The Essence Indian Cuisine, 401 to 405 Union Street, is a very new occupant to a prime site on the Granite City’s Golden Mile – and has taken over a building that has known many successful iterations in its recent past. Last night, my ARW Dinner Date and I counted back two restaurants and a Cocktail Bar….then went full retro as we remembered the 80s hotspot, Barney’s Nightclub; meaning, we thought, that the very place where we were now sitting, at our linen-covered table for two, would once have been Cupids – very apt since we were about to be served food which turned out to be nothing short of celestial!
Essence’s approach to its Aberdeen Restaurant Week Menu is to invite diners to still select anything they want from their normal menu, ie one Starter + one Main, then either a rice or bread accompaniment. All for twenty quid per person! The exception to this is any dish with king prawns, which is off the menu for ARW. More than fair enough, as far as I’m concerned.
Having been warmly welcomed and seated at the aforementioned beautifully linen-clad table, and swiftly served with drinks, for our starters we chose mushroom pakora and chicken tikka, which were crispy and succulent, respectively – and these morsels are not always like this, elsewhere you may dine on them. Beautifully presented and generously portioned, both of us sampled the other’s dish and agreed that this was a great beginning to our meal.
I followed up with” Essence Tiger,” for my main course; a sweet and spicy chicken dish, full of complex flavours – but, as per my request nae blawin this curry-heat feartie’s heid aff! My dinner date, nae curry-heat feartie, he; chose Saali Chicken with green pepper, chef’s homemade sauce and fresh coriander and pronounced it “Unusual, lots of flavours, would definitely have it again”. In fact the menu, which you can find here , is full of similar, fairly un-known, delights, as well as all our old Anglo-Indian favs, ie from Khorma to Madras, with Dopiaza and Patia in between. We accompanied our mains by choosing, and sharing, one absolutely sublime Lemon Pilau Rice With Cashews (which I could not recommend enough, and would have been content to dine out on that alone) and one Peshwari Naan, charred on the outside to just the right degree and stuffed full of sweet flavours. Our meal over, we left feeling we’d sampled from some of the very best of Indian cuisine in Aberdeen.
Do try to fit in a visit to Essence Indian Cuisine this Aberdeen Restaurant Week. But, if you’ve got a very good reason for not being able to, then you can brighten up any old day by taking advantage of their Everyday Banquet Special, served from 5-11pm and offering Starters such as pakora, bhaji or tikka, along with Mains from Khorma through to Rogon Josh, with a rice or naan accompaniment. All for £11.95.
To sum up, our dining experience on a typically dreich Aberdonian weeknight in February reminded us that if “Variety is the Spice of Life”, then this lovely new restaurant is, well, its very Essence.