Cafe Andaluz Aberdeen

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The new Café Andaluz in Aberdeen is exactly how I picture the interior of an old Spanish mansion. It’s pristine, quirky and very grand. The latest venture from The DiMaggios group, owned by Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetto, is the groups second Aberdeen restaurant following the opening of Amarone in the city a couple of years ago.

Situated in one half of an old Waterstones bookstore, Cafe Andaluz Aberdeen is lucky to have inherited some architectural elements from the original building. Beautiful cornicing on the ceilings and walls has been preserved and the huge space has been converted to provide a bright and spacious restaurant. There are still elements that reside in Café Andaluz’ sister sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but as with each new opening for The DiMaggios group, they have moved things on here.

The large glass entrance, just off the bustling Union St, leads you into the sounds of sultry salsa music. An eye-catching island bar is the centrepoint of the restaurant Operations Manager Chris Finnieston explains, “The bar is definitely the main feature here. We’ve not really got a bar of this scale in any of the other sites. We’re hoping people will come to the bar for a few drinks before their meal and really make an evening of it here. We’ve already had people having a few drinks then choosing to eat at the bar which really adds to the authentic Spanish style of dining.”

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Bars are not typically described as beautiful but this one certainly is thanks to specialist bar-fitters Dimension. The central square-shaped bar is covered in dark engraved wood. Gothic style amber lighting runs around the top while perfectly polished glasses hang delicately from above. Altogether it makes for a very glamorous look. It’s not unlike the bar in Anchor Line, the groups showpiece outlet in Glasgow, but with a special Spanish elegance about it. With the new larger bar comes an extensive cocktail list and Cafe Andaluz Aberdeen is the first to host a new drinks menu which will be phased out to the other sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh in the coming months.

The restaurant area is split into two sides and holds an impressive 220 covers. To the right, the restaurant is more open plan and the floor to ceiling windows illuminate the space with natural light. To the left, away from the windows, the room is darker and cosier, and more typically Spanish bistro style.

In the brighter right hand side of the restaurant, the seating is provided by stunning dark wood benches that you may expect to find in an old Spanish cathedral. Each one carved with intricate spiralling designs and covered in brightly coloured cushions and upholstery of gold, royal blue, burnt orange and fiery red- a colour scheme that resides throughout the whole restaurant.

The large mosaic topped tables are certainly one of the highlights in the restaurant. You can tell they are authentic – they’re heavy and the tops are rough, just as you may find them in a Spanish market. Chris explains, “We sent our designers over to Spain to source a lot of the materials and bric-a-brac. Obviously it’s a Spanish restaurant so we wanted to have authentic Spanish interiors.”

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Bright Spanish tiles, in the same colours as the cushions, feature on many of the walls throughout the restaurant and run alongside each booth. The booths are partitioned with rustic cast iron with spiralling designs intertwined with fresh plants that further accentuate the bright and natural feel of the restaurant.

The left hand side of the restaurant is lined with cosy alcoves with leather couches and stunning dark wood chairs. Each alcove can hold up to eight people comfortably, excellent for a restaurant that encourages sharing your food with others. However, the focus is not purely on groups, with small romantic tables for two in amongst the alcoves. In this section there is also the signature Café Andaluz blue and white tiling that can be found in all four of the restaurants. Chris explains the concept behind the Aberdeen restaurant, “The design is similar to the two restaurants in Glasgow and in Edinburgh, but because this is a new city for Cafe Andaluz the design is softer, more feminine and we used the building and natural lighting to our advantage.”

The replica wine cellar seating area at the back of the left hand side of the room is a special characteristic and a favourite of General Manager, Cesar Hernandez Rodriguez, “Look! It’s just beautiful. Lots of people having been asking to sit in there and even asking to go and have a look at it.” The replica wine cellar has lower ceilings than the rest of the restaurant and the floors and ceilings are covered in light cork style wood. A faux brick wall with glass windows showcases some of the wines that feature on their extensive wine list. This area seats around 30 covers and would be the ideal place to book out for a party or gathering of friends as the arched entrance slightly closes it off from the rest of the restaurant.

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The lighting in the restaurant comes in many shapes and forms. Antique gold teardrop lights hang from the ceilings and small gold porch style lanterns are attached to the walls. All the lights are intricate and add a real Spanish character to the restaurant and they’ve already been garnering attention from the customers. Says Chris, “Lots of people have been commenting on the lights. They’ve all been sourced specifically for us so you won’t find them anywhere else.” The lights are more design features than for purpose, only giving off muted lights under the gold plating. An abundance of spotlights light the restaurant at night when the natural light fades away.

When I visited, the restaurant had only been open for one week but Aberdonians appetite had clearly been set alight for tapas and the unique experience that Cafe Andaluz offers as one section was full by 12.30pm. Chris explains,“You can escape from the cold Scottish weather and immerse yourself in the Spanish culture, from the music to the food and drink. That’s specific to Cafe Andaluz and we’re proud of that special identity. Aberdeen doesn’t have many other tapas restaurants and we’ve definitely arrived at the right time”

By Yasmine Gibb