I hadn’t really heard much about Aberdeen’s West End until a job took me round that area of the city. It was a Sunday commission, but made better for a lovely, sunny day and the charm of the quiet, peaceful district. I was mesmerised.
But when work was done I could not have thought of anything better than to top that pleasant weekend afternoon with a cup of coffee.
I didn’t have much hopes for that, because in that peaceful neighbourhood shops were scarce – and it was a traditionally “cafe closed” day anyway. And yet, a quick Google search brought a pleasant surprise – there was a coffee shop open, just nearby.
I quickly directed my steps towards St Swithin Street and the familiar-sounding Rocksalt & Snalils. In fact, the place I visited in Edinburgh was called simply Rocksalt, and sold very nice sandwiches, but not great coffee.
The Aberdeen cafe – which also has another shop in Ballater – also turned out to be a deli, with a wee menu on the side wall offering a selection of paninis; and a coffee menu just next to it – which I only noticed after I made my take-away order (the place was packed full, and it was too nice a day to stay in anyway).
The place was buzzing; but all of the four or five assistants behind the spacious bar were busy preparing food and no one seemed to bother with the coffee machine behind them, until a heavy-tattooed guy appeared (which rather added to the charm of this eco-feel place) who was evidently in charge of making brews as he just cracked on with it.
I wasn’t directed as to where I should wait so I moved from in front of the bar to its side, and leaned over one of the high wooden tables; from this point I could observe how my mocha was made – like the fact that they used cocoa powder from a sprinkler to line the bottom of my cup with chocolate, which I found rather unorthodox and was therefore even more curious of the result.
Eventually, my soy mocha was ready and served straight into my hands. I set off to find a quiet bench somewhere outside before I took my first sip – and I wasn’t impressed when I took the lid off, seeing that the frothy foam had begun collapsing. It didn’t get any better with drinking – the coffee lacked sweetness, other than the flavour of the soy and some caffeine hints throughout, and the dusting of chocolate on top. It tasted very bland and I struggled finishing it – having seen it made I knew the sweetness would not increase as I went on, as there was nothing on the bottom of the cup that still needed dissolving.
So, unfortunately, that cup of coffee that was meant to round up a lovely day actually turned out to be quite a disappointment. Although it was a busy place, no one seemed ran down, and yet nobody seemed particularly attentive, despite quite a number of staff on shift. It might have been the Sunday syndrome, but either way Rocksalt & Snails did not impress me – and it’s a part of the West End I’m not particularly keen on revisiting.
Mocha: £2.50 (take away; £2.80 sit in +30p soya milk)
Verdict justification: Bland coffee and mediocre service. Could be a nice venue on a quieter weekday though.