When I discovered Aberdeen’s West End mid-last year, I instantly fell in love with that part of the city for its manicured driveways and peaceful surroundings; and ever since I’ve taken up walking again, it’s been one of my favourite destinations – getting lost among some of the most expensive houses in town. My previous coffee experience in the area was not great, but better things were underway – even if I was not aware of them at the time. Only during my recent walk did I discover Cafe Cognito – virtually opposite Rocksalt, which opened shortly after my first visit to the area. It was a sunny Sunday, and I could feel it in my bones this would be a good one. When I entered the cramped cafe area I was a bit baffled by whether the place offered any seating at all, other than the windowsill tables, which were both taken. There was some commotion created by five or six staff behind the bar (which was partly formed by the counter, partly by an ice-cream fridge), all genuinely busy working away: making coffees, composing salads or taking orders. There were also two small queues formed: one at the till, moving rather swiftly, and the second one to the other side of the entrance awaiting their take-away orders (in the way of the staff moving between tables delivering food and drink). Regardless of the chaos, there was a positive vibe about the place, noticeable from the onset.
In the few seconds it took me to take all this visual information in, it was my turn to order; I did not even have time to look at one of the wooden menu boards on the wall, but what was beneath them certainly caught my attention: a beautiful display of cakes and pastries. I asked for a mocha and after a very short battle with myself also went for a pecan cake, which I picked up as self-service, while the coffee would be delivered to my table. By the time I paid I had learnt that the venue extended to the back with additional seating, and – to add to the quirky feel of the place – a nail bar, behind glass door. Somehow there was a free spot at the window, and the coffee arrived shortly after I made myself comfy on a cute metal chair – and it was massive. Size aside, the presentation was quite appealing, with nice latte art on top of a firm chocolatey foam (and a piece of tablet on the side) – and the taste lived up to the expectations. The brew was of a smooth texture, with good quality mellow chocolate, of which I could still see some melted residue on the bottom of the cup as I was making my way through the drink. The temperature was just on the verge of being too hot, but still drinkable upon delivery. And a delicate sharpness of the caffeine rounded the mocha off nicely – and went particularly well with the pecan cake. It didn’t take me long at all to be finished and full – the portion (both coffee and cake) was enough to keep me going for the rest of my walk, which I embarked on with a spring in my step, confident I would be back again.
Verdict justification: Lovely, lively place, with lots of character and great tasting coffee (and cake)