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Restaurant review: Aberdeen’s Cafe Boheme has rightful place on Michelin Guide

Is Cafe Boheme really worth all the hype? It's a resounding yes after we paid a visit and put some delicious dishes to the test.

Venison starter and chocolate dessert on a table along with a glass of red wine.
Date night is sorted at Cafe Boheme. Image: Paul Glendell/ DC Thomson.

What is it that makes a restaurant feel authentically French?

Some resort, in vain, to scattering stereotypical ephemera about the place. You’d barely be surprised to be served by someone wearing stripes and onions.

Cafe Boheme has none of that and yet is utterly transportative, convincingly recreating a classic, homely, neighbourhood bistro vibe.

Effortless? Or the result of careful but subtle planning? Who knows – but the whole place has a certain je ne sais… well I’ll maybe try to avoid the Gallic clichés too.

Cafe Boheme, Aberdeen

Of course I do know what the secret mostly is: the food. This is, after all, an establishment celebrating its appearance in the latest Michelin Guide.

Before getting into the meat (and veg) of this review however, I must pause to warn two of the friends who dined with me not to read on.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to be rude about you. Your company was as sparkling as ever and I’m looking forward to our next meal together (more of which later).

Cafe Boheme's interior.
The classic interior of Aberdeen’s Cafe Boheme is loved by many. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

No, it’s just it’s now Ramadan and what I’m about to describe might just be too mouth-wateringly much to bear if you’re reading it during daylight hours.

We were there for the restaurant’s tasting menu, a five-course showcase of the chef’s strengths, complete with wine pairings.

As an experience, it began on something of a sour note.

In the best possible way.

French 75 cocktails are named after a field gun and the house recipe certainly packs a punch akin to an exploding shell, the citrus and spirit very much to the fore. All so refreshingly in-your-face I’m minded to tweak my own formula.

They were delivered to our table by Gus, whose reputation for knowing his stuff when it comes to food and drink combinations preceded him. And was lived up to.

The food

He began with a crisp Chablis that set off pan-fried wild North Sea halibut just as well as the accompanying apple and kale – and finished with the caramelised lushness of a Rivesaltes which did as much as mascarpone ice cream and almond and olive oil biscuit. to bring out the best of a chocolate mousse.

Nor were the booze-based pairings confined to glasses.

A second course of roasted cod was married with a delightfully-understated Pastis cream, the aniseed more of a hint than a hit and all the better for it. All the power the dish needed came from a texture-rich cauliflower and roast shallot gratin.

Venison starter and chocolate dessert on a table along with a glass of red wine.
A starter of venison was heartily approved of, as was the chocolate themed dessert. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

It was after these promising dishes that our party’s culinary paths began to diverge.

There are officially two tasting menus – the standard omnivore and a vegan version, but do not be afraid to inquire (when you book – not on arrival!) about other variations as the restaurant was very accommodating with our various ethical and religious-based dietary preferences.

So while three quarters of the table tucked into venison, I took a pescatarian diversion via a top-notch Jerusalem artichoke risotto dish.

Cafe Boheme's risotto.
The risotto was an explosion of flavour. Image supplied by Matthew Cunningham.

The smoked venison loin was the unanimous high point of the night for the others, not just the richness in flavour of the melt-in-the-mouth meat but how it was set off by pickled pear and spiced beetroot.

Smoked venison loin starter.
Everything about this dish was perfectly balanced. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

As a regular watcher of Great British Menu, I am regularly surprised at how often even the country’s top chefs fail to achieve the crucial “cutting through” element.

It was – I am told – definitely not an issue here.

And it helped put firmly to rest one diner’s concern on seeing the menu about whether it would sit too heavy before a course of smoked pork belly with apricot and prune fillet roulade.

A concern only for one, for while she tucked into that with the gusto of someone relieved to find their appetite undimmed, the non-pork eaters among us were demolishing a tarte tatin.

Cafe Boheme's chocolate dessert.
If you’re a dessert kind of person, Aberdeen’s Cafe Boheme is the place to be. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

We hadn’t been shunted directly to dessert, don’t worry, this particular variation on the French classic was filled not with apples but with golden beetroot and lemon and served with a smoked walnut and apricot vegan cheese, kohlrabi and clementine Salad and garlic potato.

Matching the tart with a zingy berries-and-peppercorns Mondeuse from the Savoie was perfect.

I can’t tell you if it went as well with the venison too, where it also appears on the other menu, as our omnivore companion had declined the wine flight as she is not a fan of whites.

What I can tell you though is that Gus and colleagues, unlike their equivalents in some establishments, will not be offended at that and will help you pick a bottle suited both to the menu and your own tastes.

Which brings us back to that chocolate mousse – about which the only thing we were agreed we thought was wrong was the quantity not the quality.

In fact perhaps only because it was so rich was the slice rather too large, even for a notorious devourer of afters like me.

The verdict

If what you look for in a meal is intriguing invention built on the most solid of classic foundations, then Café Boheme is unlikely ever to disappoint.

It is classy without being pretentious, French without the fabricated ooh-la-la and about as welcoming a room – and a staff – as you could hope to find.

The four of us will be back soon but probably not before a trip to Stonehaven’s Tollbooth, long one of my favourites and now taken over by the team behind La Boheme. Bliss


Address: 23 Windmill Brae, Aberdeen AB11 6HU

T:  01467 207060


Price:  £55 per person/ £85 per person with wine pairing. £9 per cocktail, £3.50 per coffee.