With the Aberdeen dining scene getting back on its feet after months of turmoil and uncertainty caused by pandemic lockdowns, I was offered an unexpected barometer of the pent-up demand from diners eager to eat out again.
Having promised my family a meal out on a Saturday night, I found myself in a bit of a pickle when I could not find a table for love nor money.
The first restaurant I tried didn’t have availability until nearly 9pm, and I had a wife and two hungry children to feed at 6pm.
A desperate Google search of Aberdeen restaurants threw up plenty of tasty suggestions… Every one of which was fully booked for the evening.
Panic set in as I soon realised I was going to struggle. Ten polite rejections later, I found myself booking a table through a website I had never heard of, but I wasn’t convinced of success as the restaurant’s own website indicated no availability.
However, a quick phone call confirmed my last-minute booking was accepted and I breathed a large sigh of relief as the evening was saved.
Lesson learned – with people relishing being allowed back out of their homes and into restaurants, book ahead to avoid disappointment.
The restaurant of choice is a bit of an Aberdeen institution, and despite having lived in the city for more than 20 years, this was my first visit. And I must say, it was well worth the wait.
After a warm welcome, we settled at our table and took in our surroundings.
No.1 Bar & Grill is stylish but comfortable and clearly attracts a variety of customers from couples and families to ladies enjoying cocktails on a night out.
The menu is a real challenge – in a good way. There are so many delicious-sounding dishes that it really was difficult to decide what to choose. While offering some popular
Scottish options, the menu has an interesting Asian influence, as well as separate vegetarian and vegan sections.
A specials menu also contributed to the tricky decision-making, and it was from there I chose the haggis Scotch egg starter, which narrowly edged out the monkfish cheek with curried aubergine, carrot and coriander bhaji.
My haggis Scotch egg was large and beautifully presented. Sliced in half, it sat on a bed of leaves and was accompanied by a pretty little copper pot of whisky sauce. The haggis was lovely, and the sweetness of the whisky sauce worked well with the spiciness of the haggis.
I was pleased with my choice.
My vegetarian wife was delighted with the variety of dishes on offer and opted for the roasted fig and beetroot salad, which was a riot of colour when it arrived. It was served with apple, pickled walnut, falafel and salad leaves, and also came with some vegan feta cheese that was so good, I wouldn’t have known it was dairy-free.
Having been tempted by some local fish dishes from the mains menu, I decided to try something I rarely eat and ordered the Highland roe deer, which came with soft Parmesan polenta, kale, confit onion and blueberry jus.
The tender meat came sliced atop the polenta and vegetables and it was, hands down, the best dish I have eaten in a very long time.
The meat just melted in my mouth and was bursting with flavour. There was just enough sweetness in the gravy, the cheesy polenta was light and fluffy, and the vegetables were simply delicious. An absolute triumph.
My wife chose the “Curry To Night”, which was a crispy tofu katsu curry and was a sight to behold when it arrived at our table.
Served with rice, sesame stir-fried vegetables and pickled red
cabbage, there were lots of different elements, flavours and textures to
savour, and she really enjoyed the combinations.
While we were indulging in our fantastic main courses, the kids also enjoyed their choices from the children’s menu. Both went for the old faithful cheeseburger and fries.
Obviously, being on review duties, I was obliged to taste the burger and
it was certainly a cut above what is often served on children’s menus. The
meat was good quality and wouldn’t have looked out of place on the main menu.
The service was exemplary all evening, but the highlight came when a young waiter – without being asked – brought my daughter a glass of water without lemon after hearing her tell her mum that she didn’t like the lemon in her original glass. This was an excellent gesture and a clear indication of a very well-run establishment.
We couldn’t manage desserts but the kids were delighted with their sticky toffee pudding and chocolate brownie, which were excellent value from the children’s menu.
We enjoyed the rest of our bottle of crisp French chardonnay as they devoured every last morsel of pudding.
From start to finish, our visit to No 1 was excellent. As mentioned, the staff were professional but also incredibly friendly and welcomed us like old friends.
And the food; oh the food. It was fabulous. I have been raving about that roe deer ever since.
It may have taken me two decades to get round to visiting No. 1, but it
certainly won’t be that long before I return to my new favourite Aberdeen restaurant.
And I’ll be sure to book a table well in advance next time.
Address: No. 1 Bar & Grill, 1 Queen’s Terrace, Aberdeen, AB10 1XL
T: 01224 611909
- Food: 5/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 4/5
Two courses for two adults, three courses for two children, and a bottle of wine