Thursday, 1 February 2018

Aberdeen Restaurant Week - The City Bar & Diner: Review (Aberdeen)

You know when you meet a person and you just immediately click? That's exactly what happened when I met Polly, the front of house manager of The City Bar and Diner at the launch of Aberdeen Restaurant Week.

We were the only two in the room who had come solo to the event, and as soon as we got chatting, we couldn't stop - well, until Kath, (the photographer for the Evening Express) told us to get in on the group photo. 

A chef by trade, this was her first event and I was intrigued to know more about The City Bar and Diner. Having never visited she instantly captured my attention, and after showing me the menu they'd produced for Aberdeen Restaurant Week, I knew I'd have to visit soon.

Rocking up last night for dinner at the restaurant which is located at 37-39 Netherkirkgate, Calum and I arrived a little earlier than we'd booked. Welcomed with a warm smile and big hug I was very much looking forward to trying out the food. Having had the chance to browse the menu beforehand, I knew my order off by heart.

Fixing us up some drinks, Poppy returned and took our order. The restaurant is modern, yet homely, and I already felt like I was friends with the staff, even having only met Poppy once. Dave - the head chef and owner - popped his head out of the kitchen when he could during our visit, and even he had a real lovely, friendly personality which further added to our overall experience.

After gossiping away and hearing more about the exciting changes coming to the dinner menu in line with the Aberdeen Restaurant Week offering, we placed our orders and patiently waited.

I could smell my BBQ hoisin pork ribs before I could see them. And to say I was delighted with what was presented to me is an understatement. The pork ribs were smothered in a beautifully sticky, rich hoisin sauce that was extremely tasty and super flavoursome. Every part of the tender rib was covered in the sauce, and the pork itself just slid off the bone and tore apart easily as I tackled them with my fork. There was a lot of meat on the ribs too so it was a fair eat - exactly what I was hoping for.

The tempura cabbage crisps were incredible. Crunchy, soft, and utterly delicious - cabbage had never tasted so good. The crisp texture of the tempura added a different texture to the dish, and the addition of orange segments throughout the dish added a beautiful, sweet citrus zest to it. All the flavours combined complimented one another extremely well. 
Calum opted for the black haggis bon bons which came with a turnip puree and whisky cream. The four bon bons were perfectly uniformed and sat beautifully on the bed of whisky sauce and smooth, pureed neeps. The black haggis was ridiculously rich and bursting with flavour. Turning to the whisky sauce, Calum loved how creamy it was. There was lots of it, which meant he didn't have to ration it for his four bon bons, and managed to savour every flavour of the dish as a whole.

Clean plates, I had a funny feeling this would be a running theme for this meal...
Polly continuously checked in on us, offering some sound advice and giving us a real insight into the team behind the bar and diner. She filled us in on her background working as a chef, and I loved that she could talk us through every dish as if she had cooked it herself.

She mentioned that she had previously worked with Dave (the owner) and the other chef, Helen, and I really enjoyed hearing about how they had all pulled together to support the venture when Dave first opened it back in September 2016 - just as Marischal Square was starting development.

Moving on to our mains, Polly talked us through the dishes and left us to enjoy. I had ordered the chicken masala kiev which came served on a bed of sweet potato and spinach hash. My nose was immediately filled with various exotic flavours which excited me a lot. Cutting into the chicken, it was clear the dish had been freshly cooked as it was piping hot. The chicken was cooked perfectly and was stuffed with a thick, tangy masala sauce featuring an array of different herbs and spices.

The sweet potato was divine and was super soft, without being overcooked. And the wilted spinach added another bright pop of colour to the dish, contrasting the orange and red tones of the masala sauce and the sweet potato.
Calum's beef Bourguignon pie with fluffy homemade puff pastry, creamed potatoes and vichy carrots was exactly the kind of hearty, homely meal he was after. It was freezing cold outside and this pie was the perfect remedy of curing those winter blues.

With a sprig of fresh rosemary inserted into the top of the pie, the hints of the herb throughout the dish were subtle. The mashed tatties were perfectly smooth with not a lump in sight, and were super creamy and seasoned very well. Not to mention the pie itself which came free-standing on the plate and oozed with beef and vegetables as Calum pierced into it. The crispy, buttery homemade pastry from the pie melted in his mouth and the carrots were well cooked too.

Again, to no-one's surprise, lay two empty plates.
Polly had also mentioned to us that every dish at the restaurant was homemade and made fresh in-house during service. It was refreshing to hear that and It was apparent in the quality of food we had received. Even the desserts and home bakes are created in-house by one of the employees, Anna, who likes to keep the recipes for her sweet treats a secret from all.

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my weaknesses, and having spied it on the menu, I knew my jeans were in trouble...

Delivering two delicious looking dishes, my mouth watered as she placed the slab of sticky toffee pudding in front of me. Covered in butterscotch sauce with a big ball of ice cream and whipped cream on the side, this was one sugar hit I wasn't going to pass up.

The sticky toffee sponge was phenomenal, and oozed with the butterscotch sauce. It was lovely and fluffy and the rich sauce was super sweet. The dish was dusted with icing sugar on top, finishing it off. I scraped the bowl for any sauce left that may have not made it into my mouth - and to be honest, had I not been in a restaurant, I would have definitely licked the bowl clean.
Calum's lemon tart with raspberry coulis and Chantilly cream looked like a piece of art. With swirls of dark chocolate sauce and raspberry coulis made delicately into a design, it was the tart flavours of the lemon tart that hit him first. Complimenting the lemon perfectly, the raspberry coulis was lovely and sweet. The homemade pastry base was nice and crisp, but had a tender softness to it at the same time. The piped dark chocolate sauce added to the flavour profile, balancing the sweet and sour elements to the dish. He loved it.

Dessert was so good that I had decided to wear half of it on my face, with Polly advising me of the copious amounts of icing sugar all over my face. I'd say that was a pretty clear indication highlighting how much I enjoyed it.

And once again, clean plates. A hat-rick for Bryce.
All of their sauces are made without flour ensuring that those with allergies receive the exact same dishes as those without. Presentation is also a huge part of eating and Dave and his team want you to eat with your eyes as well as your mouth and nose.

Having never visited The City Bar and Diner before I was disappointed in myself that I hadn't stopped by sooner. Had I known how brilliant the food was going to be, or how good the service and the team were, I think I'd have rushed to the eatery for dinner much, much sooner.
I was overly impressed with the quality of food produced, especially in such a chilled, modern, minimalist, homely space. And with a growing cocktail menu, a reasonably sized drinks menu and a gorgeous space to relax in, I know for a fact I'll be back very soon. I think I've found my new after work pit-stop...

If you haven't already, don't forget to book yourself in for dinner during Aberdeen Restaurant Week. And with a three-course dinner meal for only £20.18 for that high a quality of food, you'll regret it big time if you miss out...

Enjoy your eating out adventure folks, and don't forget to tag myself and @aberdeenrestaurantweek on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/anything else you're posting your pictures on to!

   For Now...
Just Julia

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