It’s been a while since I last visited Aberdeen’s West End, but this particular afternoon I happened to be called out on my out-of-office day to do a small job in the area, so decided to make the most of it and go for a stroll once I was done.
To walk back into town I took one of my favourite routes in the area: from Queen’s Road Roundabout, down St Swithin Street and into Ashley Road. Albeit not as stunning and mysterious as Rubislaw Den (to give an obvious example for Aberdeen residents), this route surprises in how quickly it changes. One of the most notable things that strike you here is Cafe Cognito, which has gone from strength to strength since my first visit – both visually, having added a terraced elevated sitting area at the door; and business-wise, seemingly always full of satisfied customers, and still delivering fantastic coffee.
But, as I discovered this time round, there have been further changes: the Rocksalt & Snails was no more, replaced by Coppa Coffee, a venue under new ownership which I’m yet to try out; and also, down past the school and round a kids’ shoe shop on the corner of the street, there’s The Long Dog Cafe.
At that time I had been coffeed up with a take-away Starbucks that I drank in stages out of a flask, but vowed to make a prompt return to give this curious-sounding place a go – and delivered on the promise the same weekend.
It was a Saturday afternoon, just before dusk, and I didn’t know what to expect from the place – no tables available, just like Coppa when I walked past it on my way to the Dog? Or not a soul because of the slightly awkward off-piste location? As it turned out, it was neither: the small cafe, split in two – the front offering seating for about 16, with little personal space in between, the back occupied by cake and ice-cream fridges and a small kitchen – was half-full, and it seemed all of the people knew each other, or were feeling very relaxed in each other’s company. The shared accent across the two halves was English, and there were a couple of dogs on the premisses, which would explain the name of the venue.
I marched across to the counter and resisted sparing much thought on the cakes, turning all my attention to the large drinks boards on the wall. For a split second I feared they had no mochas, as they weren’t listed on the espresso board; but sure enough, next door were the hot chocolates – a selection of either white, milk or dark variety.
To be asked what sort of chocolate I would like in my mocha already gave the place bonus points – even though I struggle making such difficult life decisions, I love having a choice! This was, indeed, a hard one; I was tempted by the white, but knew the dark one was the best option – but once both of the baristas (owners?) recommended my preferred choice, I decided to give in, despite the gentle warning it might be very sweet – in which case, they would make a different one (those bonus points were adding up!).
I took a window seat that had just freed up and admired the little detail in the decor: custom-made cushions with the shop’s logo print; cook books of all sorts to grab your imagination; and just generally, the bright (albeit a bit too small for my liking) venue with a laid-back atmosphere…
When the coffee arrived, it wasn’t what I expected – my experience to date has not been very favourable of mochas served in a latte glass – not saying there’s a correlation there, just a simple observation. Further, the colour did not suggest this would be a white mocha, although I had no doubt it was just that – and yet, when I was taking the first sip, my tastebuds, following the visual cue, were expecting to be awash with the traditional mocha flavour.
I should have noted that the night before was a long event that left me quite fragile for most of the weekend; so as the white mocha hit my tongue, I welcomed the sweetness, instead of a usual semi-bitter concoction. In fact, it was a very well-balanced brew: the white chocolate was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and tasted of genuine chocolate melted in milk, and not of cocoa powder; while the espresso was very gentle, just a hint that worked perfectly with the base for this particular drink. Whether it was the use of white chocolate itself, or a combination of factors, the brew had a smooth, lovely dense consistency, making it, indeed, very moreish. It disappeared in minutes.
I won’t say this was the absolute best I have drank in Aberdeen, but it’s really not far off; and considering the (yes, awkward, but) discreet location, the truly charming staff and a coffee menu I am very interested in exploring further, I am looking forward to my next visit at the Dog – and hope they do well here.
Verdict justification: Lovely place to wind-down and chill, and the coffee’s pretty good too!