During lockdown we are more likely to find beauty and appreciation of things that before we had taken for granted. Aberdeen’s location – over the North Sea – is one such thing.
Sure, I have “been to the beach” a few times in my time living here (certainly more than I had visited Portobello or Granton while based in Edinburgh) but it never quite felt right – beaches are supposed to be for sunbathing, after all! Of course, perceptions change when your options are limited.
The recent few sunny lockdown weekends have actually made a trip to Aberdeen’s beach seem like a nice change from wandering the city streets. Unsurprisingly, lots of other people felt the same.
Apart from the currently closed Codona’s Amusement Park and its surrounding dinners, the Esplanade has quite a selection of cafes to choose from, for breakfast or lunch in normal times, and coffee and ice cream any time. It is a right Scottish phenomenon that when the sun is out, so are the ice cream cones – even if they’re held in gloved hands, by people in down jackets with two scarves on. Never fails to amaze me.
Despite the wide choice of cafes, and even though all I wanted was a coffee to warm my hands on, it was obvious that I was not skipping the queue that afternoon: as far as the eye reached all venues had lines leading up to them. Because I emerged from the Retail Park end, I decided to queue at the nearest shop – The Pier.
I was familiar with the name, having ordered a couple of breakfasts from here, courtesy of the kangaroo delivery service. While the breakfast has always been top notch – nicely packaged and very tasty – I never ordered coffee, as I preferred to stick to my french press at home.
So I joined the queue – at this time of mid-afternoon decidedly covered in shade – and progressively grew colder as the line moved at a snail’s pace. I must have waited about 15 minutes, with only 3 client groups in front of me, no more than 8 people in total to be served. I think that the line behind me changed a few times in that period, those Bravehearts in shorts calling defeat on the February ice cream after all.
When I finally made it to the window, the cause for the delay was obvious: the guy was by himself, taking orders and serving them, while also sanitising the window area between each customer. Difficult to keep a grudge for having just frozen your butt off…
The board by the window indicated they had soya, oat and coconut milk alternatives at a 30p supplement, so – curious to compare against my amazing experience at Parx – I went for the latter in my mocha. The barista first made my coffee, then took the payment, which I thought was the right order of things – it also let me peer inside the shop to spot the cartons of coconut alternative they were using, which I had never seen before, but got me pretty excited (now I’m off searching for one, to try my hand at it at home…). After those extra couple of minutes I was finally emerging back into the sunshine and onto the super-crowded beachside walk.
I was eager to warm up from the inside too, so took a sip – and burnt my mouth. Rather telling first impressions: the coffee was way too hot to drink. Considering the long wait, that put me in a bad mood – more waiting still! Thankfully, the perfectly calm sea was prettier than a picture and a very pleasant distraction – even the crowds passing in either direction seemed to make less noise than you’d expect.
Eventually, I was able to sip on my coffee without inflicting a first-degree injury. But whether it was my burnt mouth or the actual coffee, the main flavour I tasted was of hot coconut “milk” – not of a mocha… This sensation continued right to the bottom of the cup, at which point the concoction also turned slightly grainy in texture.
It’s a strange one! Overall I did enjoy the coffee, despite not actually tasting the coffee in it… Which – if you think about it – is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you’re in a mellow mood, appeciative of those little things in life…
That walk took me to Fittie, or Footdee, which – shockingly – I’d never walked through in daylight before. What an incredibly charming part of the city, and a great finish to a pleasant afternoon in Aberdeen. I’d recommend both – the village and a sweet Promenade treat. Only under one condition: you can’t be in a rush!
Coconut Alternative Mocha: £3.75
Quite nice coffee, but too hot to drink after a long wait to be served!
Learn more about The Pier on their website.