There is something to suit every taste in Aberdeen and having won a purple flag for ten straight years, the city is recognised as a safe and welcoming place for a night out, so where will you choose? We cast our net slightly wider than the city limits this time, but not county-wide, we have to miss out enough excellent places as it is! We’re mostly focused on bars and restaurants and there are a couple of other spots that we just had to include.
Our dining focus is on non-chain restaurants with local produce at the “special occasion” end of the market. The Moonfish Café is a contemporary, unpretentious space nestled in the ancient Merchant’s Quarter and its constantly changing modern British cuisine, biodynamic wines and regional gins make it a regular fixture in the Michelin Guide. You can enjoy luxurious Scottish game, beef and seafood with an extensive cellar in the timeless setting of The Conservatory. Kevin Dalgleish’s highly respected Amuse offers a French influence in smart, intimate surroundings where no detail is too small. Bespoke, private dining experiences are possible for those who book ahead. Alex Dando is Head Chef The Atrium in Chapel Street where Scottish produce is the star of the show. There is fun and innovation throughout the menu and kids are well catered for. In Aberdeen’s harbour’s Pocra Quay is The Silver Darling seafood restaurant with great food and dramatic views of the port. Down the coast in Stonehaven is one of Scotland’s most celebrated fish restaurants, The Tolbooth provides “proper seafood” in many glorious forms in a great harbourside location.
Nearly every place in this post has excellent whisky but we’ve highlighted a few because it’s a sign they take drinks seriously. The Grill on Union Street has to stand out. This former World Whisky Bar of the Year famously stocks around 600 whiskies which it serves in Glencairn glass. Its name is unchanged since it was founded in 1870 and it wears its history well with deep mahogany and stunning plasterwork. CASC on Exchange Street specialises in whisky (200 stocked here) craft beer and also Cuban cigars for which there is separate space. Grape and Grain is another upscale establishment that has won numerous accolades for its style, ambience and drinks, it is definitely a place to be seen. The St Machar Bar in the Old Town is a cosy bar with 140 whiskies and excellent food, this classic pub puts on a whisky festival in September. South of Apartrooms in Stonehaven is the Ship Inn. This harbour-front pub is always worth a visit on chilly nights or sunny days. Enjoy fresh seafood at the Captain’s Table Restaurant and sample the extensive whisky collection in the Lounge Bar.
For a whisky distillery tour, you could try Glen Garioch or venture further inland to Royal Lochnagar. If you’re just pootling around town, The Aberdeen Whisky Shop on Union Street usually has a couple of interesting tastings available from its extensive stock.
Other Spirits and Cocktails
The copper, wood and leather of Orchid oozes class and they aim high with their cocktails and mixologists. As a result, Orchid has been named Scottish Cocktail Bar of the Year 4 times and was listed in GQ’s top 50 UK bars. The Tippling House is a celebrated underground speakeasy, an excellent pre-theatre haunt that could easily have made the whisky section but is also renowned for the work of its cocktail makers. Dusk is an intimate and stylish setting in the West End that is perfect for early evening drinks. The Siberia Bar has live DJs and has more youthful energy than the others in this section but that didn’t stop it from picking up last year’s best cocktail award during last year’s festival.
For gin, see the Small and Quirky section below…
Beers and Pubs
As with the restaurants, there are too many to mention, but here are a few pubs of note. Two local breweries have popular bars. Six Degrees North supplies Smoke and Soul on Littlejohn Street having handed over the reins, it is just down from Brewdog Aberdeen on Gallowgate. Brewdog also has bars in Union Square and Castle Gate. 6°N has the Marine Hotel in Stonehaven and is central to the Midsummer Beer Happening that will feature in our guide to annual events. Other notable pubs include Krakatoa for real ale and entertainment, the legendary Blue Lamp for music – including jazz – and comedy nights. Ma Cameron’s is the oldest pub in town with nooks, snugs and a “secret” rooftop bar. The Globe Inn and Queen Vic are well-known, traditional hostelries, the Wild Boar is slightly more contemporary and Murdos Bar is an old family pub in the north of the city. Closer to Apartrooms in Portlethen, you will find The Neuk with a cosy bar, a good range of whisky, ale and decent food; The Leathan and The Paddock Bar are both popular pubs.
Small and Quirky
Finally, here is a selection of some small but memorable foodie places that will add character to your visit. The Highlander Cafe Bus offers coffee, ice cream, cakes and a wide range of heartier dishes on Aberdeen Beach Front, you can even sit upstairs and try to spot a dolphin. Little Molly’s Cheesecake van is also making a name for itself on the beach. Cocoa Ooze Luxury Chocolates do chocolate workshops for adults and children, you will need to book in advance as venues change. Despite its location, the City of Aberdeen Distillery is actually a venue for all things gin and has experiences and tours that win rave reviews. Honourable mentions go to the Seafood Bothy, the seafood wagon on Stonehaven Pier, and Mackie’s 19.2 our local ice cream maker’s parlour in Marischal Square, Aberdeen. We should also mention Sally’s, a very good little café down the road from us in Portlethen.
We hope this little list has woken up your taste buds. There is far more on offer in the city and wider Aberdeenshire including many uniquely Scottish offerings as well as your familiar favourites.