This restaurant review is in exchange for a gifted dinner and drinks at the Apex Hotel’s Quayside Bar & Grill in Dundee.
The low down
The last time I ate in the Apex’s restaurant was 2016. I was there for the office Christmas lunch – there were around 25 of us at our table and despite the large number, I can remember really enjoying the food. (It must have made a lasting impression because I can even remember what I ate – beef with mash and seasonal veg). I was also at the hotel more recently, last month in fact, for a conference and the catering was, – three years later – still excellent.
There was one big difference though – the restaurant had undergone a refurbishment. It’s now called Quayside Bar & Grill in line with the land, sea and field menu concept. The bar, which used to face to the front of the hotel reception like a guard stationed at the fort of a queen’s castle, now runs alongside the left-hand wall, providing a much more inviting atmosphere.
The décor, which was once ahead of its time had become tired – but a new table layout for the low back sofas and 70s-inspired chairs allows for plenty of space to move around as well as a good vantage point for most, without becoming intrusive. A much more modern colour palette (taupe, moss green, the odd bit of blush pink), a cool bar and the most beautiful floor tiles I’ve seen in the city mean that the Apex restaurant is now a place that everyone will want to go and eat at, not just the hotel guests.
We were given breads to share – beautiful tomato bread which was a bit too more-ish, and a beef bread which to me tasted like a posh mince roll. It was served with bone marrow butter. We also shared the miso soft shell crab with yuzu mayo – the softness of the crab alongside the crunch of the batter was amazing, and the chillies were perfectly balanced by the yuzu mayo.
We were surprised with a bonus dish of halloumi fries. Again, the chef had perfected the crunchiness which was mouth-wateringly good paired with the chewiness of the cheese. They were served with a lovely cranberry jam.
Mains: ten out of ten
We shared our main courses because we both fancied the prawns, but the staff were adamant we had to try a steak. The Apex are really proud of their steak night deal – a large steak to share with two sides, two sauces and a bottle of wine for just £55.
I think the steak we had was ribeye, and we chose the peppercorn sauce. The chef sent out an extra though as she wanted us to try the blue cheese sauce too. The further into the review we went, the more I considered opening the button on my trousers… there were so many carbohydrate treats! The sauces were both delicious but I actually prefer a steak just plain with a touch of mustard. The meat is so full of flavour that I hate to lose that flame-grilled taste. Our steak was cooked to perfection – medium-rare, closer to rare – just how we asked for it. It’s incredible how many restaurants send out a steak over or under done, but the Apex staff nailed it. The word succulent is overused when it comes to describing red meat but, hey, if it ain’t broke…
The grilled prawns were a highlight for us both. As soon as we saw them on the menu we both knew we wanted them, and as much as I enjoy sharing food I was a bit sorry the whole lot wasn’t just for me when they arrived. They looked gorgeous, that divine shade of pink, with a bit of charring from the grill and they were so fresh and meaty. Loved them. The prawns were complemented beautifully by Chimichurri (ordered separately), a Brazilian sauce made up of parsley, garlic, olive oil and chilli.
Along with the steak and grilled prawns, we ordered two sides. Broccoli and almonds and courgette fritti and parmesan. They were so freaking good. I was so impressed by the side dishes on the menu that I would have happily ordered two grilled prawns and four sides. Think parmesan and truffle fries, buttermilk crispy onions, clotted cream mash, winter veg, garden salad. With the broccoli and courgette, the list of sides was a difficult one to choose from.
Dessert: a classic, reinterpreted
After all the food we had eaten, we wanted something light that we could share. On the recommendation of our server we ordered the coconut rice pudding with mango and lime salsa.
There was something quite Asian-fusion about our dessert. I thought the coconut rice pudding with little nutmeg sprinkles was TO DIE FOR – creamy, coconut-y, soft, warm, light. Luckily for me, Kris wasn’t as keen but he’s not actually fussed about cream or rice pudding, whereas I love both. Which meant that my half was bigger.
The mango and lime salsa was interesting and really full of flavour but to be honest, I preferred the plain pudding and spent most of my time picking around the salsa. It was really tasty, but I found the lime a bit too tart against the sweetness of the pudding.
The new-look restaurant is fabulous. It looks modern, it feels spacious, it’s a real pleasure to spend time in. And that’s really the feeling of the restaurant, rather than being somewhere to eat because you’re staying there. As a local in the city, it’s become a firm favourite of mine as a place to go with friends to spend an evening enjoying good food, in lovely surroundings. It’s also worth mentioning that every single member of staff seemed genuinely interested in us, keen to say hello, they listened to us, gave knowledgeable advice on the menu, and made sure we were happy and well looked after. This could be related to the fact we were there to review the restaurant, but I got the impression that they were all just really nice people. And, for me, the whole experience – atmosphere, décor, service, food, drinks – is why going out to eat can be such a joy.
We both loved the menu, which was varied, interesting, and what we ate was delicious. It’s perhaps a bit more expensive than other places in Dundee for what is basically a grilled steak, burger and fish menu, but the quality of the produce and cooking is reflected in that. If cost is a worry, go for the steak night deal. Promise you won’t be disappointed.
Side note: look closely at my happy post-dinner face and you’ll see I saved a bit of my favourite side (broccoli) for later.
Thank you to Apex Hotels for having us.
Images: Kris Miller.