Written by Colin Fraser
Someone once told me that the grass is much greener on the other side but when it comes to The Green in Aberdeen, I don’t think that’s strictly true. Yes, the grass is technically greener as The Green is cobbled, but the glorious eateries homed here make it far from grey.
Casting my mind back to my pre-city living days, The Green acted as my regular shortcut to college from the train station. Acting not only as a bypass of the mountainous climb up the Trinity Shopping Centre stairs but a breath of fresh air taking in its tranquil scenes before a day stuck in an uninspiring classroom.
Dating back to 1399, the medieval merchant quarters was once the main street of the city ahead of Union Street’s construction in 1764. Today, the area has switched gathering merchants for us regular civilians lured in by live events like Inspired Nights and Jazz on the Green, captivating art and of course, a stellar line up of food.
With five eateries pinned on its relatively small footprint, The Green is never far from making a lasting impression.
Priding itself as one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city, Bistro Verde is definitely one for the list when fish is on the mind. Specialising in bringing the best produce from land and sea across the North-east, the food here never disappoints with sizeable portions of fresher than fresh servings.
There is a lot to be said about a restaurant that serves up – in my words – a piddly prawn, and at Bistro Verde, it’s only big boy prawns all the way! I believe big boy prawns is the official term used in the industry…
It’s not only bold flavours but a bold interior follows with pink pooch themed wallpaper, quirky pictures and a classic statement clock. The naughty corner would be an area we feared as children but the bistro’s dedicated corner is arguably the best and most idoled seat in the house.
Cocktails here are always delicious; putting its stamp on mixology with its cocktail of the week, favoured classics and ones with a twist – the salted caramel espresso martini sounds mind-blowing.
A place I define as a “bit of me” is Cafe 52. Nestled in one of the viaducts of over-running Union Street, exposed brick-work, historic features and candle light come together to make one memorable setting.
When the rain lashes or wind howls on a dreich day, this is my perfect spot to escape. Cafe 52 is the description of comfort with heart-warming servings of wholesome slow-cooked casseroles, antipasti platters, its homely ‘soup of the moment’ and not forgetting the deep fried kale with sweet chilli dressing which is always on my order.
Its desserts are extra special with seasoned flair from Mrs B (the owner’s mother) who has created desserts for Cafe 52 for over two decades. Driving her recipes is the fruit grown in her garden all year around which also grows organic herbs and vegetables used in the wider menu.
Parked up outside, its Shepherd’s Hut offers a quirky private dining cabin dressed with cushions, lanterns and plenty of cosy vibes. Latching to this snuggery is a heated patio area with plenty of greenery and views of The Green which are just magical at night.
My regular hit for coffee and unavoidable cake combo, Cafe Contour took things up a notch introducing pizza to its offering over lockdown along with a much welcomed outdoor seating area.
Creating heavenly stonebaked pizzas using the cafe’s signature hand-stretched dough, expect a bubbling crisp base with the perfect fluffiness and bite to it – my dream dough. As for the toppings, these pizzas come with a choice of six options, giving plenty selection but not creating an arduous Sophie’s Choice style decision-making process.
During my recent visit, I went for the vegan haggis pizza with fresh rocket, peppers and parmesan cheese. You know you’re in a good pizza place when it’s a two hand pizza slice, i.e. when the topping weighs down the base that you need to give an all hands on deck approach to stop a pizza avalanche.
In addition to pizza, there’s plenty of toasties and sandwiches to order too. The vegan burrito may have ended up alongside my pizza order (I’m greedy ok!) and I’m glad the gods were on my side giving me plenty of room to polish off every delicious morsel.
When I’m asked “where should I go for a special dinner in the city?”, “Moonfish” gushes out of my mouth like a burst pipe before I even have time to think.
Right under the nose of the 12th century St Nicholas Kirk, Moonfish Cafe is just a short walk away from the centre of The Green taking in a glittering and starlit sub-Union Street tunnel on route up the cobbles.
Despite the name, this place serves far more than seafood with it’s ever-changing menu influenced by the moving seasons and local produce. A true exhibition of British cuisine with a contemporary twist – to define it quickly.
Elegance is defined here with stunning plates of sheer artistry created by its talented team including head chef (and Masterchef finalist) Brian McLeish who injects not only creative flair into every dish but sublime flavour that is always top tier.
Special shout out to the plates here (as in the actual plates) I’ve had to use all restraint to avoid loading its gorgeous crockery into my jacket pockets.
The Green has never been a stranger to music and next door to Moonfish is Red Robin Records which brings together great coffee and a superb selection of vinyls. This independent record shop is the first vinyl coffee shop in the city and alongside its extensive collection of music, it serves up its very own single origin 100% arabica ‘Easy E’s Coffee along with all day breakfasts.
No guide to The Green would be complete without a mention of Nuart and Painted Doors. Splashing colour across the area with murals, portraits and mosaics, these projects have done nothing but add extra energy to the area.
Since 2017, Nuart has welcomed artists from across the globe to use Aberdeen as their canvas to share their works of art with the city. All eyes are on The Green, quite literally, with two of the festival’s famed portrait pieces sandwiching the green in between their gaze toward each other. Take a look at the Nuart and Painted Doors maps to discover all that awaits in the city.