New cafes popping up on Aberdeen’s high street are always a surprise – how do they compete for an already scarce demand for crafted coffee, and this against the stealthy position of chain giants? But what is more surprising are those cafes on street corners in quiet neighbourhoods, where – you’d think – the demand is even less, and they must rely on the local community for success, if not survival.
Two of my favourite quiet and polished areas of the City are the West End and Ferryhill. While the former has its St Swithin street with an abundance of cafes per square metre (Cafe Cognito and The Long Dog Cafe among others), Ferryhill is less fortunate in that department, if you take the noisy Holburn Street and the The Park Cafe* in Duthie Park’s Winter Gardens out of the equation.
*(this place has actually gone through a huge revamp recently, so this review from 2015 should probably now get an update to suit…)
That is why when I saw the The Tartan Pig coffee house, I was very much intrigued. One Sunday morning, which was too wet and windy to venture out into the country as I had been doing of recent, and when I also didn’t feel like staying in all day, I dragged the other half out for a walk around town, knowing very well my destination was the Pig.
As we arrived back of 11, the place was still quite empty, with just a few tables taken. We sat under the far wall and took everything in. The menu behind the bar on the wall was confusing at first, and needed a bit of studying, but the conclusion was that one could have any combination of bread types and breakfast items to their heart’s desire.
What my other half got really excited about was bubble waffles – admittedly, I had to Google the term before I decided I wanted one also. Just like with French toast, there were sweet and savoury options to choose from, from a separate, dedicated menu. I went for a bacon and maple syrup, my partner – for a fried egg and mushroom one. Naturally, I went for a mocha, alongside his tea.
As we awaited for our order to be served, a few more people arrived – and a dog, suggesting the place is pet-friendly – and suddenly it felt pretty crowded inside. We saw a banoffee waffle being served, and it looked like a heart attack on a plate; while another savoury waffle served elsewhere (proving their popularity) looked pale and sad by comparison… I did not know what to expect.
Our drinks arrived first, and I looked at mine in despair. Judging the book by its cover, I was expecting a weak, pale, milky concoction. I gave it a stir and then I spotted bits of melted chocolate on the bottom of the glass – a reassuring sight. I took a sip… and was positively surprised! The mocha was smooth, well balanced – it was sweet from the well-dissolved chocolate, but not overwhelmingly so, and the temperature was just right for a nasty day like that – hot, but drinkable.
Unfortunately, the food that followed didn’t match the height of the coffee: a couple of rashers of bacon on an otherwise empty waffle, with only the maple syrup to (ironically) lift it up a bit. My partner’s plate of just savoury ingredients – even in their scarcity – looked even less palatable.
We were hungry, so we managed past the 50% mark and left it at that. While I wouldn’t be rushing back for the waffles, the other munchies on the Pig’s Facebook page look very scrumptious indeed, and I wouldn’t hesitate giving them a go – especially when the coffee tastes so good!
Verdict justification: Despite the first impressions, a very enjoyable, smooth and sweet coffee. A bit more refinement would nail it!