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Restaurant review: Singing the praises of The Old Kirk Bistro in Aberdeenshire

The eye-catching half lobster dish.
The eye-catching half lobster dish.

On entering the picture-postcard 13th Century village of Fordyce, near Portsoy, you’re transported back in time. To an era when horse and cart trundled along the streets among the traditional houses and the castle dating back to 1592.

It’s well worth a wander around the pretty village with its quiet, winding streets, to look at the well-kept gardens or the old joiner’s workshop that has been preserved and is now open as a museum.

The feeling continued as we found The Old Kirk Bistro on a sunny Saturday, where I had booked lunch for my mum and me.

The Old Kirk Bistro, Fordyce. Pictures by Chris Sumner.

The venue

The former church has been restored by current owners Chris and Alison Temple, who bought the building in 2014.

Four years of restoration has converted the premises into a cosy, yet light and airy café/bistro specialising in fish and seafood.

They’ve kept some of the interesting items found during their renovation works which are now on display in the bistro – the old church bell for example, as well as part of a redcoat sleeve and some 19th Century graffiti on woodwork.

The walls are also adorned with beautiful landscapes and paintings of local sc

The impressive exterior of The Old Kirk Bistro.


I thought the wall of wedding photographs was a really nice touch. The black and white pictures have been given to the bistro by couples who married at the church over the years.

There’s also photographs of the fishing boats that catch the delicious fish and seafood on the menu.

The old weddings photographs make for an interesting feature.

What makes The Old Kirk stand out from other establishments in the north-east is the fact that it has a buyer’s license which means it can purchase direct from local vessels.

The fish and shellfish on the menu are bought from a couple of boats that work out of Portsoy and Buckie – the bistro is given their last haul ensuring the freshest produce which goes directly to the bistro kitchen for preparing and cooking.

This also means you’re asked to choose your order a few days before your visit.

The food

The menu has a small but tempting selection of dishes – from seafood skewers to steak or a vegetarian option – and it changes regularly so there’s always something new to try on each visit.

Chris and Alison pride themselves on using the most local produce wherever possible and the provenance of the produce is displayed and noted. The fresh fruit and veg is from local greengrocer Gaulds and microgreens from Rising Roots in Elgin.

The eye-catching half lobster dish.

On arrival at The Old Kirk for lunch, we were given a warm welcome from Alison who took our drinks order, telling us that they stock Summerhouse flavoured lemonades and ginger beer which are made at Peathill near Fraserburgh.

The service was good – Alison was friendly and informative and happily chatted to us about the history of the building and the work they undertook to transform it.

Owner Alison Temple enjoying a coffee in one of the booths.

We decided to try the Summerhouse ginger beer – it was refreshing but not quite as fiery as I prefer, but I’ll definitely be seeking out more from Summerhouse.

If opting for an alcoholic drink, it’s bring your own bottle, with a small corkage fee charged per person.

A particular favourite on the menu is calamari. But on this occasion, I opted for home-made hummus, served with tortilla crackers and veg sticks.

The dip was perfectly seasoned and was light enough as an appetiser while we waited for our mains.

Calamari is a particular favourite on the menu.

My mother chose the beer battered haddock with twice fried chips and dill and lime mayo. She was impressed by the freshness of the chunky white fish surrounded by a light batter and said the chips were delicious.

I went for the brie, broccoli and beetroot puff pastry tart served with chips and side salad. The dish looked amazing on the plate, garnished with colourful edible flowers and it tasted just as great. And I had to agree with the verdict on the chips – top notch.

The beer battered haddock with dill and lime mayo – and delicious chips.

The portion sizes are good – not too big as to put you off or stop you from enjoying dessert– and the chefs’ cooking skills are evident in the careful presentation and their ability to bring out the flavours in their dishes.

There was a relaxed atmosphere in the room with light jazz playing quietly in the background. The seven beautiful wooden tables are themselves a treat as they’re roomy and aren’t packed into the room, giving you a sense of lots of space.

There’s also the option of eating in one of the outdoor dining snugs which were introduced during the pandemic and are still proving popular – they have heating, music and ambient lighting, and a buzzer to ring for service.

There is plenty of space to relax and enjoy your meal at the restaurant.

After our mains, we just about had room for dessert, so after a wee break, I enjoyed the chocolate mousse. It was everything a chocoholic would want and was of generous size – served with all-butter shortbread.

We also ordered the homemade meringue with whipped cream and fresh fruit, which was nice but may have been improved with the addition of a coulis or sauce.

A colourful hake dish.

The verdict

After an enjoyable and relaxing meal, it was time for another wander around the pretty village, this time at a slower pace, to work off the delicious food.

The whole experience was a treat from start to finish and was perfect for a relaxing Saturday lunch.


Address: The Old Kirk Bistro, Church Street, Fordyce, Banff AB45 2SL

T: 01261 843410

Price: £55.70 for one starter, two mains, two desserts and two ginger beers


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

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