FYI: The following meal was gifted by Aberdeen Inspired in return for review.
Just like that, it’s here again and I swear it comes around quicker every year. No, not the countdown to Christmas – Aberdeen Restaurant Week.
It’s a highlight of my year where restaurants, cafes and bistros across the city offer special menus from Monday 1 to Sunday 14 November. During this jam-packed foodie fortnight, diners can expect two course lunches for £10 and three course dinners for £20 across a gleaming line-up of over 40 eateries.
I’m delighted to be back as an ambassador to help spread the word about this food-filled week and this year I was paired with Al Fresco to review its menu.
A little bit about Al Fresco
Al Fresco has been part of the food scene for some time, but under a different guise, Aperitivo. With a rebrand to mark a fresh start after its closure a few months ago, I know that I wouldn’t be alone in saying that its return is much welcomed.
Maintaining its same premises on Bon Accord Street, Al Fresco continues to serve its prized menu keeping its position as an authentic Italian dining spot in Aberdeen.
Ahead of its reopening, Manager Michal Pergl shared on social media: “We have had some amazing years, and some bad ones too, resulting in the unfortunate closure a few months back.
“I am grateful that I can start again. The concept of the restaurant won’t change, and the food won’t change. To all who have supported myself, my team, and the restaurant throughout the years, thank you and see you soon!”
With it being my first visit under its new alias and before the pandemic, my return was long overdue. Hit by the sounds of bustling chatter and plate clatters on entry to the restaurant, it was fantastic to see the restaurant packed on a Wednesday evening.
Joining me for the evening was girlfriend, and no stranger to sitting back while I take food pics, Rachael who was eager to try out the restaurant for the first time.
On first glance at the menu, the thing that beamed out for me was the selection. For many, an Italian menu may seem like an easy thing to pull together but so many restaurants get it wrong. Looking through the options, it was refreshing to see a menu that wasn’t all pasta and Italian classics with a homely Al Fresco twist.
When in Budapest it’s Goulash, it’s schnitzel in Vienna and at Al Fresco it has to be the Arancini when you order starter. These golf ball sized deep fried risotto balls loaded with parmesan and mozzarella, are simply iconic. Alongside was an order of the bruschetta with vibrant tomatoes freshly crushed with herbs on prosciutto with a sneaky layer of mozzarella above fresh bread with a sensational garlic oil drizzle. And as Rach is a veggie, I got this plate all for me – perks of being a carnivore!
For main Rach ordered the Linguine Al Pesto which was an Everest sized potion, no joke. Mounds of spaghetti coated in Sicilian inspired pesto made with aubergine, sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, basil and topped with plenty of parmesan of course. Far from your standard bowl of pesto pasta, this was not only hearty but the gift that kept on giving with every forkful.
I went for the Pollo Del Giorno (a.k.a the chicken of the day) which, during my visit, came coated in the same pesto as Rach’s dish (jackpot for me) on crushed potatoes and roasted vegetables. Again, this was another sizable portion of which I polished off every bite.
After a short breather, it was time to go to dessert. A sucker for tiramisu, Rach couldn’t resist an order to see what the Al Fresco recipe had to offer. In short, it went down a treat with generous serving (picking up on a theme here?) punchy with coffee and plenty of booze.
Keeping variety on our table, I went for the cheesecake – the flavour of which changes throughout the course of the week. It was a mango cheesecake for me embellished with chocolate chunks on a wash of dark caramel. I wouldn’t think to pair caramel with mango, but this was an inspired combo.
Al Fresco provided not only a fantastic experience with friendly staff and delicious food, but delivered amazing value for money with quality plates which I know lasts far past Aberdeen Restaurant Week.
Just like dinner with an old friend, days, weeks or months can pass but the same warmth and quality of the Al Fresco experience remains evergreen.
Stay safe and eat well,
The Food Hoover.
To find out more about Al Fresco and its wider menu, visit the website.