A few weeks back, an intriguing email popped into my inbox inviting me to join with other local bloggers for a bit of a foodie adventure in Aberdeen's primary shopping centre, Union Square.  Curiously billed as a 'Supper Safari', I fished out my binoculars, got my best bush hat at the ready and was straight on in there!

The Swahili word "safari" literally translates as "journey" and our evening was to be just that: a journey through the rolling plains of Union Square, stopping to observe four very different restaurant habitats along the way.  

With Brad from Frank PR acting as our trusty guide, we began our expedition at Las Iguanas - the evening's watering hole.

From their tapas-style sharing plates to skewers fresh from the flames, Las Iguanas are all about flavoursome food with a Latin American twist. With inclusivity one of their primary aims, this is a restaurant I've frequented before and respect for the simple accessibility of their gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan menus, as well as the tastiness of their food. On this particular visit, however, we weren't quite ready to focus on the food..

We were here, instead, to gather at the oasis and sup from the wellspring of the cocktail menu. Full of familiar favourites and classics with a South American spin, there is plenty to choose from on this list, with many drinks priced at just £3.90 all day, every day! 

I was driving so it was a virgin piƱa colada from the mocktail list for me - complete with fruit wedge, umbrella and sudden longings for Spain - but so many of the drinks looked and sounded very tempting. It's not somewhere I'd have thought to go for cocktails before, but in future it just might be!

Las Iguanas cocktails - Union Square supper safari

With our thirsts suitably quenched, we were ready to begin our migration in search of food, finding ourselves led out of South America and onwards to Japan, with Yo! Sushi the next stop on our journey.

I went through a bit of a Yo! faze while I was at university (I was obsessed with firecracker rice!) but for some strange reason haven't visited for years now, so I was pretty intrigued to return at long last and see how things have changed.

Yo Sushi - Union Square supper safari aberdeen

We were welcomed into our new habitat by the restaurant manager-turned-ranger who showed us to two booths and talked us enthusiastically through the brand and menu while we took in the colourful landscape of conveyor-belt and open kitchen. With the launch of their 'This Is Tokyo' menu, the company are currently making a return to their routes: focussing on bringing an authentic taste of Japan to the UK, in terms of both culture and food.

When you say "sushi," people instantly think of raw fish, but there is so much more than that to the menu. With curried dishes, gyoza, fried rice, vegetable sushi, stir fried noodles and salads, to name but a few, there's even plenty for a vegan to choose!

With this in mind, we were each invited to select any two items from the menu and it was time for the grazing to begin!

Yo Sushi - Union Square supper safari aberdeen
Chicken katsu curry // Miso soup and Ramen noodle salad
Vegetable tempura // Tofu katsu curry

It's at this point that I should probably say that I was having a bit of A Bad Day. That can mean lots of different things at lots of different times, but sometimes Bad can manifest as Really-Struggling-With-Food. Unfortunately that was the case on this day and so my experience was not what it otherwise might have been..

I opted for the vegetable tempura (aubergine, carrot and onion in a crispy batter with a little dipping sauce), which I tried but sadly found a bit.. bland; and the tofu katsu curry (breaded tofu on rice with curry sauce), of which my tiny sample tasted amazing ...but I just couldn't bring myself to eat.

That said, this visit definitely whet my appetite and I've already been back on a Better Day since, where I fell in love with their "inari pockets" - little pockets of bean curd stuffed with sticky rice - and a very yummy dessert of apple-filled gyoza with a salted miso caramel sauce. Yum!

Yo Sushi Union Square Aberdeen
Vegetable yaki soba, cucumber maki, miso soup and inari pockets // Apple gyoza

Once everyone was finished munching through their rainbow of Japanese treats, it was time to set forth into our shopping centre Serengeti once again, setting our sights on destination number three. 

One of the newest additions to Union Square's dining scene, it was burger joint Byron that was next on our horizon, with its neon signs proclaiming "Proper Hamburgers" this way. Aberdeen was the first Scottish city to become home to this growing chain whose ethos is simple: to do hamburgers and do them well. Prime cuts of beef, cooked to perfection and served in their own-recipe buns - this is Byron's centre point, around which everything else revolves.

That's not to say they're slacking on everything else though.. Take their milkshakes, for example - they're certainly not doing those by halves! 

Welcomed into the diner landscape and invited to select a drink, it was the lesser-spotted milkshake section that instantly grabbed our attention. Available in strawberry, banana, chocolate, vanilla, oreo cookie and Reese's peanut butter cup (!!!) varieties, with an optional liquor addition, only one among us managed to resist their pull. Usually swayed by peanut butter anything, I panic-ordered mine and opted instead for oreo cookie, not wanting to repeat the person just before me!

Oreo milkshake - Byron Burger - Union Square supper safari Aberdeen
Hard shakes - Byron Burger - Union Square supper safari Aberdeen

As it happened, it was a good shout (I'm not sure there could have been a bad one, really) as what arrived was a tankard full of pure creamy, biscuity, slightly-chocolate-y joy! It is my one regret of the evening that I allowed myself to be defeated by even this beauty and didn't ask for a cup to take it home!

The shakes were pretty much meals in themselves, but it was soon on to feeding time, round two, as we each ordered a dish from the main menu. 

While mammoth looking mountains of burgers and bacon arrived at the table, I selected the veggie bean patty instead with its roasted red pepper, spinach, aioli and Byron sauce, and ordered it in bun-free skinny form, served with side salad instead of the bun. Even at that, I have to confess to being well and truly conquered by the plate that was put in front of me. The tiny bit of burger that I forced myself to eat seemed tasty enough, but beyond that I couldn't give a fair summary. 

Byron Burger - Union Square supper safari Aberdeen
Skinny bean patty
Roasted beetroot, piquillo pepper & feta salad // B-Rex

The carnivores of the group chomped into some epic looking food, which seemed to be going down very well, and so Byron certainly seem to be doing what they set out to do. Perhaps expectedly, the options were a little sparse if you happen to be a herbivore, with a choice of two burgers (one of which is actually a mushroom) and two salads for the vegetarians, or just one of each for the vegans in your group. It also disappointed me a little that a restaurant group whose primary focus is on burgers hasn't yet come up with a gluten-free option that doesn't mean completely sacrificing the bun.. 

I won't personally be rushing back (unless it's to try another milkshake!), but it certainly seems a popular choice if meat is your thing! 

By the time we'd sampled all that this particular province had to offer, the darkness had closed in and the stars were shining brightly in the unpolluted sky (they would have been, okay?). I decided to admit defeat at this point and retreated to base-camp rather than bringing any more awkward vibes to the table, but the remaining travellers set out on the last leg of their safari, heading in the direction of Carluccio's and the promise of coffee and sweet Italian treats!

Union Square supper safari - Aberdeen bloggers

I absolutely loved the concept of this evening and think it's an approach we should all adopt to dining on the odd occasion! (I'm convinced it used to be a popular social event among churches and youth groups - though travelling from house to house instead - but no one else seems to know what I'm talking about.) As always, it was great to catch-up with so many other Aberdeen-based bloggers - and to meet a few new faces too - and thanks must go to Union Square, Frank PR and especially Brad, for organising and playing host.
Hakuna Matata

(All food and drink was provided by Las Iguanas, Yo! Sushi and Byron free of charge. All photos, thoughts and opinions are my own.)  

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