When news of a new restaurant was opening in Westhill, Aberdeenshire, I was all ears.
Not just because I like to know all about the latest restaurant openings, but because I spent much of my childhood and teenage years living in the suburbs.
The city has seen many places open and then close, but more recently, despite the additions of Starbucks and McDonald’s, there has been a real upheaval of independent businesses setting up shop, including The Key and The Hill Deli.
But what Duncano’s has brought to Westhill is something that has been missing for a long time.
A stylish bistro with wine and cocktail options like no other venue in town.
Based at Westhill Shopping Centre, you might think the old Key West pub house might have been a dodgy place, however, owner Lynne Duncan has completely transformed the place making it incredibly plush on the inside.
Opened in December last year, I decided it was time to pay the new haunt a visit a few weeks ago.
Inviting my best friend, it had been a very long time since we had met in the shops of Westhill for a bite to eat. But this time we would trade our baker’s sandwich for a very different dining experience.
When you enter Duncano, you can’t help but notice its stunning interior.
Navy blue velvet chairs, gold finishes, marble tables, Spanish tiling and wood paneling give the bistro its decadent allure.
We were both driving which was a shame as we saw many other guests sampling the cocktail menu throughout the night.
Open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, you can indulge in brunch on the weekends and they also serve a roast.
For a Thursday night dinner, expect plenty of tapas-style small plates, sharing boards, finger foods and sides.
Our server for the evening, Alex, introduced himself and took our soft drink order. We looked at the menu not knowing how many dishes we would need. When she got back she recommended about four or five and gave us some pointers on the best ones to order.
We opted for a mix of seafood, vegetable and meat dishes to suit all tastes.
Arrived at the same time, I was surprised there was room left on our table for the side dishes as our own game of Tetris played out before our eyes.
First for me was the Chilli Garlic Pil Pil Prawns (£7.50).
The prawns were amazingly juicy and the chopped fresh chili worked well with a splash of fresh squeezed lime juice all over. Like many dishes it was served with a micro sprout salad which made it quite light, although there was a good handful of prawns.
My friend chose the slider burger with caramelized red onion and Brie while I had the one with Gruyere cheese (£5.50).
We were both very impressed with the quality of the meat and the sliders held all the lettuce, tomato and extra toppings perfectly in place. It was one of our top picks of the night.
The arancini primavera (£5.50) had been recommended and I’m glad we opted for it. The flavors were everything you could hope for from this Italian staple and the parmesan cheese on top finished it off nicely.
A large portion of mussels in garlic and white wine sauce was also presented (£5.50)
and the crusty bread was a nice addition.
We didn’t eat too much of it and mostly used it to soak up the rest of the sauce. The shellfish themselves were fabulous and there was more than enough for everyone. It was served in a bowl, the top of which doubled as a place to put the empty shells.
I easily settle for the salad, but this parmesan and arugula version was a great addition to the meal (£4.50). It was light, but full of peppery goodness, with the parmesan balancing out the spicier notes of the arugula. It was also served with lots of micro greens in the mix.
The only downside would have been the calamari tempura with wasabi mayonnaise (£7.50).
We just didn’t think the tempura was cooked enough and the calamari itself was very hard to eat, so that was the only dish we had left. However, the mayonnaise was delicious.
We were pretty full afterwards, but the temptation of the dessert was too strong.
I’m just glad we decided not to order the skinny fries with truffle oil and parmesan to go with our tapas because we would have rolled home!
To finish, I tucked into sticky caramel pudding (STP) with vanilla ice cream and double cream (£6.50) while my date dove into creme brulee with caramelized glaze ( £5.50).
I could have licked my STP’s plate because of the sauce. The sponge itself was soaked in the stuff, but if I could have taken a pitcher of sauce home, I would have.
My friend remarked on how good the brulee was and the crispy crunch of her break with the caramelized sugar on top was just too satisfying.
If you’re looking for a great date spot, a place to catch up with your girlfriends, or just a restaurant for a fun night out, I can’t recommend Duncano’s enough.
The service was impeccable, our server was knowledgeable and the food was excellent. Although our meal wasn’t perfect, I’d say it was pretty close.
What I like is that there are also options to choose a bit of this and that, and for those who like tapas, there aren’t many places in the northeast where you can do this.
The place also has a deal if you choose three or five courses, from around £19.95 to £24.95, which I thought was very reasonable considering the portion sizes and the quality of the food.
It’s a great addition to the Westhill foodie scene and I will most definitely be returning.
And definitely get the burger sliders and pil pil prawns!
Address: Duncano’s, Westhill Shopping Centre, Westhill, Aberdeenshire, AB32 6RL
P: 01224 473400
Price: £48 for five tapas dishes, soft drinks and two desserts
For more restaurant reviews…
Already subscribed? Login
[Duncano’s in Westhill impresses on all accords]