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Old Kirk Bistro offers a fresh seafood feast and warm refuge after wintry coastal walk

All the seafood served at the Old Kirk Bistro is bought fresh from the boats the very same day, making every meal special.

The Old Kirk Bistro offers fresh seafood at its best. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson
The Old Kirk Bistro offers fresh seafood at its best. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

The best part of a day trip can often be discovering somewhere new to eat — or is it just me?

I was planning a surprise outing for my boyfriend Doug’s birthday, starting with a visit to Bow Fiddle Rock in Portknockie because it had been on our list for months.

I had a couple of other stops planned, like Findlater Castle near Sandend and Duff House in Banff. But, I just knew I wanted to find somewhere new to stop for lunch, so I started scouring the internet.

That’s when I came across the Old Kirk Bistro in Fordyce, an 18th-century converted kirk.

The Old Kirk Bistro. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

It wasn’t until I learned the bistro served fresh, local seafood bought directly from the boats that I knew I was on to a winner.

I called on Tuesday to book a table and was asked to pre-order before our visit so they could buy what they needed from the boats, so it was fresh that day.

Honestly, I was thinking about all the fine food we’d pre-ordered for the rest of the week and Saturday just couldn’t come quick enough.

The Old Kirk Bistro

In true north-east fashion, the weather was miserable for our grand day out. As we clambered hills to get better views of the stunning Bow Fiddle Rock, rain and wind whipped around us.

Once we were satisfied with our first stop, we got back to the car with red faces stinging from the cold wind.

Setting off from Portknockie, we were more than ready for lunch to ease the chill.

The Old Kirk Bistro is located on Church Street in Fordyce, and as we parked up outside I knew we were in for a unique experience.

It was still grey and drizzly when we arrived, but the tall white building was a welcome sight.

I was taken with the theme. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson.

And stepping through the doors, it felt warm and welcoming, but there was something more special about this place.

The room was airy and spacious, although the large windows barely provided any extra light. I noticed there were only five tables in the bistro making it feel intimate and cosy.

As we were shown to our seats, the decor immediately caught my eye, from the wooden tables that looked like polished-up bits of driftwood to the fishing net draped across the ceiling.

We both loved the decor here. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

The walls were adorned with paintings, telescopes, compasses, maps, fish skeletons and so much more. I could have just sat there taking everything in all day.

There were also certificates proudly hung up, proving the bistro had a licence to buy fresh fish directly and first from the boats each day.

Warming up with starters

You can bring your own bottle, but because we were out for a day of exploring we checked out the soft drinks selection instead.

I have never had lavender lemonade before, but it was so refreshing. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

There were a few different bottles of Summer House (crafted in Rosehearty) on offer, so Doug went for the ginger beer (£3.60) while the lavender lemonade (£3.50) caught my eye.

Our starters arrived quickly and I was thankful to be presented with a pipping hot bowl of lentil soup (£6.50). It was chunky, wholesome, and served with two fluffy slices of bread and butter, exactly what I needed.

This was such a welcome sight for our grumbling tummies. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

Doug ordered the Moray Firth battered calamari (£8.95), which was served with a ginger and soy dipping sauce. Thick strips of squid fried in a very light batter were piled high on the plate in front of him, and he said the calamari was “very tender and succulent”.

It looked so good that I even felt a bit brave and asked for a taste, it was so flavourful and not at all chewy as I had expected from previous experiences.

We greedily polished off the starters and our mains came along promptly after, just as another table came in, happily chattering away.

A feast of jumbo fresh fish and vibrant seafood risotto

I had ordered the jumbo beer-battered fish and chips (£16.95). I’ll admit it sounds pretty basic, but honestly where better to order haddock than a place that fried it the same day they bought it off the boat?

When the plate was put in front of me I was surprised to see two chunky pieces of haddock, a bowl full of thickly cut chips cooked in beef dripping, peas and a dill and lime mayo.

The juicy and soft pieces of fish were encased in a light batter, that was not at all greasy (same as the calamari). The dill and lime mayo was such a step up from tartar sauce, which I love.

The food even looked stunning, like it was freshly prepared with care. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, my boyfriend being the big seafood lover out of the two of us had opted for the crab and celeriac risotto with crispy ham (£22.50). The vibrant and colourful dish was salty, with plenty of chunks of crab scattered throughout.

He said the crisp, cured meat was a brilliant addition to the dish.

As we finished up our feast, the sun finally made an appearance, breaking through the grey skies and brightening up the airy space.

Homemade puddings to end the meal just right

For dessert, I had the zesty lemon tart served with raspberries and chantilly cream (£7.20) and a cappuccino (£3.60). Meanwhile, my partner ordered the apple, pear and cinnamon crumble with homemade double cream custard (£7.20) and an espresso (£3.20).

Dessert is always the highlight for me and my sweet tooth and this did not disappoint. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

It was a very pretty dish, with the homemade pastry tart light and not at all as dense or rich as I thought it might be.

But, there was a pang of jealousy when I saw a hefty bowl of crumble put down across the table from me, particularly when Doug poured the lashings of light, creamy custard.

The verdict

By the end of our meal, we were left feeling warm, satisfied and well looked after, both refueled and ready for the next stop of our day trip.

As I mentioned before, I had been excited about our visit to the Old Kirk Bistro from the minute we booked our table and it did not disappoint.

The converted kirk is stunning. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

The bistro felt like a safe refuge from the heavy rain and wind battering the coast.

With such a strong focus on local, fresh produce, from the seafood being supplied every day directly from the fishing boats, to the fruit and veg coming from a farm just down the road, everything felt special.

And again, the space felt like it was filled with treasures that I couldn’t help but wonder at.

Every corner of the room showcased something different. Image: Lauren Taylor/DC Thomson

The Old Kirk Bistro is without a doubt a hidden gem, and well worth a visit if you fancy a unique experience. The menu changes regularly and every dish is skillfully crafted with care and attention to detail by the chefs.

They can serve gluten-free versions, and if seafood isn’t your thing, they also provide some meat and vegetarian options. Despite it being a smaller, seasonal menu, there really is something for everyone.

I can say with certainty we are already looking forward to our next trip.


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

T: 07944 068023


Price: £83.20 for two starters, two mains, two desserts, two soft drinks, one cappuccino and one espresso.


  • Food: 4.5/5
  • Service: 5/5
  • Surroundings: 4.5/5