One of the joys of working at Trend is that you can slip off for an afternoon’s shopping and pass it off as a valid exercise researching emerging trends in the retail sector. It’s a duty really. A mild, hazy, autumn afternoon provides the perfect opportunity to go for a wander in the West End…
Aberdeen’s West End has traditionally been a fluidly defined area, which varies in scale and location depending on whether you’re talking to an estate agent. In shopping terms, it centres on Rose Street, Chapel Street and Thistle Street, with an outpost at Chattan Place and a second focus round about Ashley Road and St. Swithin’s Street, which we’ll cover in another issue. It’s home to a wonderful selection of small independent stores, mostly selling unusual products that you won’t find in the city’s shopping centres and with a focus on personal service.
Park in the car park in Chapel Street and let’s wander…Head down Chapel Street, past Howies Restaurant, which is in the middle of an interesting refurbishment and past Ross of Chapel Street the bakers, who do a rather good Chelsea bun if you need sustenance.
On the other side, Hugh Harrison Menswear is the style emporium of choice for the older gentleman about town, with a mix of premium European labels and immaculately cut ready to wear lines.
Head for the upper floor of Nova which stocks a great range of kitchen kit and culinary gadgets. Downstairs has one of the best selections of cards in town, coupled with gifts and home wares.
The handbags, jewellery, toiletries and scarves are worth browsing if you’re looking for a little treat. Chapel Street’s charity shops including Cancer Research, Oxfam and CLAN shouldn’t be overlooked as all carry a range of brand new goods, and are particularly strong on gifts in the run up to Christmas. Where else can you purchase a goat, vintage clothing, and kitsch vinyl records and help a good cause at the same time?
At the Union Street end, you’ll find a sprinkling of solicitors, lettings companies, estate agents and late night food joints, the latter presumably explaining why the street is often greasy underfoot.
Rose Street boasts a fair selection of Indian, Thai and Meze restaurants and take-aways, many of which attract crowds of schoolchildren at lunchtime. Nearby, No+Vello offers state of the art laser hair removal at a competitive price for both men and women. John Park Jewellers is worth a visit as they hold a far larger stock than their window suggests. Colin Wood Antiques is also worth a browse, with some interesting furniture and maps on show. Next, we come to Hamish Munro, which has newly invigorated spirit and carries an interesting assortment of clothing and footwear brands, with a contemporary flair.
Crossing over, you’ll find Thistle Sports which is great for racquet sports, cricket, hockey, rugby and swimming. It’s a real sports shop, rather than a retailer of dodgy leisurewear and they’re always happy to help you find the right kit to improve your game.
Delishfish is well regarded for their fresh seafood and fish, sourced directly from the quayside at Peterhead. They’re a mine of information on interesting ways to make the most of your purchases.
Thistle Street offers the biggest selection of shops for the wanderer. West End Chocolates have an enticing array of chocolate treats. Bellino has one of the largest selections of decent winter boots in the city, including UGGS and Fenner & Coburn always turns up something interesting if you’re looking for a new outfit or accessories in a relaxed vein. Right next door, you’ll find the Food Story Café, which is a popular coffee and lunch spot, with a reputation for interesting soups and organic lines.
On the other side of Rose Street, you’ll find Rosie Thistle’s Tea Room, where you can take a break and indulge in afternoon tea. Nearby, Straine Opticians offers a personal level of service and some cutting edge frames.
Two of the city’s best known florists vie for floral dominance further along, in the shape of Flower Vogue and David’s, both have a beguiling selection of blooms. You can also pick up some of Almondine’s freshly made macaroons at number 43.
On the other side, pop into Gallery Heinzel for one of the strongest selections of original contemporary art in the city, or do some shopping for a special occasion at Frox, which has a superb range of evening wear in a good range of sizes. Alternatively, Esslemonts offers two stores stocking daywear for the office and weekend. Just so no one is left out, Innocence has a fabulous selection of super-cute children and baby clothing brands, as well as gifts and toys.
Further along Thistle Street, you’ll find an intriguing little row of shops including Men’s Emporium, a mini-temple to good grooming and a great antique and jewellery shop which doubles as a leading restorer of china in the workroom at the rear of the shop. Lastly, a visit to Patisserie Francaise will reward you with their excellent baguettes or French pastries and tarts.
Wander back to the car via Summer Street and Huntly Street. These sleepy little backwaters warrant exploration, though they are always quiet.
A row of beauty and hair salons line up opposite Gilcomston Church, leading away from Union Street towards Rustico, the well-established Italian restaurant known for big portions and retro tiramisu. Further on, you’ll find Nawaab’s Tandoori, Filthy McNasty’s Pub and the Braided Fig, probably the only restaurant in town with a tree growing inside.
You’ll find the well-rated Yorokobi on Huntly Street, nestled amongst some fine Georgian frontages and favoured by the city’s sushi lovers for years.
So that’s our West End Wander for you – there’s something for everyone so take a look!
Editors Note: We have received some lovely feedback about this article…