THE CITY // Cafe 52

On Friday evening last week some of my favourite girls and I got together in Aberdeen for a long overdue catch-up and a bite to eat. We decided to stray away from the busy monotony of our usual haunts and headed instead for the quiet refuge of the Green and Cafe 52.

The Green is one of Aberdeen's older areas with a fascinating medieval history, but Cafe 52 is a restaurant with a very contemporary feel. A tiny space (even smaller than I first realised because I was thrown by the large mirror opposite the bar) with bare brick walls, curtained screens and black metallic furnishings, the interior is decidedly intimate, though seating outside adds a little to their capacity during warmer days.

I was running slightly late so my friends were all seated and menus had been delivered by the time I arrived. Most of us were driving so it was soft drinks all round on this particular occasion, but I was slightly disappointed to note for future reference that they were lacking in any form of cocktail list - something I've come to expect in a setting like this. 

That said, one quick look at the food menu more than made up for it!

Black pudding and wine poached pear - Cafe 52 Aberdeen
Houmous and chiabatta - Cafe 52 The Green Aberdeen

Cafe 52 aim to keep their food "simple, wholesome and honest," yet manage to do so with a creative flair and the use of some unexpected ingredients. I was pleased to note that at least a quarter of their menu is suitable for vegetarians.

I often skip the starter when dining out, preferring to save myself for dessert instead, but having seen the available choices I couldn't resist. The other girls seemed to enjoy their homemade pork and beef meatloaf and their black pudding with wine-poached pear - although it was said that the latter was perhaps too unusual a pairing for their taste - and my butternut squash and black eye bean houmous, served with toasted ciabatta and salad, was delicious!

Beef casserole - Cafe 52 The Green Aberdeen
Mackerel and crayfish salad - Cafe 52 The Green Aberdeen
Pear, mushroom and parsnip lasagne - vegetarian - Cafe 52 Aberdeen

From there it was straight onto our mains: a beef casserole; some pan-fried mackerel with a crayfish salad; and mine, a pear, mushroom and parsnip lasagne - the perfect combination of sweet seasonal vegetables balanced out by the savoury taste of the cheese. We shared some sides of homemade chips and parsnips with maple syrup and sea salt, and I can safely say that each and every component received a massive thumbs up from me!

The food was faultless, as far as I was concerned, but if I'm being entirely honest it wasn't a perfect first visit to Cafe 52.

We knew from the time of booking some days earlier that they were going to be busy - they'd made it clear from the outset, forewarning us that they could only squeeze us in at 6pm and would need the table back by 8. That was not a problem (2 hours is a perfectly reasonable amount of time to eat even a three-course meal), the heads-up was appreciated and though they were busy on arrival, the waitresses were incredibly attentive for the first half of our meal.

As the evening wore on and the number of diners increased, however, it became apparent that they were rather short staffed! Between seating new arrivals, dealing with booking mix-ups, taking orders, delivering drinks and meals and clearing tables, the two servers were completely rushed off their feet and we were left with empty plates sat in front of us for almost half an hour after our mains. The girls physically could not have worked any quicker, but it was mere minutes before our 8pm 'deadline' by the time they were able to deal with us and it left things at a rather unfortunate end. Unfortunate for us, because we didn't even get the chance to peruse the dessert menu, let alone sample any sweet treats; and unfortunate for them, because it meant that we had to leave and take our coffee-and-cake-consuming custom elsewhere.

It was a bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise delightful meal.

All that said and done, however, the quality of food served during our first two courses was of such a standard that I think I could be tempted to return and I'm not entirely adverse to recommending it to other friends.

Pop along to Cafe 52 at 52 The Green for some good quality food in the centre of Aberdeen ...but book your table far in advance or perhaps try for a quieter evening during the week!

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