Feeling inspired by Nick from Highland Bottle Shop’s recent blog post on the Granite City for Make It Snow and then seeing promotions from The Tippling House for gin tasting classes we thought it was about time we headed on down to Aberdeen to see what all the fuss was about and we were’t disappointed! And to make it all even better we were able to class it as a ‘market research’ trip for an upcoming project!
After arranging a couple of slots with Gomes from The Tippling House/10 Dollar Shake for their gin tasting class we got on with booking accommodation (which isn’t always an easy feat in Aberdeen), booking trains and creating a ‘hit list’ of bars to visit. Aberdeen, up until a few years ago didn’t have the best reputation for nightlife and in fact you might not have even considered it as a destination to go for a good night out but an influx of new bars and restaurants have shaken things up and given the Granite City a new buzz…
Out of all the planning we did for the Aberdeen trip the accommodation was probably one of the trickiest aspects to decide on. The criteria was somewhere central, somewhere clean, somewhere modern and somewhere with a good buzz and I’m pleased to say all of these boxes were ticked and exceeded with the Hilton Garden Inn.
On arrival the reception staff couldn’t have been friendlier, advising with directions for the various bars, booking a restaurant for dinner and making additional recommendations and going one better once in the lovely room we discovered a complimentary bottle of wine and welcome note waiting for us.
After getting settled in I headed downstairs to have a nosey at the new Native by Nick Nairn restaurant that had literally just opened and to see if I could sample some of the delights. There was the option of going through to the restaurant but I settled on sitting in the modern bar area and ordered up a tropical cocktail and a delicious starter of scallops with pork belly, black pudding and apple sauce, yum!
Next up was the gin tasting class at The Tippling House, located on Belmont Street (a lovely little street, just off Union Street with a great selections of bars, restaurants and cafes). The Tippling House was only opened last year by the guys from 10 Dollar Shake (who specialise in high-end pop-up cocktail bars) but in that short time they have done amazingly well, gaining a great reputation for cocktails and food and having just recently picking up an award for ‘Best New Bar’ at the Scottish Bartender Network Awards. They also do a lot of collaboration with other bars and producers to bring unique food and drink events which we love, well done guys!
The gin tasting was led by Elias, as Caroline who normally runs them was held up at an event in Edinburgh but that certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the 13 strong group who all had one thing in common…a love for gin! Kicking things off with a delicious Caorunn and tonic garnished with apple the class then took us through the history of gin, sampling as we went. The class was both interesting and fun and set us up nicely to follow on with some interesting cocktails and snacks at the bar. The vibe in The Tippling House is very 1920′s with dark wood, dim lighting and delightful staff uniforms consisting of bow ties, braces and waistcoats. It feels like the type of place you could easily spend a whole evening…even if it was just to make your way through the great selections of cocktails, gins and craft beers on offer.
Next up on the Aberdeen food and drink adventure was dinner at Sabai Thai, following recommendations from the reception girls at the Hilton Garden Inn. The restaurant, located on Union Street certainly has the ‘wow’ factor when you walk through the door…a clever use of lighting and water creates a completely unique and colourful dining experience.
The restaurant was quite quiet which made for a slightly odd ambience but it was a Sunday night and once the food was served our attention was more on the flavours than the ambience. Both the starters and main courses were really tasty and presented nicely but wouldn’t say it was the best Thai meal I have had lately, Thai Lemongrass in Glasgow still holds that crown.
With full bellies a short taxi ride landed us at another new bar on the Aberdeen scene, six°north, on Littlejohn Street (just down the hill from BrewDog Aberdeen and round the corner from Marshall College). This bar was opened in June 2013 by ‘The Belgian Brewers of Scotland’ and has a stark but welcoming interior which works well with the ambience and style of bar it is. We loved the long benches and tables, creating a very social drinking environment. The selection of cask and keg craft beer on offer at the bar was mind boggling and the list of options high up on the wall was almost a case of going eeny meeny miny moe but my final choice was made by the most stand out name ‘Fuck Art – This is Architecture’, a Belgian Pale Ale with quite a fruity flavour. What we also loved about this bar was the different glasses being offered for the different beers and the fact that they are served as 1/2 or 2/3 pints and not full pints…a much nicer way of drinking craft beer.
And as the grande finale for the evening we headed on round to BrewDog Aberdeen for some craft beer cocktails. As with all BrewDog bars the atmosphere was buzzing, the staff were all friendly and the decor was rustic but funky and again featured the long tables making for a very social environment. There was a vast choice of BrewDog and guest craft beers on offer but after an evening filled full of cocktails, food and beer we figured that craft beer cocktails were the way forward, a little bit fruity, a little bit hoppy and very tasty indeed!
The following morning I had arranged to meet up with Claire aka Foodie Quine at the cutest cafe, CUP on Little Belmont Street before catching the train back to Inverness. The connection with Claire came via Twitter and after discovering we had many similar food and drink loves we decided to meet up face to face for similar discussions!
CUP had a very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kind of feel to it with lots of little quirky features and finishing touches and then there was the menu…a vast selection of teas/coffees and a mouth watering selection of offerings for a breakfast to keep you going all day. I opted for a Coconut Chai Latte and a Baby ‘Cup’ Breakfast which went down very well and then opted to boost my energy levels even further with a frothy cappuccino.
Before leaving to catch the train Claire insisted that I had to visit the toilets and it didn’t take long until I discovered why…crazy wallpaper, teacups hanging from the ceiling, over the top mirrors and ‘Alice’ murals all made for a unique experience! Catching up with Claire was great fun and I’m sure it won’t be the last time we meet up over food and drink!
All in all the brief but busy trip to Aberdeen was a great experience and will definitely make a return visit soon. And hopefully any bars/restaurants in the Inverness area reading this will realise that it’s about time Inverness upped the anti a bit and tried something a bit different. Peoples tastes are changing and going to the pub nowadays is more than just to get drunk; people want to experience new things, be inspired and most of all enjoy themselves. Craft beers, botanical gins, fine wines and cocktails are all becoming more and more popular and the bars in Inverness could really make more of this…