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Sicilian flavors are at the heart of Café Harmony

I haven’t seen people dancing in a restaurant for a long, long time.

The gem that was Little Italy on Holburn Street was a bit before my time. I remember hearing stories of customers being invited to jump onto the tables after (and sometimes during) service and dance the night away, prancing from one to the other and the whole venue roaring as they did.

La Tasca, which was on Union Street and is now home to Six by Nico, was the restaurant I asked my boyfriend out in. Although if I had asked him to salsa dance with me, which again was a regular thing in the Spanish eatery, I fear our relationship may not have lasted the decade it has.

Coffee Harmony

It wasn’t until I walked past Café Harmony a few months ago that I remembered how fun the restaurant was as I watched people dance away through the glass window. Everyone looked so happy and a warming feeling consumed me.

I had arranged to catch up with a work colleague who is currently on maternity leave for dinner, but I wanted somewhere that would be lively and would leave us both twirling on the way out. Harmony Coffee immediately sprung to mind.

Inside Café Harmony. All pictures by Wullie Marr/DCT Media

Managing to secure a table for the Friday night around 7pm, I arranged to meet her there, but we conveniently bumped into one another around the corner from the Mediterranean restaurant on Bon Accord Terrace.

As soon as we stepped inside the place came to life.

There was a big group in celebrating, and lots of other smaller tables of two and four, and just two tables of two left.

The venue is bright and airy during the day. The armchair is where I was seated.

Samantha picked the table and offered up the massive armchair opposite her which I quickly sunk into while plotting my bum down.

The staff couldn’t have been nicer and were immediately over with tap water for the table and our menus to explain how to order.

The menu is wipeable so I was handed a green pen and told to circle the dishes we were having. With only one menu to go around, I handed it to Samantha so she could assess which veggie options she fancied.

The interior is quirky and mismatched.

Roast pepper pate (£7) interested the both of us and the tomato turnover (£7) came highly recommended by our waitress. I spied plenty of meat options I would have loved to try, but wanted to make the most of the night so agreed to sharing starters.

We were both driving so Diet Coke it was.

Café Harmony has this lovely charm to its interior. It is a little mismatched but boy is it a feat for the eyes.

There’s color at every turn, recycled furniture, quirky artwork and fairy lights hanging everywhere – all colours, too – plus, plenty of greenery.

Harmony Cafe.

food

When the food arrived the turnover caught my eye instantly, but we tucked immediately into the roast pepper pate which was served with toasted ciabatta bread. There was plenty of the paste and we sunk the warm bread in, lathering as much on as we could.

It was deliciously fresh and the flavor explosion was surprising. I didn’t expect something so simple to taste so good.

Red pepper pate. I received ciabatta bread unlike the pitta pictured.

I was convinced the turnover was going to be just as good, and it was. Sprinkled with shavings of parmesan cheese, the five pieces surrounded a bed of chopped salad with olives.

The inside was a tomato-based sauce that boasted chunks of aubergine in it. It was sublime and I appreciated each bite more and more as we made our way through them, halving the last one of course.

Tomato turnover.

While I had been looking forward to our starters, I was even more excited about my main. The shellfish risotto (£19) sounded right up my street.

Creamy risotto with mussels, king prawns and squid. What more could any shellfish lover want? And fresh from the local market, too.

It was around this point when we were served our main courses that the attentive, friendly service we had been enjoying so much and feeding off of started to dwindle.

Shellfish risotto.

The big table was now setting the bill and the bustling room was beginning to slow down a little. Diners all around were fed, or in the midst of eating, and I couldn’t help but notice or feel like we had been forgotten a little.

And I wasn’t alone.

As I tucked into my dish, which was packed with the most gorgeous produce and perfectly cooked risotto, a table close to ours struggled to get anyone’s attention to settle the bill.

My friend’s Sicilian spaghetti Alla Norma (£14) veggie option was a delight, too, and as she tucked into the tomato-based pasta dish which came with aubergine and feta cheese, we could hear more tables trying to get the staff’s attention.

Spaghetti Alla Norma.

Again, the food was faultless and I couldn’t help but think I wanted to eat this chef’s food every night for the rest of my life. The portions are hefty and although we tried hard, we couldn’t finish.

Then again, because the food had been so good we fancied ordering something sweet in the hopes we could get the rest of our main meals boxed up for lunch the next day.

It took around 20-30 minutes for us to get someone’s attention to come to our table so we could order the Sicilian cannoli (£6). Another set of diners struggled to pay, asking for their bill twice in the space of 20 minutes.

Sicilian cannoli with chocolate and mascarpone. Picture submitted from the venue.

We were risking it committing to dessert, but we knew it would be worth it, even if we had to wait a while for the bill or to pay, which we did in the end.

The cannoli was brilliant and as full as I was I pushed myself to polish mine off. My dining partner struggled with the nutty consistency, but I adored the fingers of chocolate and mascarpone wrapped up in the chewy outer casing.

The bill did, in the end, and while service had become a little stagnant in the end, the team were forever smiling and always super polite.

The verdict

The food at Café Harmony is second to none, and if you are looking for a venue that will impress without breaking the bank, this is the one.

Having visited before, I know the service is usually much more attentive than I and others experienced on my most recent visit. It certainly hasn’t put me off visiting, but it did make me realize that we had been in a rush, I may not have been as relaxed about the experience.

It is the self-taught chef who was born in Sicily that really makes this venue one of the best for Mediterranean and Italian cuisine in the north-east. The food is outstanding and to date, I’ve never had a bad meal yet. I recommend you try it out if you haven’t as the menu offers something for everyone and dietary requirements are easily catered for.

And who knows, maybe I’ll walk past the window one Saturday night and see you dancing with loved ones, or strangers, in the not so distant future.


Information

Address: 21 Bon Accord Terrace, Aberdeen AB11 6DP

T: 01224 588000

W: www.cafeharmony.co.uk

Price: £58

Scores:

  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 3/5
  • Surroundings: 4/5

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