NEW signs for Westhill welcome you to a “global centre of excellence for subsea engineering”.
The strapline lacks the catchiness of Peterhead’s Blue Toon or the homespun charm of Keith’s “a friendly town”.
It does, however, reflect the way the Westhill has flourished in the last decade.
The growth of its industrial site has been matched by the addition of new restaurants.
Max’s Classic Italian sits next door to Yan, a Thai restaurant that continues to draw the crowds.
It styles itself as “a little slice of the Mediterranean”.
Max’s lacks the rough-edged charm of Italian eateries that trade unashamedly on the quality of their food.
But neither is it a starchy, pompous place that leaves you whispering reverentially and worrying about spilling your sauce.
With the arrival of other diners – families, couples, mates on a night out – Max’s started to make sense.
This is a restaurant that’s there to fit the mood rather than set it.
Our visit got off to a good start with a beaming welcome from the waitress and a confident run-down of the specials.
We chose a bottle of house wine, described as a “silky smooth red with plump ripe dark fruits, smoky spices and a succulent finish”.
This is the kind of soft fruity wine that can be downed too easily.
Fortunately, there was an offer of water to go with it.
Max’s serves the kind of starters that make you wish you had skipped lunch.
The bruschetta comprised two hunks of toasted ciabatta, topped with freshly chopped tomatoes, basil and garlic, and drizzled with olive oil.
My wife’s Cozze Napoli (a generous pan of fried mussels, seasoned with garlic, tomato and white wine) came with bread to mop up the sauce.
The mixed seafood special sounded tempting, as did the pizzas and risotto with mushrooms and asparagus.
Instead I picked the Insalata Nicoise (tuna, anchovies, egg, tomato, and green olives) with a weighty jug of house dressing.
My wife Donna chose Italian potato dumplings in a tomato sauce with parmesan, mozzarella and basil.
Donna insisted I try her meal, always a sign of satisfaction.
Complaints? The salad leaves could have been crisper.
Italian staples feature on the dessert menu (for example, tiramisu, panacotta) most of which cost just under a fiver, but we were too full for sweet.
Westhill isn’t the cheapest place to eat with prices comparable to those in Aberdeen.
A restaurant needs to offer something different, an alternative to chain outlets, and Max’s is the kind of homemade establishment that gives the town a wee bit of character.
It helps mark Westhill out as something beyond a base for subsea engineering.
Max’s may be no more prepossessing than the rest of the town, but sometimes the assets are under the surface.