OLD BLACKFRIARS, 52 CASTLE STREET
This is an ancient pub near Aberdeen’s Mercat Cross. It is a lovely place with old brick walls, wooden ceiling beams and a good atmosphere. Possibly has the squeakiest door in the universe. Generally two soups on each day, like ‘French Onion’ or ‘Ham and Lentil’.
THE ILLICIT STILL, 22-24 NETHERKIRKGATE
Near Provost Skene’s House, this is an interesting pub, located down some stairs in the bowels of the earth. It is most curious inside, like a jumbly mixture of the old, the arty, and the downright wacky, but they’ve got many little rooms and recesses and loads of places to lose yourself in. It’s mostly foreign lagers on tap, and no real ales, but if you’re in for the soup then that doesn’t really matter. Usually one soup, like ‘Cream of Mushroom’ or whatever.
THE COFFEE HOUSE, GAELIC LANE
An excellent modern coffee house just off Union Street. They have a very sociable arrangement of long tables and benches, and there can be no doubt that there is something quite agreeable about sitting eating or slurping with others. That said, it’s a funny thing, but like grass and fences it is often the case that the soup in the bowl of the slurper sitting opposite looks tastier than your own. Being in such affable surroundings means you could, if you became enveloped in a moment of devilment, distract the attention of the person facing you and then, when their brain is otherwise engaged, sneak a little spoonful out of their bowl. Not that I am suggesting for one moment that you should steal soup. Heavens, no. Perhaps just partake of a free covert sample. Alternatively, throw caution to the wind and order one bowl of each soup that’s on that day. There are usually two soups each day, like ‘Cream of Broccoli’ or ‘Chicken Noodle’, all served in big bowls. They also have superb bottled fruit juices, like ‘Pear and Raspberry’. One of the best places in Aberdeen for soup.
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BOOKS AND BEANS, 22 BELMONT STREET
Claims to offer ‘Rich Fine Soups’ that are the ‘Best in Aberdeen’, and instead of having a Soup of the Day they do a ‘Soup of the Moment’, which is a nice touch. It is very popular inside, with a few good window seats looking out onto the narrow Belmont Street. Original variety of soups, including ‘Spicy Sweet Potato with Spinach’ and ‘Cauliflower with Houmus’ (Wow! I’ll have to try some of that). As far as the ‘Best in Aberdeen’ is concerned, I think it would be a battle between here and The Coffee House in Gaelic Lane just around the corner. My advice would be to have soup here, then visit the Coffee House and see what you think. I preferred The Coffee House, but that’s just me, and everyone’s different.
McGINTY’S MEAL AN’ ALE, 504 UNION STREET
A superb modern pub with small intimate booths, soft leather seating, and their own ale: ‘McGinty’s Ale’, as brewed by the Inveralmond Brewery in Perth. They proclaim to offer ‘Food, Ale An’ A Richt Guid Blether’. Good traditional varieties of soup, like ‘Cream of Parsnip’ or ‘Tattie and Leek’. Can be a little noisy when all the flat-screen televisions are blaring out some sporting event, but the booth area near the door is more secluded.