Talk about a good location! The Silver Darling is the old Aberdeen customs house, and overlooks the wide mouth of the industrially-busy Dee river into the North Sea. The boats which ply this stretch are mostly en route to or from the oil rigs a day or two further out to sea.
Inside, a black metal spiral staircase leads up into the wide-windowed dining room above, complete with beautiful views out over the water. Especially if one had been given what feels like the best seat in the house, a remarkable situation given I was there by myself. As the sun set, my view gave way to reflection, and, eerily, I was my own dinner companion more visibly than usual when eating out alone.
A trio of amuses-bouche arrived before my starter. A shot of mint-touched gazpacho was refreshing, if a little on the watery side. The herring - after which the restaurant is named - was pickled, and formed a tasty little bit with a few pieces of vegetables to balance it. A little piece of salmon was pleasant: my memory says it was finished with a drop of mirin and soy sauce, but I'm not sure I trust my memory wholly on this point.
It's a seafood restaurant, although they have a meat item or two on the menu, and will do vegetarian alternatives if given 24-hours warning. But seafood is what they focus on, so seafood is what I had. I started with the scallops, lured, as is so often the case, by what they came with. The pan-fried Shetland scallops were tiny, but nicely balanced between firm and tender. They were each served on a dab of orange, tarragon, and carrot purée, and finished with an even smaller dollop of a raisin green pesto. The dish was, as a result, moderately sweet, but with a pleasant balance of textures, from the pop of the rehydrated raisins to the smoothness of the purée.
The balance between centerpiece and sides was much more inequitable for the main. Two generous pieces of roasted monkfish fillet overwhelmed, in quantity, the tasty little treats which came with it. As a result, there weren't quite enough elements to eat with the fish. The tender vegetable salad in yogurt dressing balanced at the tip of one of the pieces. The sweet potato and corander rosti were clustered at their base. The orange and basil sauce swirled around the edges. It is not that I needed more quantity per se - I was comfortably full by the end of the meal - so much as I needed more condiments, if I can call them that, to balance out the bulk of the fish.
Dessert was meant to be dessert wine and something to go with the dessert wine, but the waiter's suggestion backfired somewhat when he suggested the quartet of differntly-flavored creme brûlées to bring out different aspects of the muscat de Beaumes. Technically, yes they did: but the first two pots, vanilla and pistachio, stripped the wine of its sweetness and made it almost wholly acidic. It wasn't all that pleasant. Fortunately, the last two pots, white peach and raspberry, redeemed the wine. Still, the most sublime moment of the course was slowly savorying the little pieces of gently cooked white peach, tasting of spring and orchard sunshine, which were meant, on the plate, just as a label for the pot.
The restaurant is elegant but accessible, with white linens, wooden floors, and cushioned wicker chairs. Service is friendly and very well-intentioned, but the staff didn't always coordinate well or quite think things through. My water bottle was placed on my table a good six inches out of my reach; I thought, for a while, that this meant they would top up my glass for me, but it didn't. At least three staff members asked me if I wanted wine; I said all along that I would wait for dessert, and eventually, a fourth staff member just cleared my glass away. This was useful inasmuch as it stopped everyone asking me if I was having wine, but equally meant that my order of dessert wine was later misplaced and I had to request it again. Note that these are quibbles: they wouldn't bother me if the restaurant wasn't clearly operating on as high a standard as it already is.
Overall, a very pleasant meal, with some real highlights, which isn't quite as coherent in dish design or service as it could be. But it's worth going: the scallops were really good, the atmosphere friendly, and above all, the view is fabulous.