Saturday, 23 February 2008


by Mark

I used to frequently bemoan the lack of decent restaurants in Aberdeen. This was back in the day when I used to work at the horrible, disgusting Littlejohns on Schoolhill, which was somehow always chock a block with folk, more than willing to throw that microwaved crap into themselves and pretend they were having a good time. It would frustrate me that probably quite intelligent people were spending £10 on a burger that had been brought in, cooked in the morning, and held hot all day. It would rile me that I was working with a bunch of "chefs" who wouldn't know a good ingredient if it danced in front of them wearing nothing but a tiny thong and an "i'm a good ingrediant" t-shirt. The only thing that got me through the day was knowing one of them had a son, called Levi. He named his son after jeans. Hilarious.

Anyway.....whats this got to do with Rustico?

Nothing at all. The two places are polar opposites, worlds apart, and yet today Rustico was only half full at lunchtime. Weird or what. We went for the lunch menu, having bruschetta to start and then ravioli after that. I can not even begin to tell you how delicious it was. Not without swearing, anyway. It was the tastiest meal I've had in a long, long time. It was fresh, uncomplicated, fast, and cheap, coming in at under £20 for two drinks, starters and mains. It was everything a restaurant should be, apart from busy, which just goes to show that Lamar was right.....there's just no justice in this world.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

The Atholl Hotel

By Nev.

The Atholl Hotel, Kings Gate, 9th February

Strangely, though the food is merely fine, the venue distant from my home, and the clientele all sixty years older than me, the Atholl Hotel is perhaps my most frequented restaurant. The reason for this isn't that I fancy one of the waitresses (though I'm sure they have lovely personalities) but that it is close to my grandfather's house and one of his approved destinations. My grandfather, a pretty spritely 88 years old, can be occasionally awkward when dining out. Not one for wild experimentation, even "safe" venues I've tried to go with him in the past have incurred his ire for their bloated, maniac prices (how can a starter be £5?). However, the choice fully given to him, I'll be dragged to some godawful old folks' favourite, with dry mince and tatties for £2.50. So, for a peaceful life, the Atholl usually suffices.

That's not to say that it's a compromise I feel aggrieved at. Hearty and traditional, the Atholl never disappoints and the service is always prompt and friendly. Almost always, I feel stuffed as hell after eating there. There is a choice of eating in the bar or restaurant section, though perhaps obviously, the service in the restaurant section always seems a little speedier. For some reason, the restaurant section sometimes has a slightly younger crowd (i.e 50 - 60) than the improbably old people that fill the bar tables. In both areas, blinding, thundering techno blasts from all corners. Oh, hang on, no.

Anyway, this lunch-time I found myself at the Atholl with my sister, my mother and my mother's hot new manfriend. I was fully prepared to make life extremely uncomfortable for this gentleman, asking him his intentions and failing to crack a smile at any of his jokes, but he actually seemed like quite a nice guy and so all was well. All, except for my grandfather alas, who had hurt his back so on this occasion didn't join us. This was a shame, but also a relief, as it meant he couldn't continue his conversation with the manfriend discussing every single Aberdeen local since 1943.

So, food, as I suppose this is what this is about. Well, I went for some kind of fish risotto, and Holy Lord if it wasn't filling. If not for being a foul glutton, I doubt I could have finished it. It was massive. Tasty enough, if expectantly unspectacular, it followed a pretty bland salmon pate starter. My sister's main was best though, a chilli beef salad. While I think this is something you can't go too far wrong with, it nonetheless mixed tender slices of beef, sweet chilli sauce and a bunch of green things well, for what seemed like a delicious meal that didn't triple the size of her stomach.

Coffee followed, accompanied by the standard mint, but also a lovely block of fudgy tablet, then I retired home, clambering up my thousand steps to collapse on a chair for a thoroughly deserved nap. Then, I took my pipe and slippers, and made myself a nice cup of tea while turning the heating up to full... hmm, I think these many visits to Atholl are having an effect on me.

Nice Spice: Blue Moon2

By Justin

I am a bit of a grammar fascist, so Blue Moon2 got instant marks off for having their "2" in superscript. I didn't notice any additional dimensions when I ate there, although someone did say that they have an upstairs dining room. Maybe it is a clever post-modern reference to the additional floor not found in the original Blue Moon?

Grammatical pedantry is about the only way I can criticise the Blue Moon2 though. This was an excellent meal, straight out of the top drawer, which confirms the Blue Moon at the top end of Indian food in Aberdeen.

Blue Moon2 is the brother of the better-known Blue Moon on Holburn Street, and is nearby in a back lane behind the College Bar. I've eaten in the original Blue Moon a number of times, but never here. The food at the Blue Moon has always been excellent, and there was no difference in the extension of the brand.

I wasn't starving, so I only had one course. The frolleagues that I was with (you're right Nev, that is highly annoying) all had starters that looked delicious, including some filled pancakes (puri) that were outstanding. My main course was burnt green curry with prawns. This was a nicely hot (probably medium) dish with burnt (on purpose) spinach, as well as spices and prawns. In contrast to the dish that I recently had at Nazma, this had both lovely flavour and the right level of heat. As usual, I had chappati instead of rice, and these were particularly fine examples that seemed to be homemade. Garlic naan was also real good. The dishes of my frolleagues friends all looked good, with lots of appreciative noises. There was a nice range on the menu (exactly the same as the main Blue Moon), including some unusual dishes such as halibut, red snapper, and liver.

Service was excellent: sharp, friendly, and with a smile. The room was packed, and they put up with a loud table of 14 (us) with aplomb. Things didn't take too long to arrive, the food was great, and the atmosphere relaxed. Recommended.

As an aside, on the way home we stopped at the pub and I tried a new beer: Guinness Red. Word of advice: don't bother. It seems to be their attempt at a classic "bitter" or "70/-" type beer, but they have failed spectacularly. It is tasteless (apart from a slight metallic kick) red water with a Guinness-style creamy head on top. Didn't do it for me.

Blue Moon2
1 Alford Lane
01224 593000

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Tres bon: La Gourmandise

By Justin

Knowing a French person, despite its many disadvantages, can sometimes come in useful. Mark (one of the co-authors of this blog) has been hanging around with a French girl for many years now. You might even call her his girlfriend. I certainly do. Anyway, they know that I am a pig, so cake, pastry, and pie are like catnip to me.

This is where La Gourmandise comes in. Presumably the only genuine French patisserie in Aberdeen, it is just round the corner from Mark and Claire's place. They suggested I try it: I fell in love. Run by a Prenchman and his daughter (or improbably-young girlfriend, or random French person), this is a little shop with a small range of products. But what products: baguettes (including filled ones for lunch), croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, brioche, eclairs, mille-feuille, various tarts, croque monisieurs, petit-fours, and some lovely chocolate-almond-pastry-twist things.

I have not been disappointed yet. The pastry is delicious: a lovely texture and almost savoury tang set it aside from lower quality supermarket fare; the pain au chocolat and pain aux raisins are outstanding and go perfectly with my coffee on Saturday and Sunday. The baguettes are excellent, and are going stale after the first day, which to me is a good sign of a home-made product without preservatives. And the tarts, whilst pricey, are lovely as well: I have tried both apple and apricot, but there are a few other varieties as well. Buy by the slice if you're not feeling extravagant.

So thank you Claire, for being French and thus able to vouch for the quality of this shop, which is one of the better "secret" places in town. The fact that you have an aunt who produces fois gras is nice as well...

La Gourmandise
63 Thistle Street
01224 625974


By Nev.

Ma Cameron's, Little Belmont Street I think, 7th February

"Where's me ma?" That was the cry most of yesterday, as I rolled around in a state of great self-pity, suffering from a monstrous hangover that attacked in waves. I've not seen this new film "Cloverfield", with its elusive and destructive monster, but I suggest that it could have been no meaner than the one wreaking devastation upon me yesterday. And all because of a few drinks...

Ok, perhaps more than a few. The venue chosen was the site of Aberdeen's oldest continuous licenced premises, Ma Cameron's. It was to meet a "frolleague" (friend+colleague, term coined by Green) and even before the encounter I suspected a few drinks might flow. Because, lest you forget, while I'm in Aberdeen I don't actually have any proper work to do, I can just hang around like an oafish layabout, and thus my frolleague likewise. And Ma Cameron's happens to have a good supply of draft beer, including one of my favourites, Lia Fail.

Of course, food was on the menu also. Ma Cameron's does quite a nice range of hearty pub food, all bound together in a rather satisfying menu booklet. The haggis, which my frolleague chose (this new word is getting on my tits already), is an established favourite, and never fails. But being decidely peckish this eve, I opted for the bangers'n'mash. You can't go wrong with a big dollop o' bangers'n'mash, indeed it's a meal I think even I might manage to crudely cook for myself, should the whim ever occur. But Ma's surpassed itself, and surprised me, with a delicious mustard-infused cylindrical slice of mash, and a rich, onion-washed bunch o' bangers. The many pints of Lia Fail washed it down a treat.

Oh, and it was many. Many many many. Ma Cameron's is one of my regulars, its cosy, wooden interior, labrynthine corridors and hidden rooms, and its surprising ability to provide a seat no matter how busy, all conspire to make an excellent drinking venue that banish notions of the outside world, and whatever sense may be associated. Banter filled the night, and much gazing on too at the pretty barmaid, whose age we calculated from between 20 and 27. Likely she was a young-looking 27, but after a few beers, who's counting?

Perhaps I should have been counting, as the disaster movie apocalypse that split open my day yesterday reminded me. "Where's me ma?" I asked. And the answer? Well, here today! But not Ma Cameron, but my very own ma, Ma Christie. Come a-visiting to take me out to lunch. And with some new boyfriend of hers! Blimey! Back onto the beers, I think, for me.

Ma Camerons
6 Little Belmont Street
01224 644487

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Thai, Indian and Pub

By Nev


My name is Nev, and while I have exhaustive experience of eating, I am cursed with a lack of finesse in my appreciation. I blame this on my mother, who, wonderful as she is, infused boiled carrots with every meal as I grew up (except for a legendary fish pie I'd rather not go into). Thus it is a great irony that my hard-working colleagues, The Swish Fish and Kitchen Mark, with their marvellous culinary talents, spend much of their time cooking creations at home, while I - absent of any ability in the kitchen - seem to eat out rather a lot. Hence, while I'm in Aberdeen, I visit quite a lot of eating venues, and sample quite a lot of different food; alas, I have no idea whatsoever if it's any good or not.

Perhaps that's harsh. As Green/The Fish has remarked in the past, I can differentiate sweet and sour, and perhaps even hot or cold, and so it is with this delicate arsenal of taste that I attack head-on the many restuarants of Aberdeen and give them my judgement. Bonus points for pies.

1. Bhan Thai, Rose Street, 5th February

A lunch-time took me here, recommended by my dining colleague with a special insider knowledge into the cleanliness of Aberdonian restaurants, being as she is a Health and Safety official. Therefore, I can vouch strongly for the safety of all food within. I can vouch also for the tastiness of my meal, the name of which, regrettably, escapes me. You know, these foreign foods all have names I just can't remember. It had the name "Singapore" in it, and was kind of noodly, with beef and prawns, and was light and delicious. It was from the lunchtime menu, and was perfectly judged so, being enough to satisfy but not bloat.

The venue itself is first floor, and seemed pleasant, but as my seat was facing towards Rose Street I saw more of the Ladbrokes opposite than the actual restaurant. However, I appreciated the golden knife and fork, and my dining colleague paid! So all in all, an Egert and Roger (or whatever they are) thumbs up.

2. Kama, Bridge Street, 5th February

A few days earlier, I had eaten in the Nas (Naz?), as reviewed earlier by my two compatriots. It was very fine, and definitely high quality, despite the gigantic mound of plastic in Kitchen Mark's salad, and the heavy advertisement of celebrity guests. Kama, another Indian resturant just a few doors up, was more low-key on the guests - a photo of Penelope Keith adorned the lucky diner at only two tables of about twelve. Low-key was the theme of the evening, as though Kama is decorated pleasantly, it is far from hi-gloss or silver service. Which is where lies the charm. Straightforward, unpretentious, Kama was relaxed and friendly. Maybe not good enough for an S Club Junior, but good enough for me.

The food was excellent. I think. In fairness, my starter and main were nice, but didn't shine, but that was mostly because I was picking at random, and stupidly asked for the meal mild. What possessed me to ask this I don't know, but it meant that all the kick of my curry was removed. Still, it was very tasty, the potato-ish naan we had was lovely, and the single serving of pilau rice was extremely generous. And of note was my dining colleague's - my old schoolfriend Joe, who had chosen the place - starter, some kind of chilli liver. Improbable as this may sound, this chilli liver was sensationally delicious. I looked at Joe and envied him, then tried to distract him as I stole some more. There is no doubt that next time I go to Kama that I will be ordering this. Maybe twice.

And certainly, I will be returning. The no-frills, low-key vibe, together with the no-nonsense good Indian-style food appealed greatly.

3. The Globe, near Golden Square, 6th February

Well, I had a chilli con carne here. Chilli con carne used to be notable as the only meal I could make, but as I haven't made it since 2003, the note is historical only. Under Kitchen Mark's (via phone) supervision, I made a fried squid and some kind of sauce last year, which was surprisingly lovely, but that was almost 12 months ago and was the last of my kitchen flair, save a few baked potatoes.

Anyway, the chilli was nice. Just standard, but not shaming the world of con carne. My dining colleague opted for a half chicken, and what a mighty chicken it must have once been. I've seen smaller babies! Needless to say my dining colleague, who is fairly petite, was stuffed and ballooned by the end of the epic £6.95 feast.

Bhan Thai
21 Rose Street
01224 639155

Gourmet Kama
20 Bridge Street
01224 575754

The Globe
13-15 North Silver St
01224 624258

Sunday, 3 February 2008


By Mark

Sorry, no snappy titles and no hip hop references, unless I think of something by the time I finish writing this sentence.

No, nothing.

The first impressions that 99 makes are definitely good. The menu reads like a feast of tasty, modern and well conceived dishes, and the decor is quirky, pretentious, but undeniably cool. The menus are stuck inside the front covers of old comic annuals, which is a nice touch, and we were served in a very relaxed and confident manner. Things were looking really good as we were told the specials without the aid of a blackboard, or notebook, and the fact that the waitress knew how many portions of the special were left smacked of good organisation all round. I was beginning to fall for 99 and was determined I was going to love the place.

And then it all went a bit wrong. First up, some food that we hadn't ordered came to our table, and then we had to wait something approaching an hour before we got our meals. I was beginning to wonder what was happening, as tables who arrived and ordered after us had finished eating before we had our food. Thinking back, I suspect that there was a mistake with our order, as it was not written down on a piece of paper when it was taken, but on the waitress's hand. Quite endearing, I thought, at the time, but I'm not sure what the health and safety would make of it.

When it eventually arrived, the food was OK, but nothing more. I chose the Toulouse sausages, which were nice, with herby polenta mash that needed seasoning, and herbs. Claire had a Chicken breast that came with mango and chilli salsa. Incredibly, the mango and chilli salsa was also bland (how can something containing mangos and chillis be bland!) and the chicken was dry, and all round, hers was a disappointing meal. Justin's tapas were hit and miss, and only Simon's meal of pork meatballs was met with total approval. The only real hit at the table were the hand cut chips, which came with aioli and hot sauce, and which were stonkingly good.

So after promising so much, 99 ultimately left us a little disappointed. I'll definitely be back, as the charm of the place was quite infectious, but there are one or two problems that need to be ironed out. Since the death of the once legendary Estaminet, Aberdeen really needs somewhere a little less conventional like this, but they can only survive on charm for so long.

Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen
1 Back Wynd
01224 658087

99 problems: Ninety-Nine

By Justin

See, this blog is aiming to attract the Kids too. Yes, that is a Jay-Z reference in the title. How cool are we!

The (rather pretentiously-titled) Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen occupies the site of the long-dead Booth's Bar, in a prime location just off Union Street and right next to the taxi rank. Booth's was probably my favourite pub when I first came to university, with its grimy interior, great atmosphere and beer, pies and football. When it shut down, it turned into a truly appalling-looking wine bar called "The Wynd", whose door I am glad to say that I never darkened. When I saw that it was now the 99, I looked at the menu and decided now was time to re-enter my old haunt. It looked really promising: informal dining with unpretentious, hearty-sounding food.

Unfortunately, 99 was unable to live up to the promise. Strike one came with the very slow service: it was around 1 hour after we arrived when the food was finally delivered. How it will pick up any business on weekday lunchtimes (when an hour is the limit for the entire break) I don't know. Strikes 2 and 3 came with my meal. I decided to pick some dishes from the Antipasti/tapas section, with my table-mates going for the standard main course-type fare (or provender, according to the menus). Slow-roasted garlic on ciabatta turned out to be a basic garlic bread, and came with the cheese option that I had not requested. Having been served garlic bread, I at least expected to taste the main ingredient, but am sad to say that I only tasted butter and cheese. I love roast garlic, and this wasn't it. My second choice was tiger prawns "drowned in garlic butter": the prawns were there (and tasty) but they weren't in any danger of drowning (can prawns actually drown?) in the meagre amount of butter. Again, I failed to taste any garlic. The day was saved somewhat by the zucchini fritters with spicy sauce, but you can't really go wrong with deep-fried veg, can you?

Maybe the 99 was having a bad day. The service was pleasant and attentive, and the food was alright. The hand-cut chips that Simon and Claire had were lovely, and Mark's sausages looked like a hit. Portions were generally a bit small, meaning that I was only satisfied rather than full. Top marks for not (unlike everywhere else) ripping us off on soft drinks: £1.50 a pint is reasonable. I'll certainly give the place another try at some point, but with so much decent competition in the immediate vicinity, I wonder how long it will be before the building sees another occupant disappear.

Ninety-Nine Bar & Kitchen
1 Back Wynd
01224 658087

Plastic, fantastic: Nazma Tandoori

By Justin

My good friend Mark's excellent review of the Nazma Tandoori below was somewhat tainted by his strange views on celebrity. Doesn't he know that famous people are more important than us "normals", and that by including their praise on the menu (click on the picture to read just some of them) the Nazma lets us bask in their reflected glory? I, for one, enjoy my curry a lot more when I know that the S Club (Juniors) have eaten there.

This blog is, ultimately, about food though. Although the actual cuisine is irrelevant in a celebrity hangout such as this, the Nazma is double-blessed in that it also serves some excellent food. The room has, since my last visit, been "classed up": gone are the cheesy colour-changing lights, and in are modern tables and chairs that make the room a lot more stylish than your average tandoori. Most significantly, the terrible muzak hits of the Beatles and other popular artists were gone, replaced with barely-audible jazz featuring (as we were assured by Claire) a muted trumpeter swan. The meal followed the standard tandoori flow: poppadoms, starters, mains with rice and naan, Cobra beer, and a snubbing of the straight-from-the-freezer dessert menu.

My starter was really nice: a breast portion of tandoori-roast chicken. The marinade gave an excellent flavour (I could live without the red dye, though), and the hot oven had charred the outside to give a lovely barbecue edge. Mark suffered, however, from a bland dish with an unusual garnish of a blue plastic shaving. My meal stayed entirely plastic-free (as far as I am aware...), which was no bad thing.

Mains were a hit all-round. I had eaten the Redfort prawn here a couple of times before, and returned to the old friend again this time. It's a mild dish, with juicy prawns and a really flavoursome sauce given a sweet edge by ground and whole almonds. I did wish, though, for a bit of heat to round the flavour off: the lovely initial taste kind of died away into nothing without it. A sample of Niall's and Mark's dishes showed that Mark had made the best choice with his nicely flavoured and spicy herbed chicken.

Service was fairly attentive: the tabletop food-hoovers deployed wherever possible; Niall's fork, when dropped, appeared to disappear before it even hit the floor and was swiftly replaced, and the prices were good. Mark's plastic "treat" was the only real downside, and I'm not sure that it was dealt with fully. In a star-studded place such as this, I will leave the final words to Cheryl Baker, of Bucks Fizz (and TV) fame: "Many thanks to the Nazma for a fantastic meal with superb service!"

Nazma Tandoori
62 Bridge Street
01224 211296

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Nazma Tandoori

By Mark

What have Art Malik, Steve Davis, Aberdeens favourite son Calvin Goldspink (of S club juniors fame.....but you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?) and Mullet Hunter Simon Varwell got in common?

Not much actually, apart from the fact that they've all had a good curry at the Nazma Tandoori. How do I know this? Well, apart from Varwell, they're names and photos are rather prominently displayed all over the place. I don't really have a problem with this (although the list of the semi famous and local heroes on the front of the menus is a little excessive) but, the fact that Willie Miller likes a place doesn't necessarily make it any good. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that a restaurant should be confident about its product and service and therefore wouldn't feel the need to remind us that other people, superior to ourselves, have enjoyed food there in the past.

And Nazma Tandoori really ought to have that confidence. Gone is the tacky 'top of the pops' lighting, and in its place is a pleasant, sophisticated dining room which looks a lot more elegant than your average curry house. The service was generally good, with one or two minor hiccups, (more on that in a mo), and with poppadoms, starters and mains coming in at roughly £25 per head I felt it was pretty good value.

So, what about the food then. To be honest, I was a little let down by my starter, a minced lamb kebab which was a little bland, but everyone else seemed to enjoy theres an awful lot, so I'll put it down to a bad choice. The main course though, was spectacularly good. I had a green herb chicken curry, which was like a spiced up, jazzed up bhuna and washed it down with equally good garlic and keema naans and some rice, which was, well, ricey. Not only was mine delicious, but everyone else's choices were real winners too, so on the whole, it really was a great meal.

My only grumble of the evening was when I found a small piece of plastic in one of the minced lamb kebabs. Nothing dangerous or sharp, but a piece of plastic, all the same. I'd be pretty seriously embarrassed if someone made that complaint to me in a restaurant. The waiter I mentioned it to seemed both embarrassed and concerned, but didn't really know what to do, so went to speak to his supervisor. Fair enough. The supervisor rather brashly swept the whole thing under the carpet and suggested I need not worry, as the plastic was probably from the salad!

So, to sum up.....Nazma Tandoori...a thoroughly enjoyable curry, but I'd give the salad a wide berth if I were you!

Nazma Tandoori
62 Bridge Street
01224 211296

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Welcome to Aberdine

Some words here