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Whether you are new to the city or just looking for some great local restaurants to visit, Cafe 52 Aberdeen is one of the best I know and needs to be on your list!
Located in the cities Merchant Quarter, Cafe52 opened over 20 years ago and is a firm favourite among local foodies and the food curious. It is known for its warm and relaxed atmosphere, something that many visitors and reviewers comment on.
I have been visiting Cafe52 for as long as I have lived in Aberdeen. My mum used to take me here when I was much, much younger while she had lunch with friends and we carry this on to the present day where I still come for lunch with my mum but it’s also somewhere that I meet my own friends for delicious evening meals.
Oh and something I want to mention quite early in my review is that Cafe52 are dog friendly! I know that I have friends that would love this knowledge and I think that this will be a really welcome piece of information for any other dog owners out there!
So, day or evening, whenever it is that you decide to visit, there are no restrictions and your dog is more than welcome to join the party.
I absolutely love the Cafe52 building. It appears very unassuming from the outside, a simple black exterior with hanging plants but there is something quite gritty yet pulled together about this narrow tunnel-like restaurant on the inside. I really like the look of bare stonework, matched with the exposed ventilation ducts, beautiful Victorian mosaic floor tiles and walls covered with abstract art pieces.
Looking for a little more privacy or to hold a bigger party? Take a look at The Shepherds Hut which can be found outside to the front of the restaurant, just next to the outdoor seating area. The outdoor seating is surrounded by leafy green plants and which makes it feel a little more separated from simply sitting on the street but also offers protection from the seagulls of the city!
The Shepherds Hut, which is right next to this area is its own secluded outhouse in which you can dine in peace with friends and family. It holds up to 16 people and is fully insulated and heated, however, on weekends it does require prior booking and a deposit of £10 per head due to its popularity.
The menu Cafe52 offer is heavily influenced by good quality Scottish produce but with an inventive and often bold take on traditional foods and meals.
I have mostly visited with my mum during the day and the Cafe 52 lunch menu is great whether you are famished or just looking for a little something to keep you going. All of the main dishes are £5 or less which is a great cost for the quality of food that you receive and this can be from burgers to pâté, soups, sandwiches and sides. There is a great selection of crowd-pleasers with a couple of more foodie additions thrown in.
If you are visiting in that awkward in-between, too late for lunch but not quite ready or time for a heavy evening meal, then the Tapas menu might be for you! These small plates are £2.50 each and offer tasters of meats, cheeses, vegetables and more. Alternatively, you could order a sharing platter which I would recommend for two people at most and gives you some meats, cheeses, olives etc to pick at.
It’s safe to say that I am a big fan of all the food served and all of the Cafe 52 Aberdeen menus on offer but it’s the evening meals that I especially adore. There is something quite special and fancy yet unpretentious about the restaurant at night. I don’t know how they do it! the menu sounds quite to do and upper market but there are no airs and graces about it and the atmosphere is completely relaxed and welcoming.
During my last visit, I ordered the ‘smoked mackerel pate with lemon and fresh dill served with toasted ciabatta’ which was really delicious, although definitely on the fishy side so beware if this is a romantic dining experience. The ciabatta was a lovely touch and I was advised to ask for more bread if required which was a nice touch.
My friend ordered the ‘black pudding and poached pear with a spiced red wine reduction’ which he thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t get a taste for that reason so it would be difficult to comment further. It is the same for the main in which I believe he had some pan-fried sea bass. Didn’t get a look in.
For the main, I ordered the ‘slow-cooked blade of beef casserole with roasted root vegetables, red wine and garlic’ and we ordered a side of parsnip fries with honey and sea salt to share. I know that we are a nation of ‘everything with chips’ and we did order some chips but please do me a favour and order the parsnip fries. They are absolutely delicious and make such a nice change to, well, having everything with chips.
The beef from my main was really tender, the wine sauce wasn’t too overpowering and I really enjoyed it with a mix of the root vegetables and the sweetness of the parsnip fries. I love a traditional home-cooked meal and this felt really warming and comforting, nicer than you would have at home without being over the top. It was home cooking but better.
Not a pair to be satisfied with just two courses, no, we were definitely keen to try out a couple of Mrs B’s desserts. Not sure about Mrs B? Well, she is the owners (Steve Bothwell) mum! From what I gather, she has been making the daily desserts since the start of the business and uses homegrown produce from her garden where possible.
I chose a baked cheesecake and I believe it was white chocolate and coconut which came with scoops of ice cream. It was absolutely delicious and I had ordered a cup of tea alongside it but it was very sweet. I think because it was my third course and as someone who doesn’t have a huge appetite, it felt like an awfully big portion for me. But, I couldn’t pass it up because I have such a sweet tooth and I would never normally complain about a big piece of cake! I mention this just because if you are like me, the foods can be quite rich and maybe two courses would suffice or perhaps consider something a little lighter.
My friend picked a morello cherry Eton mess and although the cheesecake was delicious, I had a little bit of food envy on this one because this may have been the lighter dessert I needed after a heavy starter and main.
After eating, we sat and spoke for a little while, never once feeling rushed and my stomach content with the meal that we had just received.
The waiting staff were helpful and patient, the owner made sure to check with us and every other table that the food was ok, advising us to ask for more bread etc if required. Nothing felt like too much effort and it felt as though he had real care and passion for the food being served.
The atmosphere was warm and comfortable and the pricing for a 3-course meal was around £30 per person not including drinks. Cafe 52 has an extensive wine list if you are looking for alcoholic beverages with your meal, however, we were firmly on the ginger beer that night.
I would not hesitate to recommend Cafe52 to anyone visiting Aberdeen for any meal and I can’t wait to return myself.
The restaurant is generally open from noon-midnight. If looking to reserve a table for an evening meal, I would recommend that you contact and make a Cafe 52 booking in advance as it is a very popular dining spot.
Keep an eye out for Aberdeen Restaurant Week for some great deals.
Where to find Cafe 52
52 The Green
Aberdeen AB11 6PE