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Flaming delicious food; Eating out: Babylon The cuisine at Babylon fired Tam's imagination but he wasn't so sure about his dessert of deep fried ice-cream.

Byline: Tam Cowan

NOT the best of starts with this week's review. Babylon doesn't begin serving food until 7.30pm and the last train from Aberdeen to Glasgow departs ridiculously early at 8.40pm.

That would give us just over an hour to wolf down a three-course meal before sprinting along Union Street to the station.

Well, the first part of the equation wouldn't have been a problem - my personal best for a starter, main course and dessert is just under 12 minutes - but I prefer to leave road-running to fund-raising students in gorilla costumes and Jimmy Savile.

And so, Plan B meant a three-hour drive for my mate Stuart who enjoyed the quiet M90 on the grounds that, unlike the M8, you can "hit the speed limit all the way".

One brief stop at a service station on the outskirts of Dundee proved we must have been hungry - even those Cellophane-wrapped pork pies and Scotch eggs looked appetising.

A Frank Sinatra and half an Andy Williams CD later, we parked outside The College Bar which houses Babylon on the first floor.

After a beer downstairs, the barmaid pointed out we could enter the restaurant via the door to the ladies' loos.

A tantalising thought, but we left that bizarre route to the pervs and headed back out the main doors and into Babylon through the side entrance.

The stylish, awe-inspiring dining-room is almost as spectacular as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

It's extremely grand and seductively sexy with its leopard skin upholstery, oil paintings, red velvet drapes and the sort of mirrors you'd find at Desperate Dan's tailor's.

At the risk of offending the owners, Babylon doesn't look too unlike a high-class Parisienne tart's boudoir. Ah, how the memories of the 1998 World Cup come flooding back.

This place was formerly a church - if only you could drop a few foreign coins into a collection plate rather than pay the bill - and the window seats offer stunning views of Union Street.

But I'm not too sure about the TV sets fixed to the walls. Very distracting when you're sitting in company - and why were they showing Gone With The Wind? Surely that would be more appropriate in a curry house?

After one warm bottle of Miller - a hanging offence at pounds 2.60 - I switched to drinking the house red by the glass.

"Do you want water for the table?" said the waitress, asking the question I hate hearing in restaurants.

"Only if it's on fire," I usually feel like replying.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still bluntly refuse to fork out something like pounds 3.50 for a litre of fizzy water.

Toying with the idea of ordering the full breakfast (check it out on the back of the menu, it sounds great), we demolished two baskets of top-notch crusty rolls and eagerly awaited the starters.

If you like curries, you'll love Babylon's Thai chicken soup. In terms of colour, texture and flavour, it wasn't exactly a million miles from a classic chicken korma.

Rich and spicy, with loads of deliciously soft noodles, the soup was truly memorable and, dare I say it, I might just have discovered something to rival Heinz cream of tomato. Yes, folks, it really was that good.

Meanwhile, Stuart also fared pretty well with the smoked salmon served with spinach, a herb butter sauce and - yummy - a soft poached egg on top.

After Babylon's hearty bowl of chicken brothel, sorry, broth, the braised beef olives with clapshot and a rich mushroom gravy was probably a mistake.

Sure enough, half of this filling dish remained uneaten.

Bit of a shame, really, as the beef olives, with quality sausagemeat and a wee touch of skirlie for that oaty, haggis-like taste, were first class and the tattie/tumshie combo was also quite delicious.

Yes, highly recommended, but not after a gut-busting appetiser.

Clearly impressed by the smoked salmon, Stuart moved on to the poached variety served with crispy leeks and herbs. Once again he guzzled down every last morsel like a tramp eating soup.

Just one complaint. Surely the chips (frozen) should have been part of the pounds 12.95 main course? Quite frankly, charging pounds 1.95p for a side order of fries smacks of sheer greed.

Stuart completed the hat-trick with a bowl of homemade sticky toffee pudding with caramel ice-cream and hot butterscotch sauce. How could you fail to savour something that sounds so good?

I think we'll draw a veil over my deep fried ice-cream. Yes, that's right, deep fried ice-cream. Scotland's answer to baked Alaska?

Looking like two large samosas - or perhaps a couple of haddock fillets from the local chippie - scoops of vanilla had presumably been wrapped in crepes and then whacked into the hot oil. Nothing ventured, chef, nothing gained, but I don't think this creation worked.

The almond and cinnamon-coated "batter" tasted okay - quite like a doughnut, in fact - but the ice-cream was reduced, perhaps not surprisingly, to a runny mess.

Talking of messes, perhaps you can help me get out of one.

On the way out of Babylon, I dropped my copy of the bill. It immediately blew over the building across the street and could realistically be in Norway by now.

Talk about Gone With The Wind?

Might not sound like a huge problem but, unless one kindly reader recovers it, I can't claim back this week's expenses. So, frankly, my dears, I do give a damn.

Babylon, 9 Alford Place, Aberdeen.

Tel: 01224 595001

Open: 7.30pm - 10.30pm

Bill for two: pounds 57
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Title Annotation:Going Out
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 16, 2002
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