I have visited the Palm Court on several occasions over the years, but it dawned on me that I had never actually eaten a meal there.
It is such a versatile venue that I have been to a 40th birthday party, a 90th afternoon tea, a funeral reception and even work meetings – but never for a proper dining experience.
That all changed recently when I took my family for a Saturday night treat, and boy did I find out just what I’ve been missing.
The Palm Court
Running slightly late – as is standard for our family – we were pleased to see the Palm Court lit up and welcoming on a cold winter’s night.
Into the warm embrace of The Bothy restaurant we went and received a lovely welcome from a friendly waitress who showed us to our table and told us what the soup of the day was and one or two dishes that weren’t available that evening. This was a nice touch to forewarn us so as to avoid potential disappointment down the line.
I was impressed by the look and feel of the restaurant with its exposed brick wall, wooden ceiling beams and an eye-catching medieval-style chandelier.
The dining room was busy with couples and extended families, including one very young baby who could only have been days old. This is clearly a place where people feel very comfortable and at home.
The bar next door was busy with a mixed crowd which included rugby fans watching the Six Nations, with football and boxing shown later in the evening too.
But we weren’t here for sport on this occasion, it was all about the food, and we studied the menu with intrigue.
A “Nibbles” section starts things off with the likes of artisan breads and olives, but we went straight to the starters where there is a good choice for all palates.
Seafood features quite heavily which was ideal for my son and me as we both love it. We came to an agreement where we would order two fish dishes and share them.
I chose the Cullen skink while my son decided to try mussels for the first time.
The menu describes my soup as traditional Cullen skink – line-caught smoked haddock, potato, leek and cream with fresh baked bannock bread and smoked sea salt. What appeared you visually striking but not traditional Cullen skink to me. Rather than being a thick chowder stuffed full with chunks of tatties and flakes of fish, what sat in front of me was a thick, creamy soup with a big piece of haddock sitting on top, with a few bits of potato.
However, far from being disappointed, I loved this take on the old Scottish favorite.
The flavors were intense and I didn’t find it too filling despite the hearty portion. The pea shoot on top of the haddock was a nice addition and I thoroughly enjoyed my soup.
Across from me arrived a giant pot of mussels which could have passed for a main course.
My son was in his element and I think he has found a new favorite dish. He scooped the mariniere sauce up in the mussel shells and I barely got a look in. Although the few mussels I did manage to prize away from him were plump and succulent and the sauce was a winner, too.
My wife ordered the crispy ginger beer vegetable tempura, which contained tenderstem broccoli, courgette and cauliflower cooked in a light chilli and coriander batter with sweet chilli and teryaki sauce. The tempura were huge and the batter was beautifully cooked.
My young daughter was delighted with her cheesy garlic bread from the children’s menu.
The main course menu is a fairly concise affair offering a choice of six dishes including fish, chicken, pork and a couple of vegetarian options, but I was tempted by the grill section and treated myself to a 7oz fillet steak with a blue cheese sauce.
I don’t often order steak as it’s usually expensive and you run the risk of it not being cooked the way you like it. However, I had no such worries on this occasion as it was cooked to my preference and the sauce was absolutely delicious. Special mention goes to the oven-roasted tomatoes on the vine which were sweet and juicy and as much a highlight as the steak itself.
My wife really enjoyed her sweet young pea and Scotch grains risotto which came with a haggis spiced lentil and herb Scotch egg. It had a lovely crunchy texture and a nice combination of flavors.
My son was taken aback by the size of his haddock supper, but made a good attempt at it and nearly cleared his plate before falling into a food-induced stupor.
The batter was light and crispy and the fish itself was delightful.
My daughter enjoyed a good-quality burger from the kids’ menu and also helped hoover up any leftover chips from her brother’s plate.
We were all too stuffed for dessert apart from my daughter who polished off a light summer fruit sundae, and a waitress managed to convince my son to have a hot chocolate which seemed to finish off his meal perfectly.
This was one of the best family meals we have had in a long time.
Every member of the service team deserves high praise for being friendly, efficient, patient and fun, and hats off to the kitchen staff too who served up some culinary treats for us all.
The Palm Court has been a much-loved establishment for many years and it’s certainly one we will return to, now that we know how good the food is.
The fact we as a family are still talking about it some time later is testament to that.
David Dalziel if the features editor at the Press and Journal and Evening Express. He is also the editor of Your Life magazine, the weekend supplement in the Press and Journal on Saturdays. Has been reviewing restaurants for several years.
Address: Palm Court Hotel, 81 Seafield Road, Aberdeen, AB15 7YX
T: 01224 310351
Price: £ 123.65 for two courses for three people plus three courses from kids’ menu, bottle of wine and soft drinks
- Food: 4/5
- Service: 5/5
- Surroundings: 4/5
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[Family feast at the Palm Court in Aberdeen hits the spot]