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Restaurant review: The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel serves up history and hearty grub

With wonderful service, excellent food and characterful surroundings, it's no wonder the famous author Bram Stoker fell in love with the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel.

The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel serves up wonderful pub grub.
The crispy coconut prawns were a winning starter.Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Refueling after a long run has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

So after my partner Andy and I completed the Fraserburgh half marathon we were more than ready for our post run scran.

Legs aching after our Sunday morning exertions, the last thing we wanted to do was stand over a stove so we ditched the oven gloves and booked a table at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel.

The Kilmarnock Arms has a fascinating history. Image: The Kilmarnock Arms

The Kilmarnock Arms Hotel

Famed for being where Bram Stoker began writing Dracula, the 1897 gothic horror novel, the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel has a truly fascinating history.

Befitting such history, the dark and misty drive from Aberdeen to Cruden Bay certainly set an eery Dracula-like scene ahead of our dining experience.

Our cosy alcove was the perfect place to experience the hearty food served up at this iconic hotel. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Intrigued and ravenously hungry in equal measure, we hobbled inside where our super friendly server Lauren showed us to our own little snug, a cosy wooden cabin-like alcove next to the bar adorned with lifelike paintings and portraits of the iconic Irish author.

With its roaring log fires, little nooks and crannies and dim lighting, I very quickly understood why the characterful hotel was the perfect place for Stoker to write one of the greatest gothic novels of all time.

The cosy snug was adorned with paintings of Bram Stoker. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The food

Apart from porridge and a few Jelly Babies – handed out by kind marshalls during the run – our stomachs were growling in anticipation.

As a seafood fan, I couldn’t resist the coconut king prawns with sweet chilli sauce to start (£7.95).

Vibrant to look at, six large king prawns encased in a golden crispy coconut coating arrived on a bed of a colourful salad while a pot of bright red chilli sauce took centre stage.

Crunching my way through one of the prawns, the distinctively delicious taste of coconut instantly hit my palate while the plump king prawns were bursting with flavour.

The crispy coconut prawns were delicious. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Dunking my prawns in the sweet chilli sauce brought a welcome sharp and tangy dimension to the dish.

The accompanying salad is also worth a special mention as it was fresh and plentiful with diced onions, baby tomatoes, radishes, peppers, cucumber and lettuce adding some extra bite.

Andy was also in his happy place after ordering the game soup with crispy bacon, croutons and crusty bread (5.95).

The epitome of hearty and wholesome, the soup was like the special soup your nana would make you when you’re not well.

The hearty soup was like a warm hug in a bowl. Image: Rosemary Lowne/DC Thomson

Brimming with the most tender cuts of venison and the tastiest bacon, it was certainly a soup for the soul.

And as for the bread – wow.

The size of a small brick, Andy had to ask for more butter to slather on the freshly-made chunky slab that he enjoyed dipping into the soup.

After hoovering up our starters, we sipped on our drinks – a ginger beer and lime for me, the taxi driver, and a Loose Cannon Brew Toon beer for Andy – as we remarked on the seriously generous portion sizes which you just don’t get in a lot of restaurants these days.

Loosening the top button of my trousers, I was ready for my main of pan-fried sea bream with salsa verde and crab, prawn and smoked salmon risotto (£16.95).

Flaking off the skin, the sea bream was perfectly cooked and had a sweet and delicate flavour that I just couldn’t get enough of.

The fish was perfectly cooked. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Beautifully complementing the sea bream, the risotto was overflowing with prawns, smoked salmon and crab meat while a gorgeous green herby salsa verde cut through the strong seafood flavours.

Equally as impressed was Andy who had ordered the grilled sirloin steak (cooked medium) with onion rings, chunky chips and vegetables (£18.95).

As a self-confessed carnivore, Andy can be quite particular about his steaks but after one bite, his thumbs were firmly up.

One thing we’ve noticed a lot when we eat out is that restaurants can be quite stingy with their sauces, often serving the smallest dollop in a tiny dish.

But this certainly isn’t the case at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel as the bold and creamy blue sauce was served in a large pot with more than enough to mop up the steak, fluffy homemade chunky chips and the crispy large onion rings (£2.95).

The steak was tender and flavoursome. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Both stuffed full, we decided to share a dessert.

After eyeing up the Oreo sundae (6.95) and the steamed lemon and ginger sponge with custard and vanilla ice cream (£6.95), we settled on the cappuccino panna cotta with choco chip shortbread and salted caramel ice cream (£6.95).

Almost too pretty to eat, the panna cotta arrived at the table in a lovely cup and saucer, the large chunk of shortbread sticking out the top.

As caffeine fans, our spoons inevitably clashed as we delved into the luxuriously smooth, silky and creamy coffee pudding.

The buttery chocolate chip shortbread worked a treat as we broke off chunks and used it to mop up the last of the decadent dessert.

The dessert was like a work of art. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The verdict

With hearty pub food, wonderful service, rich history and character surroundings, it’s easy to see why the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel is a beloved local institution.

Bram Stoker clearly enjoyed his time at the hotel all those years ago so I’m sure he would be thrilled to see that the hotel is still open to this day.

Echoing the words of Mr Stoker, who left a message in the guestbook, I was “delighted with everything and everybody and hope to come again to the Kilmarnock Arms.”


Address: Bridge Street, Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, AB42 OHD.

T: 01779 812213.


Price: £81.55 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, one side, three ginger beer and limes, a large glass of Malbec, a beer and a cappuccino.


  • Food: 5/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 4/5