The Inversnecky Café
An institution. On the beach, rocking a Jersey Shore boardwalk (only concrete) vibe, complete with adjacent somewhat grubby fairground and seagulls. Or as I would say, shows. Ideal off-the-boat breakfast, great parking, stern, buffeting beachwalks available. Good coffee, and everything you could ask for in a fry-up. Also pioneered the daft blackboard notice and has great ice cream for the one or two days a year when it's sunny. Actually, that's a cheap shot: Aberdeen is one of the sunniest places in Scotland. And speaking of cheap, the Inversnecky ain't dear. No website! How cool is that?
The Silver Darling
Wonderful quayside setting, with a light, airy cruiseliner dining room which becomes beautifully atmospheric at night. You can watch the ships coming and going while eating very good, very ornate, very expensive dishes, with a leaning towards the city’s excellent seafood. Can be a bit intimidating, perhaps because you're wondering if your Black Amex still works. Be prepared for £55-£80 a head at night, including wine. Lunch around half that. Only for serious expense accounts, freebies and Big Nights Out. In 30 years of travelling through and staying in Aberdeen, I’ve been there once.
The Moonfish Café
My top Aberdeen choice. Superb, tiny room, small, mostly seafoody menu but with meat and vegetarian options. Not cheap, but not in same price bracket as The Silver Darling - £40-55 a head including wine at night for three courses and their always excellent cheeseboard, lunch half that or less. But you can eat more abstemiously for less moolah, and because it’s a cheerfully informal joint, without any worries that the staff are being sniffy about your cheapskatedness. Book well in advance. Not a place for intimate conversation - hard surfaces means people with headphone-induced tinnitus can struggle. Still brilliant, though.
Rye and Soda
Hmm...I really like this place, but I have a feeling I’m a bit too elderly to fit in at certain times of the evening, when the cocktails are flowing and that weird Aberdeen combination of hipster beards and diamante glam is a-waggling and a-glinting. For a meaty brunch, though - and it markets itself as ‘an American brunch café by day’, it is unsurpassed (see Food Story below for veggie options). Huevos Rancheros, all the classics of hangover-alleviating breakfast, the astonishingly evil pizza chips, and really good coffee including a decent Aeropress. Great, informed, friendly service, too.
Brewdog-owned these days, Musa offers some great opportunities to pair mainstream and obscure, Brewdog-curated (as well as brewed) beers (tasting measures offered) with high quality Scottish food. The grub is perhaps just a touch fussier in presentation than it needs to be and not especially cheap. But then, this is Aberdeen, even in an oil price downturn kinda situation. They have live music, often jazz, and changing art exhibitions in what is an unusual and not entirely comfortable space which can get very hot and busy, particularly if there are performers squashed in front of the wine racks. Dinner Around £30-45 for three courses including drinks. Can wind up more expensive than you think it's gonna be. They do a two-course lunch special for £16 excluding booze.
I’ve heard rumours of bacon sandwiches being available, but think of this as essentially a vegetarian café and you won’t go far wrong. I’d say it was preposterously post-hippydom-dungaree-trendy if it weren’t for the blingy Prosecco-quaffing shift that tends to drift in during the evening. No licence, reasonable corkage, so you can bring in your crate from Oddbins and get bubbly at speed, then nip out for replenishments.
Great falafels, chillis and lasagnes, wonderful salads, and probably the best sourdough bread available to eat on-site in Aberdeen. For me it’s somewhere for lunch, late (relatively healthy) breakfast and mid-morning ab-dabs, as the cakes are truly superb. So is the coffee and (if you’re into it) their range of space cadet teas. Hilarious toilets. And very reasonable prices, with nobody making you eat too much. Good atmosphere, gets very, very busy.
6 Degrees North