There’s nothing that brings a group of people together quite like food. And tapas menus, especially, do this beautifully.
Topolabamba arrived in Aberdeen just shy of a year and a half ago and has since put its stamp on offering some of the city’s best Mexican dishes to the people of the north-east.
Having visited on many an occasion, I thought it was about time to introduce my sister to the restaurant’s offering after spying its flashing light signage on its exterior on Union Street one night when passing.
Specialising in small street food-style plates as well as larger eats like burritos, enchiladas and stuffed chimichangas, the colourful venue is dressed in Spanish mosaic tiles across the floors and up the walls.
If you haven’t been to Mexico, then this eclectic mix is exactly what you can expect when you visit the smaller, more traditional colourful towns.
Sitting in a big comfy leather sofa booth, our enthusiastic server handed us the menus and talked us through the diverse offering. Recommending his must-haves, I was pleased to hear he’d highlighted a few we’d already eyed up.
Ordering two frozen margaritas – one strawberry and one original – we scribbled away on the menu with the pencils provided, ticking and crossing off the dishes we wanted to share.
The margaritas arrived at haste and we made our decisions. Playing in the background, the Spanish version of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love as well as Shakira and other pop artists was rather amusing, but it was the traditional Latin music which transported you to the other side of the world.
The tequila cocktails went down a storm and didn’t take long for us to finish. Ordering a few more, it wasn’t long until our first dishes arrived.
The food is served as soon as it is cooked and ready so we had a quick influx of dishes arrive one after the other.
First up were the shredded beef tostadas. Piled high, the shredded beef was meaty and juicy and the crispy corn tortilla made scooping up the spring onion and crumbly cheese which sat on top of it all very easy. The chipotle aioli was cooling and full of flavour and the crumbly cheese melted in your mouth. Adding a fresh chewy texture, the spring onion was a great addition.
Next to fire out of the kitchen was the classic queso fundido. A favourite, the melted cheese consists of an artisan-style Jack cheese fondue which dripped off the tortilla chips served alongside it. Within the fondue was garlicky roasted peppers and chorizo which added to overall experience. If you like melted, gooey cheese fondue, it’s a must.
Not far behind was the three chicken tinga quesadillas. The large soft tortilla was stuffed with a slightly spicy chicken tinga filling that was glued together with the mild cheese, which balanced the heat of the spice beautifully. Well cooked, the chicken was perfect and there was plenty of it.
A standout for me was the chipotle honey ribs. A stack of six big meaty ones boasted an incredibly delicate sticky sauce that covered every rib. The pork itself was tender and slipped off the bone as we tore into the ribs. The glaze sauce had a sticky honey consistency and the sweetness of it, too, but was partnered with a smoky chilli heat to it with the chipotle. I could have eaten them all night and would have happily licked the plate clean.
Maybe biting off more than we could chew, the albondigas con cascabel was much hotter than anticipated. Our mouths were on fire as soon as we took our first bite out of the large Mexican beef and pork meatballs. Cooked in a tomato and chilli sauce, the kick left a dry heat at the back of my throat and the cascabel cream sauce packed a punch. The meatballs themselves were soft and broke apart easily, but the sauce was a little too full-on for me – it’s definitely one’s for spice lovers
My must-try dish of the night was the camarones a la plancha – two giant Gulf Coast king prawns grilled in chilli butter and served with a beautifully sweet agave, tequila and lime dip. Served shell-on, we tore the massive, juicy prawns out and devoured them. The tequila-based sauce was just heavenly and could make even the plainest of dishes burst with flavour. Having a sweet tooth, it was the perfect accompaniment to the large succulent prawns.
Comfortably full, there were only a few items we retired from without polishing off the plate.
Tempted by the churros, we shared the hot Mexican doughnuts. We sacrificed a final round of margaritas especially for them.
The churros were perfectly cooked. Hot and crispy on the outside and warm and chewy in the inside. The fluffy golden brown sugar coated fried pastry is a traditional dessert in Latin American countries and was one I thoroughly enjoyed. Six lengthy, thick sticks meant there was no arguing over who would get the last one.
Dipped into the melted dark chocolate, the slight bitterness of the cocoa balanced off the overly sweet churros, marrying well together.
Topolabamba – which is named after Topolobampo, a port in the Gulf of California in north-western Mexico – brings a real flavour of South America to Aberdeen with its mix of classic authentic Mexican dishes and street food.
The restaurant has a real fiesta feel to it, but you wouldn’t feel out of place visiting for a date night, or going for drinks with your friends and family.
We parted ways with our friendly server who was attentive without being invasive.
Featuring cactus, lantern lighting and vases doubling as lights, we spied an array of traditional trinkets that made every scan of the restaurant even more interesting throughout our meal.
Modern, with a nod to tradition, the restaurant’s interior complements this with the bright, in-your- face wooden bar and back bar paneling and painted stone walls. Topolabamba is a vibrant, exciting place to dine and one I urge everyone to try sooner rather than later.
Address: 367 Union Street, Aberdeen
What we had:
- Shredded beef, spring onion and chipotle aioli with crumbly cheese tostadas
- Chicken tinga quesadillas
- Classic queso fundido (cheese fondue)
- Camarones a la plancha (giant prawns with a sweet sauce)
- Albondigas con cascabel (meatballs)
- Chipotle honey ribs