ANY new restaurant in Aberdeen is always welcome ... especially one where the chef has the confidence to slap their name on the sign outside.
When you arrive at Paula McEwen at The Great Western Hotel, you are in no doubt who is in charge in the kitchen.
It’s a bold statement. Not that the restaurant itself is showy.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with its elegant suede-look brown walls, low-key lighting, earthy wooden tables and comfy, cracked brown leather chairs, creating a relaxed feel.
There are flashes of extravagance – like the blue orchids and the number of wineglasses on the tables – but never more than a flash.
Paula is clearly intent on letting her food do the talking – starting with a menu that stands out with its inventive twist on classic Scottish cuisine.
My friend and I were both drawn to the winter warmers menu – especially its price tag of £19.99 for three courses.
I decided to get things under way with salmon tempura to start. The combination of the six pieces of flaky, sumptuous salmon and the tangy dressing was mouth-wateringly delicious.
My friend plumped for the Grampian terrine with oatcakes and shredded beetroot. This blend of venison, rabbit and pigeon was a little on the heavy side for my pal, but she loved the lift the tart caramelised beetroot gave the whole dish.
For my main, I chose the butternut squash and chilli lasagna. This interesting take on the traditional Italian dish was served as a tower. The creamy mashed veg combined with the delightfully al dente pasta provided an interesting texture.
And the combination of the shredded chilli and star anise salad on top was mouth-tingling.
My friend opted for the corn-fed chicken served on truffle mash. The breast and leg of chicken were melt-in-the-mouth perfection, while the subtle truffle tang to the mash left my chum singing the dish’s praises.
However, we weren’t done yet. For my final course I opted for the Chai Tea pannacotta with Chinese five spice bread and spiced red wine cream.
It was simply superb, as was my pal’s apple crumble souffle.
After paying the bill, a modest £51.15 including a couple of glasses of wine, and soaking up the last of the low-lit cosiness, we went back out into the cold, dark night.
So, what’s in a name? In the case of Paula McEwen it’s a mark of excellent food, lovingly created.