Travel: girls weekend in Aberdeen

Orchid bar, Aberdeen
Orchid bar, Aberdeen
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You start a session with an expert mixologist with the best intentions. You earnestly make notes about the history of cocktails – from the earliest trends, to the necessity of creativity during Prohibition, on to the flamboyant Tiki madness of the 1980s (yes, Tom Cruise in Cocktail – much of the blame lies at your tiny feet) and beyond.

The problem is, by the time you get to the current fashions (some of which involve surprisingly tempting meaty flavours), you’ve had a little taste of everything and are just a bit shiny-eyed as you smile, chin on swaying hand, at your mixologist as he presents what just might be the most divine thing you’ve ever tasted – an avocado daiquiri. Fortunately, our bar tender, Alex Lawrence, at the stylish Orchid cocktail bar on Bon Accord Square (entrance on Langstane Place), is as patient as he is knowledgeable and doesn’t seem to mind the constant questions.

Fusion restaurant on North Silver Street, Aberdeen

Fusion restaurant on North Silver Street, Aberdeen

Orchid caters for larger groups and I can’t think of a better way to begin a girls’ weekend, which is what we’ve got planned. Next stop is Musa, a groovy restaurant in a converted church on Exchange Street, which has live music at the weekends and all kinds of fun tie-ins with local producers, such as beer evenings and events with the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. On this Friday night it’s packed with thirtysomethings tucking in to lush-looking food. Our table on the mezzanine gives us a great view over the ground floor. Highlights include a confit duck rillette with garlic crostinis, an incredible pan-roasted fillet steak and a wicked sticky toffee pudding.

The next morning, after a hearty self-service breakfast in the large dining room at our hotel, the Jury’s Inn (which, right beside the train station and with wonderful views across the harbour, could not be better located), we take a 15-minute cab ride to the Malmaison hotel in Aberdeen’s pretty West End. It’s spa time. My friend gets a Life Saving Back Treatment back massage (£55) which turns her into a floaty, calm creature and I opt for an Espa Specific Facial (both are £55) which does a decent job of erasing some of the visible signs of the previous night’s experiments.

Should we be in danger of feeling peckish, we’re presented in the Malmaison brasserie with brunch, which is made up of small portions of a range of delights, such as mini burgers, risotto and tricolore salad, packaged as if they were in takeaway cartons. What a pretty treat.

Polished and plump, we head for the Nick Nairn Cook School to experience what turns out to be the highlight of our girls’ weekend – the Three-Hour Perfect Pastry class. On the ground floor a meaty presentation is taking place, and we head for the first floor, a large, light and airy space with preparation room and ovens for our whole group – about 20 of us in total.

The Spa at the Malmaison hotel in Aberdeen.

The Spa at the Malmaison hotel in Aberdeen.

We get expert coaching from the affable John Webber, who shares all the tricks of the trade for creating decent shortcrust and puff pastry, and we take our hefty makings home for cooking at our leisure. While we’re there we make a roast vegetable tart with chilli Parmesan pastry and roasted tomato salad, and tuck into it for lunch with a spot of wine. While we’re munching away, staff clean our work areas for us. Double treat. John later sends us the full recipes and loads of advice for us to put into practice at home.

Dinner that night is at the exquisite Fusion restaurant on North Silver Street, which I cannot recommend enough. Beautifully decorated, it has an airy ground- floor bar area, with a more cosy mezzanine for dining. The attention to detail in our dishes makes me wish this place was closer to where I live. Favourite dishes include roasted aubergine and red pepper roulade; roast Highland venison wild mushroom and truffle pithivier and a fine apple tart that was so delicate and tangy I hope never to forget it.

The next day we find room for even more food – courtesy of Cocoa Ooze on North Belmont Street, where you can attend chocolate-making demonstrations or, as we did, tuck in to a chocolate afternoon tea. We work off maybe one per cent of all this by wandering the streets of the Granite City, which has everything we need within walking distance of its centre. We’ll be back, but next time we won’t eat so much. That’s the plan, anyway.

First Scotrail return tickets from Edinburgh to Aberdeen start at £21,

Al Fresco at Malmaison, Aberdeen.

Al Fresco at Malmaison, Aberdeen.

Jury’s Inn, Union Square, Guild Street AB11 5RG, 01224 381 200,; rates start at £85 bed and breakfast per night based on two adults sharing.

Musa, 33 Exchange Street AB11 6PH, 01224 571771,

Orchid, 14 Bon Accord Square (entrance on Langstane Place) AB11 6DJ,

Nick Nairn Cool School, 15 Back Wynd AB10 1JN, 01877 389900,; Three-Hour Perfect Pastry class is £79, including lunch and wine.

Fusion, 10 North Silver Street 
AB10 1RL, 01224 652959,

Cocoa Ooze, 24/28 Belmont 
Street AB10 1JH, 01224 467 212,