LOOKING around at the subtly-lit white walls, fish tanks, paintings and chic Saturday night diners, I was a tad confused.
This is the sort of fashionably modern eatery you find in the heart of a modern, cosmopolitan city ... but I was in Inverurie.
Welcome to Fennel, a glass-fronted restaurant and gallery that stands out like a glittering jewel among the surrounding buildings.
The restaurant is split into two floors, with a casual, sophisticated bar area on the ground floor and the main dining area up top.
As my friend and I were led upstairs by the waiter, the dining room appeared like an optical illusion with more tables crammed in than should have been possible.
On our candle-lit table were four delicious artisan breads with sun-dried tomato and rosemary to whet our appetites as we scanned the menu.
Despite the delicious offerings, I opted to skip the starter and head straight to the main course.
My friend, however, decided to give the chicken liver pate (£5.65) a whirl.
As she is an expert, the pate faced a tough judge. She found it creamy, light and with a fresh taste. However, if she’d had it her way it would have been a little more coarse. The sweetness of the ginger-cranberry chutney complemented the pate well and the three oatcakes had that delicious home-made taste.
Moving on to the main, she opted for steamed mussels (£12.95) after changing her mind several times.
The mountain of food that arrived, with lemon and lime wedges and a toasted half baguette, appeared enough to feed the whole of Inverurie for a night.
The savoury ouzo, fennel, tomato and cream sauce smelled mouth-watering and the taste didn’t disappoint.
The mussels were bursting with flavour, though a little dry.
I opted for the chicken breast stuffed with spinach and ricotta (£12.95). The two ample-sized chunks were succulent and the filling, which also included spring onion, was light and fresh.
However, the chicken came wrapped in bacon, which was not mentioned in the menu.
The Lyonnaise potatoes were delicious and the oven-roasted peppers, aubergine and red onion cooked to perfection.
We had a long wait for the dessert menus to arrive and nearly decided not to bother.
But we were glad we did. The apple and chocolate tarte tatin (£5.50) served with a little pot of creamy custard was a dessert to remember. This was a meal that proved well worth the drive.