Who needs a motto like the legendary SAS’s “Who Dares Wins” when you can have one like Cartoos in Aberdeen?
“Life is Short – Eat More Ice Cream” welcomes visitors to their dazzling ice cream, milkshake and dessert parlour tucked away in one corner of the seafront restaurant.
It must be difficult walking past this place without parting with cash, particularly on sunny seaside days with kids in tow.
But we had bigger fish to fry and pressed on into the restaurant to get our teeth into the full dining menu.
Cooking fish became a bone of contention later, as you’ll soon find out.
Cartoos tempts you inside with attractive interior design which makes the most of hanging lamps and floral decorations.
We lost no time in heading for a cosy alcove near the entrance.
We were not alone: a “robot” showed us to our seats from the front door.
Cartoos has a pair whirring about inside, drawing them a lot of attention when they opened back in August.
The robots resemble electronic trolleys and were commanded to carry out various tasks by waiting staff, mainly delivering meals, collecting dishes or welcoming guests to their tables.
Some might make a minor fuss about “taking jobs off real waiters,” but, to us, these robots appeared to be useful support for existing serving staff.
They were also great fun for kids to watch.
If I had to navigate around a map to trace the menu’s exact culinary roots, I’d struggle; such is the range on offer at Cartoos.
Mediterranean influences can be seen alongside dishes closer to home.
The menu covers many bases; from grilled meats and fish rubbing shoulders to exotic burgers for lunch and dinner.
Breakfast is on the menu too.
Cartoos is a stone’s throw from Aberdeen beach. It was great to see the well-loved strip of eateries rejuvenated by local produce in these hard times.
We began our night with cocktails, langoustine and bruschetta.
My bruschetta, layered with brie and tomato on sourdough bread, was light and tasty.
My wife’s small duo of langoustines, spread on lettuce and avocado, were pretty to look at, however, they flattered to deceive; there was only the tiniest amount of flesh to scrape out.
Our night reached a pivotal point with the mains, which turned out to be a tale of pain and ecstasy.
I chose an old favourite, Fruitti Di Mare.
You know the sort of thing. Fruits of the sea – squid, prawns and mussels in one stewy-style dish.
The dish was a dazzling creation, but, although it arrived in a large extravagant dish, the bowl itself was quite small; the various elements looked crammed and almost tumbled out.
Normally I would expect to see similar Fruitti Di Mare dishes smothered in tomato sauce, but this one was much simpler and cooked with butter, garlic and oil – the sort of dish you would see in Spain, for example.
Squid made up about 30% of the dish, but unfortunately it was tough and chewy with a rubbery consistency.
It was a shame because I could see a lot of effort went into the presentation.
Squid is tricky and the timing has to be perfect. It must be cooked for a shorter length of time to achieve the required tenderness – or long to compensate for overcooking. This breaks down toughness created by leaving it on for too long.
It was pretty obvious that I had a problem with the meal because I left the squid virtually untouched and ate the rest. I flagged my concern to a sympathetic waiter.
My wife was having a much better time. Her Turkish-style lamb chops were superb. The dish of the day in our opinion.
Served on slate, the five succulent chops were lined up neatly like soldiers on parade. Servings of red cabbage, lettuce, onions, coleslaw and rice also joined the formation.
Cooked to perfection with beautiful seasoning and a light dusting of chilli powder, the chops were a joy – I know because my wife couldn’t manage them all on her own.
The kitchen pulled out all the stops for desserts.
My brownie, in sizzling caramel sauce with ice cream on the side, was a gem. My wife’s banana waffle with strawberries and white chocolate was also excellent.
They knocked 10% off the total bill as a gesture of goodwill over my fish dish, but I was slightly disappointed because whenever this has happened at other restaurants in the past the whole dish was always wiped off.
The last time something like this happened to us was at a restaurant in Spain a few weeks ago.
My wife’s expensive sirloin steak was so tough she left most of it, and she flagged it to a waiter.
We raised our concern again after being charged full price for the steak, so the restaurant deducted it totally from the bill.
Apparently the waiter had not told his boss about our earlier complaint and the unfortunate wretch was dragged out and given a ferocious public dressing down in front of diners.
It was the full Basil Fawlty apart from cuffing his ear like poor Manuel in the classic comedy show. In real life, it was embarrassing and unnecessary.
I’m not suggesting for a second that anything similar should have happened at Cartoos by the way.
Maybe it was a sign of the ravages of Covid on hospitality finances.
But overall we enjoyed Cartoos and would go again – Squid Game notwithstanding.
Address: Cartoos, Beach Esplanade, Aberdeen AB24 5NS
T: 01224 589132
Price: £75.30 (after a 10% discount) for three courses for two plus one side, three alcoholic drinks and two coffees
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 4/5
- Surroundings: 4/5