No.1 Bar and Grill is somewhere I’ve visited on numerous occasions – usually for a special celebration.
Being located in Aberdeen’s west end, it’s the perfect pit-stop for those visiting the city for business and for the locals looking for some well-cooked local produce.
The informal bar and grill, which has a good-sized menu, is located in a basement venue, can sometimes be hard to spot.
Stepping off Queen’s Terrace one soggy Tuesday evening, we ventured down the granite stairs to the restaurant’s entrance.
It was cosy, the fire was on in the bar area and the thought of collapsing in a heap on the comfy lounge chairs after bracing the horrid weather outside was far too appealing – however, promptly greeted by our server, we were shown to our seats and handed a menu.
Taking our drenched coats, he talked us through the menu and the specials for the day, and took our drinks order, leaving us to scan the restaurant’s new seasonal offering which had just been launched.
Having just introduced a new autumn and winter menu, there was a real mouth-watering selection of hearty dishes such as braised beef with wilted greens and cheddar mash, venison with sloe gin jus and roasted root vegetables salad. I was surprised when my partner ordered the soup as this isn’t something he’d usually choose. Clearly the homemade roasted pepper and tomato had sold it for him – and to be honest it was the perfect dish to start with on a dreary evening.
On arrival the soup was boiling. He dipped the homemade sweet bread in and dunked away. The red pepper stood out instantly with a warming of black pepper coming through at the rear. It had a slight sweetness to it and there was plenty of it. The mixed herbs and basil throughout packed it with flavour.
My macaroni dish came served in a mini pot which was roasting.
Small pieces of black pudding were placed on top as were the crunchy herby croutons. The black pudding broke apart and had an ever so slight warming spice to it. The macaroni cheese was creamy, but not gooey and the size of the dish was very deceptive. At first glance, it didn’t look like much but the well-cooked pasta dish – which also came topped with a dusting of crushed bacon – was an ideal starter size.
Venturing to thoughts of our mains, the restaurant had started to get busier with more and more small groups arriving to dine and drink. I spied one couple sitting near the fire with a big glass of white on the comfortable seats, and I felt quite envious. Our mains arrived and my envy immediately evaporated. I had ordered the fish sharing platter and my partner had opted for a fillet steak rare.
The sharing platter was massive, but having had a real craving for seafood it was the one dish I was dying to get my hands on. Dressed with an array of fish and crayfish, it was one I knew I couldn’t tackle alone.
Served on a long wooden board, there was fish cooked all ways and served either fried, pan-seared or raw. Tucking into the fried shrimp first, the batter on the outside was super crunchy, while the shrimp inside was lovely and soft. Dipping into the tartare sauce which had gherkins in it and was very creamy, the pungent taste and texture of the capers boldly stood out.
Next up were the two beautifully cooked scallops which melted in the mouth. They were well received and gone in no time.
There were lots of the flavoursome smoked Scottish salmon which I paired with the homemade bread. My knife glided through the four thick slices which were soft with a salty finish. The fried squid in breadcrumbs also went well with the tartare sauce and was delicious and not chewy, as anticipated, which I enjoyed a lot.
But the standout for me had to be the crab and prawn remoulade. Featuring mashed crab meat and full of tiny prawns, it was my favourite element to the dish. The perfect pairing to the bread, the sauce it was served in was outstanding. A prawn marie rose with more of a mayonnaise-like taste to it, it was creamy and utterly delicious.
I retired from the platter, served with a dressed side salad, and let my partner tuck in once he’d finished his steak.
Asking for rare, the steak was slightly over-cooked and came medium rare. However, the meat was incredibly tender and the centre of the steak melted as it touched my partner’s tongue. It boasted a beautiful taste and was a good size of fillet.
Seared on the outside and sprinkled with sea salt, it added to the flavour from the grill.
The peppercorn sauce he’d ordered had a peppery aftertaste to it following a sweeter front. It came served in a tiny old-school antique milk churn and covered the whole steak and some large chunky chips.
The chips came with the skin still on, they were crispy on the outside and dense on the inside.
The tomato sat upon the thin Portobello mushroom, and the onion chutney on top brought a sweetness to the more tangy and earthy fruit and vegetables.
Unable to finish our mains, dessert was looking unlikely, until my partner spotted the bannoffee cheesecake. His ultimate favourite, we placed the order.
Arriving deconstructed, it looked nothing like a cheesecake. The biscuit base was scattered across the plate so we dragged our spoons through it and the whipped yoghurt and banana dollop and scooped up some of the creamy peanut-butter ice cream.
The bananas on top were caramelised on one side, giving a real crunch to the dish. We cracked it with our spoons and let the sweetness of it take over our tastebuds.
A splodge of milk chocolate on the plate finished the dish off perfectly. Just having a few spoonfuls, I left my partner to polish it off.
Our experience at No.1 was exactly how I’d envisaged it would be: a relaxing ambiance, excellent food and friendly and attentive staff.
The rustic interiors and the stripped-back, exposed granite walls were dressed with modern art which popped with colour. Its welcoming ambience and chilled-out vibe makes it the ideal place to go for a light lunch or a heartier dinner.
With a compilation of lounge sofas and comfortable booths, it’s no wonder this place feels like a home away from home. And with it being just a five-minute walk from my flat, I’ll definitely be sure to pop in more often.