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Restaurant review: Try out the scran from Aberdeen institution Atholl Hotel

The bruschetta.

All throughout the various lockdowns, my son and I have met his friend and dad for a game of football every Saturday morning come rain, hail or shine.

As we make our way home, we walk past the Atholl Hotel. Already hungry from our sporting exertions, the smells emanating from the kitchen have us groaning with delight and frustration in equal measure as we wish we could walk in and enjoy a feast, rather than traipse home, cold and wet, to a bowl of soup.

So it was decided one week that, rather than cast a longing look at the Atholl, we would treat ourselves to a Saturday lunch, and a table was duly booked at the tail end of last year.

The Atholl Hotel, Aberdeen.

The Atholl is an Aberdeen institution. It has stood proudly overlooking King’s Gate for as long as anyone can remember and is renowned for its quality, traditional food and great service.

It had been a few years since I had eaten there, but everything was exactly as you would expect it. The surroundings had been spruced up but not meddled with, and the menu contained the same staples as always, for to change a winning offering is a risky affair.

However, to my delight, some fresh new dishes had appeared alongside the old favourites of fish and chips, mince and skirlie, and chicken curry.


The food

Ordering from the lunch menu, I chose sticky barbecue pork skewers with
red cabbage slaw.

I loved the flavour of the pork and the sweet, sticky sauce was fantastic. The meat was cooked very well, really tender with no fat. The only complaint was that I wanted more of it. The purple slaw and salad were colourful additions to the plate.

My wife decided on the confit tomato and rockette bruschetta. The fresh, juicy tomatoes and crisp green leaves were drizzled with a sweet balsamic vinegar, and I was rather put out when she finished them off without the hint of an offer to try them — always a good sign.

The bruschetta.

Following the starter menu is a light lunch section that contains ciabattas and baked potatoes with various tempting fillings including avocado, tomato and black pepper; brie, grape and mint; and piri piri chicken. Underneath that is a selection of main courses, one of which really caught my eye — beef bourguignon.

It had been many years since I had enjoyed this dish and my mind was set on it, however I was unsure if this was only available as a small portion. And having worked up an appetite that morning, I was certainly in the mood to reward myself with a hearty dish.

On ordering, I queried whether this was, in fact, only available as a small portion and the waiter confirmed this.

I was disappointed I couldn’t have it as a full-size portion, but as I said, my heart was set on it so I ordered and hoped it would satisfy my hunger.

When it arrived, it was certainly on the small side, but the beef was absolutely sensational, so tender that it can only have been prepared over time in a slow cooker. Its rich sauce was bold and full of flavour, and the mashed tatties served alongside did a good job of soaking this up.

My vegetarian wife had a couple of mains to select from and chose the halloumi, beetroot and chilli jam brioche, which was nicely presented. It came with so much halloumi that I got to sample some, and the flavours and texture were spot on.

After sharing some cheesy garlic bread with his sister, my son took on the full adult main of deep-fried North Sea haddock served with chips, tartare sauce, peas and lemon.

The fish and chips.

I’m glad he was hungry as it looked like the chef had caught and battered a whale. The meat was beautifully white and flaky and I enjoyed helping him finish it off.

He surprised us all by saying the peas were the best he had ever tasted — high praise of vegetables from a 12-year-old. For me, the tartare sauce also gets a special mention.

Having eaten half a whale as well as my delicious beef, I was too full for dessert, as was my wife, but the children were keen.

Unfortunately, our table seemed to be in a bit of a blind spot during our visit and we sat for some time with our dirty dishes before catching someone’s eye to order dessert.

This was after earlier having to ask a waitress to provide a bottle opener so we could fill our glasses with the lovely bottle of red from the wine list.

Sticky toffee pudding.

As if to make up for earlier indiscretions, my daughter’s ice cream came out almost immediately and my son’s sticky toffee pudding wasn’t too far behind.

However, our coffee only arrived after I’d left the table to settle the bill as we assumed it had been forgotten about.


The verdict

The Atholl Hotel remains a well-loved institution and will do so for many years to come. Guests know what to expect and the Atholl always delivers.

Despite the service not quite hitting the usual standards, staff were polite and friendly and the food was fantastic.

No matter how long you leave it between visits, it always feels the same when you return to the Atholl — warm, welcoming and almost like coming home.

Now when we pass by after Saturday morning football, we can put some happy memories to those wonderful smells that tantalise our nostrils all the way home.


Information

Address: Atholl Hotel, 54 King’s Gate, Aberdeen AB15 4YN

T: 01224 323505
W: atholl-aberdeen.co.uk

Price: £100.50 for three starters, three mains, one children’s main, two children’s desserts, bottle of wine, soft drink and a coffee

Scores: 

  • Food: 4/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Surrounding: 4/5

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