There's something about Soul Bar that just looks magical. Located within the former Langstane Kirk, this modern conversion with a twist is a city hot-spot for many within the city.
I've visited Soul many a-time, be that for dates, nights out with my girlfriends, lunch with the family, or a quick meeting over a coffee. It's stunning on the outside and even more gorgeous on the inside, with the original glass stained windows and features which are most noticeable on a bright day.
Every time I've visited the food has always been good, but following a wee reshuffle in the kitchen and a new menu, the food I experienced last week was something else.
I usually go for the likes of a club sandwich or a heartier pub-grub-style dish when I visit, so it was good to push myself to try something different. Picking from the Aberdeen Restaurant Week menu which kicks off this Thursday (1st Feb) until the 8th, I was very much looking forward to seeing what customers could expect when visiting during the new initiative.
We started our night off with a few cocktails. I opted for the Weegie Sour and my sister Nicole enjoyed the Beat the Blues. The Weegie Sour appealed to me with its addition of homemade Irn Bru syrup. A shorter drink, the Tanqueray gin-based cocktail also boasted egg white and was topped off with a dehydrated orange slice. The Irn Bru syrup was delicious and not too over powering, and the egg white provided a nice sweetness.
Nicole's Beat the Blues also boasted Tanqueray gin, but had more of a tropical vibe about it with lemon, sugar and Blue Bols used within it. It finished with a slice of pineapple and a pineapple leaf to garnish, and looked very appealing to the eye.
Both drinks were very tasty, and we swapped a few times to try each other's out.
Ordering from the Aberdeen Restaurant Week dinner menu which consists of three courses for £20.18, I was intrigued to see what the food would be like.
For starters, I ordered the Scottish bloody Mary mussels and Nicole decided to go for the smoked ham hock and smoked dunlop cheese croquette.
The mussels looked incredible, and I could smell the spice of the chilli straight away. The portion was huge, much bigger than I'd anticipated, and I was over the moon with the dish I was presented. Sticking in, I grabbed my fork and began fishing out the mussels. They were so soft and smooth, and every single one was open - a great start for any dish with mussels in it.
In my bowl was a selection of vegetables including celery, onions, spring onions and red chilli. The vegetables were all delicious and nice and crunchy, which was suited very well to the soft mussels. I counted over 20 mussels which I thought was fantastic value for money, and it almost could have been a main dish in itself. The mussels were cooked in a bloody Mary broth which I soaked up with the torn, warm wholegrain baguette that also came with the dish.
The dish boasted a real heat to it, so if you're not too good at handling spice and would like the mussels, I think it's best you mention this to any of the servers so the kitchen team can accommodate this. For me, it was pretty spicy, but I was hoping it would be, and I quite like a real chilli kick in some of my food.
I was also given a finger bowl to clean myself up which I was very grateful for.
Nicole's ham hock croquettes looked incredible too. The three giant ham and cheese croquettes sat on a bed of a red wine jus and spiced parsnip puree. The puree was sublime. It was incredibly creamy and had a lovely sweetness to it, and it worked very well with the jus which was much richer and more savoury.
The croquettes were extremely crisp on the outside, and the smoked ham hock and smoked cheese were mixed together inside, creating a beautiful mouthful of many different flavours.
A lover of seafood also, she gave me a helping hand with my mountain of mussels, ensuring that I managed to polish them off.
Moving on to mains, I was very excited for this course. I'd ordered the pan cooked venison with buttered purple broccoli, black pudding dauphinoise and cauliflower puree. The venison was cooked to perfection, and was beautifully soft and chewy all at the same time. A more lean, game meat, it boasted a beautiful colour and was rich in flavour. Juicy and tender, the jus that accompanied it provided an additional sauce to it, making it even more moist.
The black pudding dauphinoise was sweet and spicy. The potatoes had a lovely creaminess to them, whereas the black pudding had a gorgeous spice to it, contrasting the thin sliced pieces of potato very well. The buttered purple broccoli was lovely and crunchy, and the cauliflower puree was a little saltier than the parsnip puree with went with Nicole's starter, balancing out the rich, sweetness of the jus.
Nicole had decided on the panko coated sole goujons which came served with hand cut chips, tartare sauce, and a red onion and pea shoot salad.
A big fish lover, Nicole was delighted with her choice and was very impressed with the dish. The hand cut chips were enormous, as were the sole goujons which had been cooked in a slightly herby batter. The tartare sauce was creamy and chunky and the salad was a lovely addition, providing some real fresh flavours to the dish.
For dessert, we'd decided to wait a wee while before tackling our blood orange panna cotta and citrus lemon tart and ordered another drink.
This time our server Maddy - who was fantastic may I add, recommended another drink from the Bartender's Creations menu to go alongside our desserts, telling us about the Cranachan.
Featuring Chambord, Dalmore 12, raspberry, cream and toasted oats, it sounded like a dessert in itself and something we'd both very much enjoy. The cocktail was so creamy and bursting with raspberry, it was super rich and was definitely a drink I could probably only manage one of, as divine as it was.
Our desserts arrived soon after receiving our drinks and we were both very chuffed with our choices.
My blood orange panna cotta danced on my plate as Maddy placed it in front of me. The dessert came with a lovely orange syrup and an orange salsa which had been constructed with segments of blood orange, mint, passionfruit and raspberries. A large thin toasted wafer sat upright between the salsa and the panna cotta, and it was fantastic. Not only did it provide another texture to the dish, it brought a real sweetness to it which combatted the bitterness the blood orange salsa boasted. The panna cotta itself was lovely and light, and wobbled all over my plate any time I moved it.
Nicole's citrus lemon tart was served with a dollop of Chantilly cream and fresh raspberries. The lemon wasn't too tart which Nicole enjoyed a lot, it was quite sweet in comparison to other lemon tarts she's had, and the crispy pastry provided the perfect home for the creamy, custard lemon filling.
The raspberries went very well with the lemon and balanced the sweetness of the dish out with their fresh, more tart and slightly sour flavours. The addition of the coulis on the plate also added to this, and the Chantilly cream was an added bonus for her as she adores the vanilla essence based cream.
Bellies once again full, we were both left extremely impressed with the food offering Soul Bar has in store for Aberdeen Restaurant Week.
Not only are the menu's themselves great value for money, but both the lunch and dinner menu's boast an array of high quality food that not only shows off the chef's talents, but also highlights just how focused on providing something different and refreshing to the food scene in Aberdeen the establishment is.
If you haven't already booked, then it's worth getting in touch with them sooner rather than later as the venue gets booked up quite quickly in advance - especially during the weekend.