Aberdeen Art Gallery – the grand reopening. [GUEST]

One of my favourite past times has always been to while away a rainy afternoon wandering round the art gallery, pretending to be a bit cultured and taking in all that it had to offer, especially when a new exhibition was in town. I was a little gutted when it was announced that the gallery was set to close for a three year long massive refurbishment in 2015, and even more gutted when due to several hiccups along the way, it ended up taking until November 2019 to actually open again!

However there was no disputing that a revamp was much needed, and it was exciting to see the progression every time you passed it by, speculating as to how big the changes really would be. With the addition of an entire floor having been built upwards, expectations were pretty high!

I was kindly invited along to a preview evening last Monday ahead of the grand opening on Saturday, and it’s safe to say that my expectations had not only been surprised, but well and truly smashed to pieces as I walked through the doors for the first time in over four years.

The vast spaciousness of the ground floor hits you immediately as you enter; where you once had the gift shop on the left and the cafe on the right, you now have a stunning open plan space housing both the shop and a cafe space, but on opposite sides, with a gorgeous and well considered open plan.

The next thing that you can’t help but notice is the incredible amount of light that pours from the sky light above the newly created top floor. Gone are the days of the art gallery being a dark dingy place that you got dragged to on school trips with a sketch book and some crayons, this is now a venue that is an absolute joy to spend time in. Oh and here’s a fun fact, it’s not actually a sky light at all, it’s formed from LED lighting which mimics natural light and can be changed with the seasons, so there will never be a dull day inside the gallery again, how cool is that?!

There is an open, easy flow from one space to the next, as you pass through the memorial hall in to the next gallery – of which there are now 19 as opposed to the former 11, wow!

With a stunning mix of artwork both old and new, a breath of fresh air has truly been injected in to this Aberdonian institution, giving us absolutely no reason to moan about there being nothing to see or do in our wee grey city, because if you look close enough, it’s actually bursting with colour.

From world renowned works by Monet and Degas in painting and sculpture providing us with classical arts, to brand new photography by the likes of Martin Parr giving us a giggle by passing comment on everyday Scottish culture, there really something for everyone.

There are even fabulous new interactive parts of the gallery to keep the little ones entertained, plus a selection of sketch stations giving them a chance to create mini masterpieces of their own.

The grand re-opening on Saturday the 2nd November saw thousands of inquisitive Aberdonians descend upon the gallery to see what the £35 million project had delivered, and the response has been phenomenal, with one particular talking point being the new roof terrace which provides stunning views of the city centre.

I don’t think that I’m alone in having eyed up this stunning new space as a potential wedding venue… (IF MY OTHER HALF IS READING THIS, TAKE THAT AS A MASSIVE HINT!).

After a wonderful private tour, our evening at the Art Gallery preview was rounded up with some drinks and nibbles (which were all absolutely delish!) at the ground floor cafe, so be sure to stop off there for a bite to eat when you visit.

You can find all of the information you need on the gallery by visiting their website HERE.

Have you managed to go take a peek at our new and improved Art Gallery yet? I’d love to know what you thought so leave a comment!

Until next time,

B x

TANGO TURTLE – ABERDEEN’S NEW CARIBBEAN RESTAURANT [ad – guest]

Indian restaurants? We’ve got scores of them. Italians? Molto! Burger joints, chinese venues, gastro pubs – We’re practically overrun with eateries from around the continent here in Aberdeen, but one thing we’ve been completely lacking is a taste of the Caribbean… until now!

Tango Turtle is the latest addition to the city centre, offering up some of the finest homemade Caribbean food, in a super cool and laid back environment. I was really excited to be kindly invited along to check out the menu prior to the opening, and Tango Turtle delivered exactly what i had hoped for from the moment we walked through the door.

Located at 9a Little Belmont street, in the above street level unit – which was formerly Kilau the coffee shop – the newly refurbished venue is a ray of sunshine away from the grey cobbled streets. With bold colours, reggae inspired artwork and hanging plants everywhere you look, the restaurant really does give a cool Caribbean vibe, and forms the perfect setting for hosting an equally colourful menu.

Choosing what to eat was always going to be tough, with delicious sounding veggie and vegan options a plenty, and an abundance of chicken and lamb dishes for the meat eaters. Everything sounded so vibrant and enticing.

The starters…

After much deliberation, we settled on the Aloo Pie, (crispy tattie dumplings with a tamarind chutney), and the Bajan flying fishcakes with jerk aioli. Both arrived looking fresh, crisp and delicious. The Aloo Pie filled with soft spicy potato was perfect for dipping in to that sweet tamarind sauce, which brought just the right amount of heat, leaving the tongue tingling after each bite. The sweet potato based fishcakes were subtly spiced and full of flavour, and perfectly accompanied by that jerk aoili. It was a thumbs up from us on both counts here!

The mains…

If we thought choosing a starter was tough, we were practically stumped when it came to deciding on a main. With options such as curry pots, mixed grills, chargrilled burgers and even ‘Ja-maic’a ‘n’ cheese’, and not to mention a host of tasty sounding sides, it wasn’t going to be an easy task, but we settled on the vegan ‘Rundown’ – a tasty veg packed dish with a sweet coconut milk based sauce for me, and the ‘Fried seafood with jerk aioli and chips’ for the OH.

The rundown was a smash hit, loaded with that sweet tasty sauce and served with rice and peas, a roti bread and fried plantain, this dish was the ultimate comfort food and had me planning a trip to Jamaica inside my head. Having drastically underestimated the portion size, I had also ordered a side of sweet potato fries with extra cheese, which came with cheese fondue and well as fresh melted cheese, leaving me very annoyed at myself for not being able to finish these – yum!

The fried seafood came with a fillet of fried fish, and breaded squid and prawns, which were all juicy and well cooked. The only criticism was that the plate lacked the expected punch that the curried spice marinade had promised, but it was tasty and enjoyable all the same.

The dessert…

Absolutely stuffed to the brim from the previous two courses, we ordered dessert anyway through a combination of sheer gluttony and curiosity, because as soon as I had spotted the ‘Bounty patty with rum caramel’ on the menu, it had become an inevitability.

Served in two patty’s – ideal since we’d asked to share, the patty’s were served piping hot and crisp, straight out of the fryer, which meant that that sweet coconut filled chocolate came oozing out of the centre, and I was hooked. The completely delicious rum flavoured caramel was perfection for dunking them in to. This really was the perfect way to end the meal. We were two extremely happy (and full) diners!

Not only does Tango Turtle boast an impressive and vibrant menu in a fun and welcoming environment, but it also plays host to one of the loveliest hosts. Owner Nadim couldn’t have been more accommodating and sweet, checking on us personally throughout the night to make sure that we were having a great time, and that to me is the extra touch that’ll have customers returning time and time again.

Oh and just when you thought this place couldn’t be more amazing, did I mention that it’s also BYOB? Just pay corkage!

You can check out the full menu and book a table over at the website HERE

Tango Turtle is open now, so get booking right away and let me know what you think!

Until next time,

B x

EL&N – the most instagrammable café in London?

Would you believe me if I told you that a year or two ago I was just about the least ‘pink’ person on the planet? One hair colour change and a new Instagram page later and I’m practically Miss Piggy. Who knew that pink was secretly my thing all along?!

Imagine my excitement when during an Insta-scroll one day, the most beautifully floral, fuchsia filled dream of a London based café popped up in front of my eyes, conveniently a mere couple of weeks before I was due to go on a trip there… Imagine the joy on the BF’s face when I informed him where the number one stop on our agenda simply had to be!

Having spied these beautiful cafés popping up on any blogger who’s ever been to London ever’s feeds, I knew I had to get in on the action. There are six of these stunning EL&N venues across London, each with it’s own unique and beautiful decor, but with one thing in common…the colour pink, and some of the tastiest looking cakes you’ll ever set eyes on.

We opted to visit the Hans Crescent branch which is located in Knightsbridge, conveniently close to Harrods, because if we were going to do this, it was going to have to be the most extra venue of them all, and oh boy this place did not disappoint! From the moment we approached Elan and spotted a flower filled basket atop a pink vintage bicycle, closely followed by floating pink carousel horses peeking out of the window, I became practically giddy with joy.

We arrived just at the right time, as ordinarily you can expect to queue for quite some time for a table – the café operates on a walk-in basis only – but luckily we were seated in just a few minutes. The first thing I was struck by was the pink. Stating the obvious I know, but let’s just clarify; I knew it was going to be pink. Every one knows that it’s going to be pink, but I don’t think I was ever really prepared for quite how PINK it really was. Overwhelmingly so in fact, but in the most fabulously flamboyant way ever. It was like stepping inside a life sized Polly Pocket (90’s reference kids, if you’ve never heard of it, you missed out!).

Once we’d taken the time to adjust to having found ourselves inside Malibu Stacey’s crib, we remembered that we came there with a purpose. EL&N actually stands for ‘eat, live & nourish’, and having travelled down from Aberdeen very early that morning and sweated our way through London in the 39 degree heat, we were ready to do just that.

At EL&N, we have a taste for the best. We create coffee with passion and temerity and food that is elegant and modern. We have an unswerving dedication to producing excellent fare.”

A group of four, we were seated in one of the plush pink booths on the upper floor, and began to peruse the calligraphy adorned menus. Of course I knew exactly what to expect having looked up the menu online a week before… (I’m not the only one that does that, right?!). Expectations were high, with everything sounding so fresh and appetising, and just the right side of healthy.

The food…

On the menu you’ll find exotic teas and lavish coffees, such at the Pistachio Spanish Latte, made with pistachio paste and crushed nuts. You’ll find colorful brunch options like Shakshuka and ‘Pink Bircher Muesli’. Larger plates and mains include pastas and sandwiches like the indulgent sounding ‘White Truffle Cheese’ and Harissa sourdough. While all of the scrumptious sounding cakes and deserts are also listed, you’ll find them on display at the entrance allowing you to order with your eyes.

A notorious menu faffer and perpetual indecisive when it comes to choosing food, I knew this was going to be a tough choice. I eventually settled for the goats cheese are fig tartine – which is essentially an open sandwich in case you’re not sure, I had no idea either! The BF went for the signature dish, the ‘Pink Ribbon Pasta’, which would have been my second choice, so I was happy in the knowledge that I would be able to pinch some of Grant’s and try that too.

The feta topped pasta was light and refreshing, jeweled with kiwi fruit and served cold, it was the perfect choice for a sweltering hot day such as this. Let’s face it though, it’s just bloody pretty to look at. If I could have pink pasta every time I caved to a carb craving I absolutely would.

The Tartine regrettably wasn’t such a high note. While the savoury goats cheese and sweet figs made for delicious toppings, the dense seeded bread was, to be quite frank, tough as old boots. So tough in fact that my knife and fork failed me, and had me resorting to the good old ‘pick it up and chew it’ method just to finish the dish. Not quite the culinary delight that my imagination had hyped it up to be. The saving grace was the Cherry Lemonade I chose to wash it all down with. Ice cold and fruity, it was just what the doctor ordered to cool me down, and worth every penny of the £6 price tag.

Given my childlike elation at the prospect of visiting Elan, I was left feeling slightly lacklustre about our dining experience. I am confident that had we sampled the scrumptious looking cakes on offer, my mind would have been changed in an instant, however the Harrods food hall was next up on our agenda to satisfy our sweet urges.

Would I return again though? In a heartbeat. The combination of the love heart covered wall and those perfectly pink floating carousel horses would have me coming back time and time again, just for the Insta pics, Just god forbid I ever change my hair colour…

Have you been to an EL&N café? If you have and you loved it, let me know in the comments.

Until next time,

B x

[ad] ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK AT THE CITY BAR & DINER – A REVIEW

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. When I first heard that the restaurant I had been allocated to review for Restaurant week was The City Bar and Diner, my initial reaction wasn’t exactly one of elation. That’s just that wee place out the back of M&S where grannies convene of a lunchtime to have a good chinwag over a cheese sandwich and a scone, right? Don’t get me wrong, if a cheese sandwich was all that was in store for me I still would have been more than grateful, (and I’d review the crap out of that cheese buttie too) it just might not have lived up to my fine dining aspirations.

I’m delighted to tell you all that I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the first time I laid eyes on the menu through to the moment we walked through the door, the excitement continued to grow; by the looks of things I was in for an undoubtedly more sophisticated experience than first presumed.

It was 7pm on a Saturday night, and this bright, mordern space that we had entered in to was jostling with large groups of happily chattering diners. As plates of delicious looking food started to pass below our very noses in the hands of smiling servers on the way to these hungry diners, I knew we were in for a bit of a treat.

Having pre-ordered our meals, we gladly skipped the part of the evening where I spend half an hour carrying out the agonising task of deciding what to eat, and went straight to ordering a couple of nice cold pints from the incredibly enthusiastic hostess. Despite having been kindly offered a nice window seat, we instead chose a quiet spot where we were close to the bar and could have a cheeky nosey in to the kitchen at the same time, and patiently awaited our first course with increasingly loud rumbles coming from our eager bellies the whole time.

The starters…

Expecting a bit of a wait, which would have been entirely reasonable given the large parties occupying the restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised when barely a few moments later, we were presented with our starters. This made one very hungry gal a very happy one! Knowing that we would inevitably end up sharing each others food in the way that couples typically do, we ordered one of each from the veggie and the fish options.

Four cheese risotto balls & smoked chipotle salsa
Smoked haddock chowder with cheese and leek scones

We were immediately struck by the high-end restaurant quality presentation, this was an absolute ‘wow!’ moment, and long gone were those distant imaginings of tea scones with your gran on a Friday afternoon. We were clearly dealing with creative and passionate chefs with a fine attention to detail, and boy did it all smell good!

The risotto balls were just as they should be, crisp and crunchy on the outside, gooey and oozing with cheese on the inside. The sweet and spicy salsa was the perfect accompaniment to cut through the savoury elements. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I could eat about ten of these…

The smoked haddock chowder was as good and any fish chowder we had ever tasted. You should know that this is a compliment of the highest order coming from the other half who considers himself a connoisseur of Cullen Skink! Buttery, creamy and brimming with chunks of smoked fish and veg, this flavoursome dish was an absolute winner. I seriously considered coming over all Oliver and asking for some more, but resisted knowing that the main was still to come, and our anticipation was now high.

The mains…

With just the right amount of time to pour over how much we had enjoyed our starters, and of course take to Instagram to share our fabulous first course, the second soon arrived.

Sweet & sour jackfruit and vegetable pot pie with butternut squash hash
Cajun fried haddock with sweetcorn, banana and spiced tartare sauce

Seemingly taking us on a culinary trip around the globe, the main course options sang of South America and the carribean. Once again as non-meat eaters, we went for the veggie and the fish option and shared a bit of each. The presentation as expected was well considered and carried out with finesse.

The generously pie consisted of lovely flakey pastry jam packed with jackfruit and veg in a tangy sweet and sour sauce. I’d never seen a dish like this before, but I have a feeling that I’ll be trying to recreate it at home at some point soon! The only room for improvement lay in that while the artfully stacked squash hash on the side was very pretty to look at, maybe a more savoury side would have provided a nice contrast to the already sweet pie.

Next up was the menu item that we were both most curious about. Cajun fried haddock, with banana?! You’d be forgiven for thinking that this sounds a bit bonkers, because it does, but in this instance the unexpected combination just worked. It was absolutely delicious! Having gladly obliged us in our request to hold the bacon, we were still left more than satisfied with the remaining corn and spiced tartare that adorned the gently spiced juicy fish. Again my only (very minute) quibble would have been that the cajun spicing could have been turned up a notch or two, but I’m a bit of a spice fiend so maybe that’s just me!

The desserts…

Full to the gunnels after our first two amply sized courses, there was a moment of deliberation as to whether we could actually cope with the oncoming puddings, but we powered through in the name of Restaurant week – don’t say we’re not good to you guys!

Peanut butter and honeycomb pie with chocolate sauce
Chocolate brownie sliders with vanilla ice cream and [strawberries!]

As these indulgent looking little beauties were placed in front of us, we instantaneously knew that we were going to give them our best shot. My calorie count for the week was about to go clean out the window, but I didn’t care one tiny bit.

The brownies were tasty and dripping filled with ice cream. We didn’t actually notice that they were topped with strawberries instead of the advertised raspberries as we got stuck in. Personally I’m a warm sticky brownie kind of girl, but this was an enjoyable dessert all the same.

The real start of the show however came all wrapped up in this pretty little peanut butter pie, oh my! Sweet, nutty, creamy and with a lightly spiced base, this was an absolutely heavenly way to round off the meal. This was gratification at it’s finest!

After a night of fabulous service and top restaurant quality food, we were ready to roll ourselves home, already planning our next trip to The City Bar & Diner, feeling extremely glad to have found a great new eatery to add to out list of fave spots to dine out.

Remember that this menu is available until the 21st July, and be sure to book your table quoting restaurant week to avoid disappointment!

You can also head to www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com to check out the rest of the incredible lineup offering you delicious deals all week long!

Enjoy Restaurant Week guys,

B x

ABERDEEN RESTAURANT WEEK RETURNS! [ad]

That’s right folks, free up your diary and dig out the stretchy pants because Restaurant Week is Back! And luckily for me, so am I, bringing you all of the latest info and top tips on where to grab the best eats as I once again join the ambassador squad.

This years second instalment, running from the 15th to the 21st of July , sees the return of some familiar places along with a bunch of friendly new faces joining the lineup too, leaving you guys completely and utterly spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out next week.

For the rare few of you who haven’t encountered the culinary delights of Restaurant week before, let me recap what it’s all about. For one week only, the best bistros, restaurants, cafes and diners that Aberdeen has to offer unite in offering you lucky lot exceptionally good deals on dining out. Across the majority of those involved, you can bag yourself a two course lunch for just £10, or a three course dinner for a tiny £20, absolute bargain!

The best way to size up all of the possibilities and and schedule how to best fit in as much tasty grub as humanly possible is to head to the website,

www.aberdeenrestaurantweek.com

where you can view full menus, but I’ll warn you, do not do this on an empty stomach because your mouth will water!

Given that the hospitality is one of the few industries that continues to ride high in this economic climate, why is it that we find ourselves frequenting the same old haunts week in, week out when there are a multitude of unique and enticing venues right around any given corner? Aberdeen Inspired aims to break our bad eating habits and whet our appetites for trying something new and unknown by orchestrating this incredible event which is growing in popularity with each turn now that the secret is well and truly out.

You can check out a whole bunch of reviews from previous Restaurant Week’s by myself and the other lovely members of the blog squad here, but this time round I’ll also be bringing you a brand new review of of somewhere that I’ll be experiencing for the first time, The City Bar & Diner, which has a menu so darned appetizing it makes me want to run to the fridge for a snack just to satiate the salivation it causes!

Stay tuned on Instagram this week and get ready to get hungry as I bring you live feedback of my dining experiences along with my recommendations must-try menus that you really shouldn’t miss out on next week. You should absolutely go and follow the other fabulous bloggers involved too for more tantalising tasters of the goods on offer, and you can do so by finding them here. As if that wasn’t quite enough scoop for you, let’s not forget that Society Magazine are covering the whole event too, so you really have no excuse to miss out on this phenomenal week of foodie goodness!

Get booking guys because this is going to be a busy one, and if you spy me waddling up the street clutching a big round belly, don’t get excited, I guarantee you it’s just a really massive food baby. Diet starts after Restaurant Week, right?

B x