The Marine Hotel has been a gracious presence on the North Berwick coastline since the 1800s, when it was built as a hydropathic institute, which was converted by the Marine Hotel Company.
Until last year it was one of the crown jewels of the Macdonald Hotel (along with the Rusacks in St Andrews). But these were sold to Chicago-based AJ Capital Partners in early 2021.
After a complete refurbishment, the hotel reopened in late 2021 with a new restaurant, The Lawn and Bass Rock bar and an afternoon tea lounge.
The team say the ‘grand old lady’ has returned to its former glory as a luxury landmark on Scotland’s Golf Coast. This is evident from the moment guests arrive in the now bright and airy reception and lounge, with its views over the garden and the Firth of Forth.
Everything from the wallpapers to the accessories and furniture has been curated by the design team, with this new look leaning towards a modern take on the classic heritage with patterns in prints inspired by the natural landscape and its locals (including golfers).
While we spent time admiring the view and discussing the development of the hotel, it was for dinner that we were here, so after a stop in the atmospheric bar (the dark walls contrast sharply with the restaurant and reception, but very functional giving this space a cozy and clubby vibe), we headed to the restaurant.
The Lawn restaurant is run by MasterChef: Chris Niven of the Professionals (who was previously executive chef at the Fairmont in St Andrews and the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh, and reached the final of the national Chef of the Year competition) and promises an extensive menu all day showcasing the best of British and Scottish cuisine.
Dishes include local beef, game and freshly landed seafood such as freshly landed lobster from the Seacliff fishing vessel.
There are also vegetables from Phantassie Organic and meat from Castle Game.
Niven also designed the Bass Rock Bar food menu to complement his extensive drink list.
Dishes here include small and large plates such as Belhaven smoked salmon with crème fraiche, capers, dill, arugula and truffle macaroni and cheese made with farmhouse St Andrews cheddar, black truffle and cauliflower.
The restaurant features a mix of bistro-style tables and leather and velvet banquettes, with a green color scheme and striking lighting – it’s, like the rest of the hotel, very different from the old dining room .
After a delicious and fragrant mocktail – a non-alcoholic version of the classic Cosmo, made with Lyre’s London Dry, lime and hibiscus – we feasted on a light and fluffy andante sourdough bread, covered in butter of culture while deciding the rest of our meal.
To start, I chose three of the Loch Fyne Oysters from the snack menu. These plump beauties served on ice and with a pointed shallot reseda went down very well, with their obvious and thirst-quenching freshness.
My dining partner went for the duck parfait.
The generous slab was served with an orange and tarragon sauce, a small salad and slices of buttered brioche – and was rich and flavorful.
Options for main courses were assorted British cuisine as promised with duck, venison, Scottish fish and a vegetarian option.
There’s also a good selection of Tweed Valley beef, for those who fancy a steak. I opted for the Halibut Gigha while opposite it was the sea bass who was chosen.
Roasted halibut artfully arranged with a layer of creamy chicken butter between it and charred leeks and wild mushrooms.
The fish was tender and meaty, and was complemented by the rich sauce and extremely flavorful spears of crispy leeks and mushrooms. There was also pale pink pickled shallot bite.
The sea bass had a crispy skin and soft center and was enlivened by a salad of lemon, capers and sea vegetables on top – light but complex.
We also shared the sides of sprouting broccoliwhich was enhanced by the addition of lemon and crispy slivers of garlic and sprinkled with hazelnuts.
And, it seemed rude not to try our waiter’s enthusiastic suggestion of the crispy anna apple generously sprinkled with salt and vinegar.
Resembling a fancy hash brown, these crispy potato slices indeed deserved the accolades they got.
Although there’s no room for dessert, the afternoon tea offering would be a perfect way to celebrate a birthday or event, or just spend a few hours with friends.
It offers cakes and pastries – like the Chocolate Caramel Cake; almond, praline and orange blossom tart; and ginger, lemon and clove macaroons – created by pastry chef, Sarah Brion, who was previously pastry chef at the Michelin-accredited Fife Arms, Braemar, and worked in bakeries and restaurants in Paris and the Japan.
The claim that this ‘grand old lady’ of a hotel is back to its former glory seems to ring true, and while restaurant prices reflect the luxury of the hotel and the quality of the ingredients, we are not left feeling changed.
The à la carte menu is served Sunday through Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it is available from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.