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The Rocks - Great food by the seaside
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The Rocks
Marine Road,
EH42 1AR
01368 862287

Wow! My starter at this seafront restaurant in East Lothian it took me aback.

Whipped Feta, Beetroot bits' n' bobs and Candied Walnuts sounded modest causing me to have a menu wobble. Should I have ordered the Bucket of Fish or the Cauliflower Fritters with Red Devil Cheese Fondue? No need to panic though, the 'bits 'n' bobs' turned out to comprise gold and purple heritage beets, a cerise-coloured remoulade and a throw of purple dust as if an artist had flicked their paintbrush over the earthenware plate. The whipped cheese was creamy and walnuts crunchy from a light toasting.

Lea, my dining partner, had an equally impressive starter. Creel-caught Crab Toastie with Apple, Dill and Horseradish Mayo. Sweet, delicate meat, aromatic herbs and fruit were heaped onto the bread with a fat wedge of lemon.

Our window seat had a view of the charcoal grey North Sea and was an atmospheric setting for lunch.  The hotel perches just above the beach and rocks of Dunbar.  Main courses arrived. I had Sea Bass fillets on Shellfish Paella which had plenty of prawns, mussels and squid peeking through the rice. The paella was flavoured with turmeric rather than saffron, mildly spicy while cleverly avoiding any hint of bitterness. A scarlet red pepper pesto was sweet and against the 'piccalilli- yellow' rice made the dish look very Spanish.  And indeed a glass of Albarino was the perfect lubricant. Crispy skinny calamari provided garnish. Sea bass skin was crispy.

Lea had Lamb with Cauliflower Cheese Puree. The lamb was cooked perfectly, but she thought the puree could have been more robustly flavoured and the potato fondant 'more buttery'. The food was surpassing my expectations until I realised that ownership had transferred in January to the same proprietors of The Sun Inn, Dalkeith – a gastropub with a deserved reputation for excellent quality food. Having said that I was a little disappointed with my dessert, which arrived as we watched the haar lift outside.

I expected a fruity explosion from my Strawberry Parfait but the fruit was not ripe enough and store-bought blueberries perfunctory. Raspberries were more seasonal and consequently plump and full of flavour.  Lea and I concluded that a raspberry version with a coulis would have worked better.

Her nibs, however, had a superlative pudding.  Mango, coconut mousse, pineapple salsa and coconut ice-cream had Lea scraping up every last morsel.

The Rocks has been refurbished to a high contemporary standard. Eating is informal and can take place in several rooms or the bar. There is a small yard with a pizza oven and plenty of Scottish spirits, especially gins, line the back bar. 

I can't wait to return for a blustery winter walk along the beach knowing I have this gem to look forward to as a reward.  If the daunder is long enough, it will be fish 'n' chips followed by sticky toffee pudding! (S. Wilson)     

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