Every April, like clockwork, I am witness to a very nervous boyfriend working tirelessly in preparation for his exams.
Which I won’t complain about since his hardworking attitude is a very admirable trait.
But sometimes it’s nice to remind those we love that they deserve a break from their tiring routines and they should set some time aside to unwind (and forget about those pesky PowerPoint slides).
So I got to brainstorming.
What are the little things we can show others we care about them?
And my mind always comes back to food.
Now, we’ve never been to Cafe Harmony, but it’s been one of those hotspots we’ve heard a lot of buzz about before.
It’s always on our list of “must-try” restaurants, but somehow it always manages to slip through the cracks and we find ourselves at our old haunts.
Not this time. I decided this would be a great occasion to treat him to an evening away from his thick textbooks and instead focus his attention on some mouth-watering dishes.
Cafe Harmony is nestled on a corner of Bon-Accord Terrace and the dishes are known for being infused with Spanish and Italian flavours.
It’s no secret they use high quality local produce – which are used to freshly prepare each and every dish.
We decided to book in advance after the advice of a friend it might be packed on a Friday evening.
When we arrived at 7.30pm, the first thing I noticed was the cosy environment.
The rustic and relaxed decor were meant to make you feel at home.
I was a fan of the earthy colour scheme and I was quickly infatuated with a small tree near the window where we were seated.
And by the time night fell, the restaurant was illuminated by very warm lighting.
Everything about the interior reminded me of someone’s comfy home – somewhere warm and far away from the chilly Granite City.
The friendly staff were open to answering our questions and advised us on what was popular on the menu.
The first thing I noticed about the menu was the suggested wine pairing for each dish.
As someone who enjoys a glass, but has no idea of what works best with food, I welcomed the helpful guide.
My boyfriend had been looking forward to this moment since I proposed the idea and had done his research beforehand by looking at the menu online.
His heart was already set on his main, but he needed some help deciding on a starter.
The waitress helpfully explained the Sicilian arancini was popular.
The stuffed rice balls were coated with bread crumbs and then fried with a golden brown finish. Inside were layers of minced beef and mozzarella.
I opted for the stuffed mushrooms, filled with chorizo and mixed cheeses.
After placing our order, it must have been no longer than 15 minutes before the dishes arrived.
I don’t have this happen to me often when I’m out having a meal, but the warm fragrance of the arancini and the mushrooms halted our conversation.
These two starters were beautifully presented and crafted, and arrived at our table fresh and hot.
The mushrooms, which were covered in bread crumbs and fried until brown, were served on a bed of crisp lettuce and tomatoes.
Normally, salads on these dishes find themselves forgotten, but not in this meal.
It was delightfully refreshing after every fork-full of the spicy chorizo.
The mixed cheeses inside the mushroom packed some flavour, but might have been a touch overpowering.
My boyfriend’s arancinis were definitely a hit. He said the dish was “very unique” and he didn’t think he could eat dishes like it in Aberdeen.
The two servings of arancini were presented on top of some zesty tomato sauce which complemented the mince inside.
He mentioned he was thoroughly impressed by the presentation, calling it “intricate” and made him all the more excited for his main.
Next up, I asked for the grilled chicken breast with seasonal roasted vegetables.
Every meat dish came with a choice of sauce and after much deliberation, I settled on the creamy champignon mushroom and cheese offering.
I also asked for a side of aromatic couscous.
With my main, I took up the menu’s advice to pair the chicken with a white Malvasia Bianca.
My boyfriend chose the harmony filet – Aberdeen Angus beef in a rich tomato sauce, topped with parma ham and Gorgonzola cheese.
He then asked for a side of hand-cut potato wedges.
To go with his meal, instead of opting for wine he chose a north-east classic – a Six Degree North brewed Wanderlust. Just as promptly as our starters, the mains came out of the kitchen piping hot.
Once again, we were dazzled when the white plates made their way into our line of sight.
The vibrant colours of the fillet were enough to give me food-envy.
The harmony fillet was stacked with a layer of fresh bread, beautifully cooked steak, a bright red slice of parma ham and oozing gorgonzola to top it all off.
“Gorgonzola on steak?” Was our initial puzzled reaction, but after the first bite my boyfriend was converted.
He said the flavours worked in harmony to produce one of his most unique gastro-experiences.
The rich flavours of the meats, coupled by the tart balsamic reduction and the sharp gorgonzola was “phenomenal”.
He said the fillet was tender, which was exactly what he hoped based on the cut of meat.
The chicken was grilled to perfection and a fragrant mushroom cheese sauce was basted over the three fillets. Warm, creamy and earthy – it was the right choice of sauce for what I was in the mood for.
As for the aromatic couscous, it worked well not to overpower the main.
Fresh seasonal veg were skilfully placed on the plate with with lively orange, green and brown hues.
We mulled over getting dessert, and for a one-time only offer, I proposed we share a Tiramisu.
We were in luck, because they had just been freshly prepared.
I can think of no better way to round off an evening than with a freshly-made treat.
Needless to say, I think my experiment in distracting a loved one from their everyday stress worked thanks to the culinary prowess of Cafe Harmony.
If you’re looking to try something out-of-the-box without breaking the bank, then you should most definitely consider dining at this fantastic city centre eatery.