I haven’t seen people dancing in a restaurant for a long time.
The gem that was Little Italy on Holburn Street was a bit ahead of my time. I remember hearing stories of customers being invited to jump onto the tables after (and sometimes during) the service and dance the night away, prancing from one to the other and hollering the entire venue as they did it did.
La Tasca, which was on Union Street and is now the home of Six by Nico, was the restaurant I took my friend to. Though I would have asked him to salsa dance with me, which was also a regular thing at the Spanish restaurant, I’m afraid our relationship may not have lasted the decade it has.
It wasn’t until I walked by Café Harmony a few months ago that I remembered how fun the restaurant was when I saw people dancing through the glass window. Everyone looked so happy and a warm feeling came over me.
I had an appointment for dinner with a work colleague who is currently on maternity leave, but I wanted somewhere lively where we would both spin on the way out. Café Harmony immediately came to mind.
I managed to secure a table for Friday night around 7pm and arranged to meet her there, but we conveniently met around the corner from the Mediterranean restaurant on Bon Accord Terrace.
As soon as we entered the place life came to life.
There was a large group celebrating and many other smaller tables of twos and fours and there were only two tables of twos left.
Samantha took the table and offered her the massive chair across from her, which I quickly sank into while pushing my butt down.
The staff could not have been nicer and were there immediately with tap water for the table and our menus to explain how to order.
The menu is erasable so I was handed a green pen and told to circle the dishes we had. With only one menu, I handed it to Samantha so she could assess which vegetarian options she preferred.
Roasted pepper pie (£7) interested us both and the tomato turnover (£7) was highly recommended by our waitress. I spied many meat options that I would have loved to try but I wanted to make the most of the night so I agreed to share appetizers.
We both drove, so Diet Coke.
Café Harmony has this beautiful charm inside. It’s a little out of place, but boy is it a feast for the eyes.
There’s color around every corner, recycled furniture, whimsical artwork, and strings of lights hanging everywhere — all colors, too — and lots of greenery.
When the food arrived I immediately noticed the turnover but we immediately tucked into the roasted pepper pie which was served with toasted ciabatta bread. There was plenty of paste and we dipped the warm bread in it and frothed it up as best we could.
It was deliciously fresh and the taste explosion was surprising. I didn’t expect something so simple to taste so good.
I was confident the sales would be just as good, and they were. The five pieces, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, surrounded a bed of chopped lettuce with olives.
The inside was a tomato based sauce that contained chunks of eggplant. It was great and I appreciated each bite more and more as we made our way through them, cutting the last one in half of course.
While I was looking forward to our starters, I was even more excited to my main course. The shellfish risotto (19) sounded right up my street.
Creamy risotto with mussels, king prawns and squid. What more could a shellfish lover ask for? And also fresh from the local market.
It was around this point, as we were being served our main courses, that the attentive, friendly service that we had so enjoyed and thrived on began to wane.
The big table settled the score now and the busy room began to slow down a little. Diners all around were full or mid-eating, and I couldn’t help but notice or feel that we’d been forgotten a little.
And I wasn’t alone.
As I finished my meal, which was filled with the most gorgeous produce and perfectly cooked risotto, a table near us struggled to get anyone’s attention to pay the bill.
My girlfriend’s (£14) vegetarian option of Sicilian spaghetti alla norma was also a delight and as she downed the tomato based pasta dish with aubergine and feta cheese we could hear more tables trying to get the staff’s attention irritate.
Again, the food was impeccable and I couldn’t help but think that I wanted to eat this chef’s food every night for the rest of my life. Portions are substantial and although we tried very hard we couldn’t finish.
On the other hand, because the food was so good we wanted to order something sweet hoping we could get the rest of our main meals packed for lunch the next day.
It took about 20-30 minutes before we were alerted to someone coming to our table for us to order the Sicilian cannoli (£6). Another group of guests struggled to pay and asked for their bill twice within 20 minutes.
We risked committing to dessert but knew it would be worth it even if we had to wait a while for the bill or pay, which we ended up doing.
The cannoli were brilliant and as full as I was I forced myself to polish off mine. My dining partner struggled with the nutty texture, but I loved the chocolate and mascarpone fingers wrapped in the chewy outer shell.
The bill did it in the end, and although the service ended up being a bit stagnant, the team were always smiling and always super polite.
The food at Cafe Harmony is second to none, and if you’re looking for a place that will impress without breaking the bank, this is the place.
Having visited before, I know that the service is usually much more attentive than I and others experienced on my last visit. It certainly didn’t put me off visiting, but it made me realize that if we had been in a rush, I might not have been as relaxed about the experience.
It’s the Sicilian-born self-taught that really makes this spot one of the best for Mediterranean and Italian cuisine in the Northeast. The food is excellent and to date I have never had a bad meal. I recommend checking it out if you haven’t already as the menu has something for everyone and dietary requirements are easily catered for.
And who knows, I might walk by the window one Saturday night and see you dancing with loved ones or strangers in the not too distant future.
Address: 21 Bon Accord Terrace, Aberdeen AB11 6DP
T: 01224 588000
- Food: 5/5
- Duty: 3/5
- Environment: 4/5
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[Sicilian flavours are at the heart of Café Harmony]