from the wallpapers to accessories and furnishings have been made by the design team, with this new look leaning towards a modern take on classic heritage with patterns with prints inspired by the natural landscape and its inhabitants (including the golfers).
While we spent some time admiring the views and discussing how much the hotel has changed, it was dinner we were here for, so after a stop in the atmospheric bar (the dark walls are a stark contrast to the restaurant and reception, but work very well giving this space a cosy, clubby vibe), we headed down the hall to the restaurant.
The Lawn restaurant is headed up by MasterChef: The Professionals’ Chris Niven (who was previously executive chef at The Fairmont in St Andrews and The Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh, and has made it to the finals of the National Chef of the Year competition) and promises an extensive all-day menu that showcases the best of British and Scottish cuisine.
Dishes include local beef, game and freshly landed seafood such as lobster fresh off the Seacliff fishing boat.
There’s also vegetables from Phantassie Organic and meat from Castle Game.
Niven has also designed the Bass Rock Bar’s food menu to complement its extensive drinks list.
Dishes here include small and large plates such as Belhaven smoked salmon with creme fraiche, capers, dill, rocket and truffle mac and cheese made with St Andrews farmhouse cheddar, black truffle, cauliflower.
The restaurant has a mix of bistro style tables and leather and velvet booth seating, with a green colour palette and statement lighting - it is, as with the rest of the hotel, very different to the former dining room in style.
After a delicious and fragrant mocktail - a non alcoholic take on the classic Cosmo, made with Lyre’s London Dry, lime and hibiscus - we tucked into light and chewy andante sourdough bread, slathered with cultured butter while deciding on the rest of our meal.
For starters, I chose three of the Loch Fyne oysters from the snack menu. These plump beauties were served over ice and with a sharp shallot mignonette and went down very well, with their freshness obvious and refreshing.
My dining partner went for the duck parfait.
The generous slab was served with an orange and tarragon sauce, small salad and slices of buttery brioche - and was rich and flavoursome.
The options for mains were a smorgasbord of British cuisine, as promised, with duck, venison, Scottish fish and one veggie option.
There’s also a good selection of Tweed Valley beef, for those that are craving steak. I opted for the Gigha halibut while across the table, it was the seabass that was chosen.
The pale roasted halibut artfully laid out with a smearing of creamy chicken butter between it and the charred baby leeks and wild mushrooms.
The fish was tender and meaty, and was complemented by the rich sauce and extremely flavourful spears of leek and crispy mushrooms. There was also some bite from pale pink pickled shallots.
The seabass had crispy skin and a soft centre and was enlivened by a lemon, caper and sea veg salad on top - light yet complex.
We also shared sides of sprouting broccoli, which was given a lift with the addition of lemon and slivers of crispy garlic and sprinkled with hazelnuts.
And, it seemed rude not to try the enthusiastic suggestion from our waiter of the crispy pomme anna which were liberally sprinkled with salt and vinegar.
Looking like a posh hash brown, these slabs of crispy potato did indeed deserve the praise heaped on them.
While there was no room for dessert, the afternoon tea offering would be an ideal way to celebrate a birthday or event, or just while away a few hours with friends.
It features cakes and pastries - such as chocolate and caramel cake; almond, praline and orange blossom tart; and ginger, lemon and clove macaroons - created by head pastry chef, Sarah Brion, who was previously head pastry chef at the Michelin accredited Fife Arms, Braemar and has worked in bakeries and restaurants across Paris and Japan.
The statement that this ‘grand old lady’ of a hotel is back to her former glory seems to ring true, and while prices at the restaurant reflect the luxury of the hotel and quality of ingredients, we didn’t leave feeling short changed.
The a la carte menu is served Sunday to Thursday between 12 – 3pm and 5:30 – 9:30pm. On Saturday and Sunday, it is available from 5:30 – 10pm.