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Powerful blend of music and coffee is a smash hit for Aberdeen’s only record cafe

Beating heart of the community: Nick Duthie has created a cafe where people can escape the stresses of every day life. Picture by Kenny Elrick, DCT Media.
Beating heart of the community: Nick Duthie has created a cafe where people can escape the stresses of every day life. Picture by Kenny Elrick, DCT Media.

As someone who has battled with anxiety and panic attacks for most of his life, Nick Duthie knows the importance of finding a safe space where you can relax and put your worries to rest.

That is exactly what he has created with Red Robin Records Vinyl Café, a hidden gem of a café tucked away in Correction Wynd where home roasted coffee, the sweet sound of music and a listening ear is the order of the day.

The exterior of The Red Robin Records Vinyl Café
Music is good for the soul: The Red Robin Records Vinyl Café is somewhere you can relax with a good home roasted coffee while looking through the rows of new records. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Relaxed vibes

Busy chatting away to one of his regular customers, a social worker who brings his clients to the café for its friendly and chilled-out atmosphere, it’s clear that Nick’s café is quite literally at the beating heart of the local community.

“A lot people come in themselves and they just want to chill out as they’ve got other things going on in their lives,” said Nick, 40, a proud born and bred Aberdonian.

“One guy who comes in lost his job through the downturn in the oil industry and his father is really sick with dementia so he comes in himself, has a coffee and tries to offload.

“I just saw him recently and he’s just got a new job so it was lovely to hear that.”

Silk-smooth milk being poured in a coffee mug
Coffee perfection: Nick’s Easy E’s coffee tastes as good as it looks.. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Escape from every day life

Nick knows only too well that a problem shared is a problem halved as he himself has suffered from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks throughout his life.

That’s why he was determined that Red Robin would become a non-judgemental place where people can escape everyday life through the powerful blend of coffee and music.

“I love speaking to people who come in, it’s just the best,” said Nick.

“I would never have said that 20 years ago as I’ve always suffered from panic attacks and anxiety.

Nick heating up the milk with a steamer
Stirring up success: Nick absolutely loves meeting the customers who visit his quirky café. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

“I was about 18 when I first got help and got diagnosed with anxiety and it’s manifested at different stages throughout my life.

“When I was in my thirties and working in the oil industry, I was off all medication and things were going great but then all of a sudden I was in this big meeting and when I went to speak, nothing came out, I just couldn’t speak.

“That was the biggest panic attack I’d ever had in my life.”

Safe space

After a tough few years Nick finally got the help he needed.

“I had a couple of bad years just trying to find my way and find medication that actually worked but when I did it was like an enlightment,” said Nick.

By bravely sharing his story, Nick hopes it will reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and will also let people know that the café is a safe haven where people can lose themselves by looking through the stacks of new vinyl while enjoying a coffee.

“I get a lot of people who just want to come in and chat which is great,” said Nick.

“I think a lot of people struggle because there’s just not really the help.”

Vinyls categorised by genre
Music to one’s ears: There’s vinyl records to suit everyone. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Worth the risk

Quitting his job in the oil industry, the dad-of-two who is married to his soulmate Gemma, took a leap of faith when he opened up the café in 2019.

It was a risk worth taking though as the café’s perfect blend of coffee and vinyl records have proved to be a hit.

“I’m a huge music fan.

“Coffee and music are my passions.

“It’s probably not a good idea to combine work with things you love but it just made sense.

“The vinyl and coffee just seemed to go hand in hand.”

A capuccino in a Red Robin Records mug
Caffeine kick: Nick roasts coffee from his garage at home. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Radars

Rooted in the love for his family, the café’s name is inspired by his six-year-old daughter Robyn while his four-year-old son Ethan features on the front of his coffee packaging.

The café is also inspired by Nick’s love of an Aberdeen institution.

“The whole vibe of the café is inspired by stuff I remember as a kid growing up in the eighties in Aberdeen,” said Nick.

Soft drinks offered at The Red Robin
Fizzy delights: As well as coffee, Nick stocks some classic soft drinks such as cherry cola. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

“There was a place in Belmont Street called Radars which was a take on a American diner as they served burgers and they also had arcade games upstairs.

“So we would go up to the arcade machines,  play a few games and then come back down for our food.

“With regards to the vinyl records, my dad always bought his records from One Up which unfortunately closed in 2008 just before vinyl had a revival.

“Everyone loved One Up.

“So I guess all these things from my childhood inspired me.”

Easy E’S

From lattes and espressos to flat whites, Nick’s home roasted “Easy E’s coffee goes down well.

“I ended up going down to Winchester to be trained up by a guy who had worked in the Australian coffee industry,” said Nick.

“He taught me the basics so I bought a roaster in 2018 but I couldn’t get planning permission to have it in the café so I now roast the coffee in my garage at home.”

Five coffee bean grinders sit on the counter of The Red Robin
Ethically sourced coffee: Nick sources his coffee worldwide then roasts it in his own garage. Customers can also pick up batches in store or via home delivery. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Mexican bourbon barrel coffee

Nick sources his coffee beans from Mercanta, an ethically sourced coffee company.

“We buy seasonally so we get different coffee beans in all the time,” said Nick.

“At the moment, I’ve got coffee from El Salvador and I’ve got a Mexican bourbon barrel aged coffee which has a little bit of a boozy taste.

“I’ve also got a Mexican de-caffeinated coffee which is processed using mountain spring water.”

Two slices of the banana bread sold at the The Red Robin
Homebaking treats: Nick’s mum Carol bakes fresh banana bread daily. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Coffee delivery

Nick’s coffee beans have proved so popular that he now supplies Bonobo Vegan Café and Cup Tea Salon.

Customers can also buy Nick’s coffee in the café or can arrange for it to be delivered.

“There’s a couple in Bridge of Don who order a kilo of the Mexican bourbon coffee and a couple in Cults who order a couple of kilos of the Mexican coffee,” said Nick.

As well as amazing coffee, Nick also makes milk, dark and white hot chocolate – made from melted chocolate buttons – as well as an array of teas and soft drinks such as cherry cola.

Small chalkboard signs show the food available at the café
Coffee and food pairings: Nick serves up an array of breakfast and lunch options. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Pea milk

He also stocks a range of milk alternatives including pea, coconut and oat milk.

For those who are peckish, Nick also serves up delicious soups, tasty sandwiches and home bakes including his mum Carol’s moreish banana bread.

And as the spring and summer looms, Nick is getting ready to offer iced lattes again.

The next few months is an exciting time for Nick as he’s preparing to open up in the evenings at the weekend.

A snapshot of the menu written on the blackboard inside The Red Robin
Cuppas galore: There’s coffee to suit all tastebuds. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

“We’re hoping to open at night, serving food and drinks such as wine,” said Nick.

“The Council planning meeting is next month so we’ll find out if we get the alcohol licence then.”

One day Nick would also like to try his hand at brewing his own beer.

Bottles of water and sweet treats on the counter of The Red Robin Records Vinyl Café
Sit back and relax with a cuppa, cake and the sweet sound of music. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

A round of questions with Nick Duthie

Nick Duthie smiling at the camera
Caring and compassionate: Dad-of-two Nick Duthie enjoys meeting customers. Picture by Kenny Elrick.

Tell us a secret trick of the trade?

You can use the steam wand of the espresso machine inside an empty plastic milk container.  When it steams it softens the plastic allowing you to squeeze the empty milk carton down for the bin. Not a very exciting trick.

In your opinion, what makes a good coffee?

Passion is the number one thing you need, if you don’t care about the coffee then you probably won’t make a very good coffee.

If you were a coffee, what would you be and why?  

I would be an iced coffee as I cope better in cold climates – my Scottish complexion burns very easily.

The best coffee you’ve ever tried?

Cairngorm coffee shop in Edinburgh is where my passion began, I love that place!

If you could own a coffee shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

New Zealand, I love it there.

Apart from coffee, what other drinks do you enjoy?  

From 3pm I move to tea, Yorkshire tea, a proper brew.

The best coffee and food pairing?

I don’t think there is such a thing. Coffee should be enjoyed as it is but let’s face it, a bacon roll is good with anything.

The best coffee and music pairing?

I love listening to a lot of varied music but a little bit of country/blues or Americana goes really well.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three drinks would be there with you?

Coffee, tea, milk – I just can’t break away from dairy, it tastes so good.  No booze as I have two small children and the hangover is just not worth it.

You have to make a coffee to represent your local area. What would that be?

A flatte, double ristretto with 300ml of steamed milk.  Sweet and balanced.  Plus it sounds great with an Aberdeen accent.

You have to serve your favourite superhero or celebrity a coffee. Who is it and what do you serve?

Arnold Schwarzenegger, my childhood hero. I would serve him anything he wanted even if it meant I had to travel somewhere to get it.

For more information about Red Robin Records Vinyl Café check out their Instagram @red_robin_records and Facebook www.facebook.com/redrobinrecords.

 

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