IT’S been a while since we last visited Restaurant 21 in Aberdeen.
That time, around 18 months ago, it stood on its own – the neighbouring four-star Rox Hotel was but a twinkling in its owner’s eye.
But now Restaurant 21 has become a different beast altogether. It’s now a “hotel restaurant” – something I rarely find as good as stand-alone eateries.
For some reason hotel restaurant menus always seem a bit more dull or safe and certainly expensive – so I was intrigued to see if Restaurant 21 bucked the trend.
Things got off to a successful start with the beautifully-presented confit of duck.
Served with pear puree and beetroot dressing along with crunchy matchstick-sided pieces of potato, this was like a British take on crispy duck, minus the pancakes.
The duck was soft and succulent while the sweet and earthy accompaniments cut through the fatty richness of the meat.
My wife went for the vague-sounding “seafood variation”, which consisted of smoked salmon, a mackerel fish cake, a minimalist prawn cocktail and a crab and avocado layered tian.
Considering my dainty portion, hers was a hefty size that could have easily satisfied two diners.
That said, with the exception of the slightly sickly crab and avocado tian, the serving slate was soon clear (even if it was with a little help from me).
Since my wife isn’t a fan of eating or cooking baby sheep, I seized the opportunity to sample one of my favourite cuts – roasted lamb rump.
Served with cress potato puree and a fragrant rosemary jus, the meat was cooked perfectly pink (as requested) and it melted in the mouth.
The fact it was served on a bed of generic roasted vegetables (pub lunch staples like carrots, courgettes, mangetout etc) was the only disappointing element – especially considering I was paying upwards of £20 for the privilege.
Once again inadvertently choosing a supersized course, my wife was staring in awe at two massive medallions of fillet steak.
This was served with a nicely-cooked thyme rosti, woody-flavoured wild mushrooms and the aforementioned bed of vegetables.
Cooked medium as requested and with perfectly criss-crossing griddle marks, the meat looked pretty as a picture and tasted just as good.
Also worth commending was the whisky jus which neither overpowered the flavour nor drowned the rosti.
Although the service was undoubtedly friendly, we were a bit frustrated by the languid pace throughout the meal.
After our main courses were cleared and we were handed the dessert menu (which we fully intended sampling), we waited for a member of staff to return.
After almost 15 minutes of finger twiddling, our waiter realised what had happened and was ultra-apologetic.
But by that time we were in no mood for dessert and asked for the bill instead.
It added a slightly bitter note to what had been quite a tasty evening.