Kirk View Café & Bistro is a family run business in Union Terrace, Aberdeen. In its first year of opening, Kirk View was voted Aberdeen’s best new food business at Scotland’s business awards with its pre-theatre menu a big hit being situated a stone’s throw from His Majesty’s Theatre.
But with Covid came changes for the business. As theatres closed and customers were no longer allowed indoors, owners Rob Milne, his wife Kelly and head chef Heather Stewart had to come up with new ways to keep customers engaged.
Their solution? To become a Scottish fusion tapas restaurant.
We spoke with owner Rob to find out more about Kirk View Café & Bistro.
Can you tell us about your history?
Rob: We opened up in 2017, so we’ve been on the go now for four and a half years. Initially we were doing breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, a really big pre-theatre menu too. [His Majesty’s Theatre] is just on our doorstep so that was really big for us.
But obviously now Covid has kicked in, we’ve had to streamline everything. We’re producing a Scottish infused tapas menu which is completely different to what we did when we first opened. It seems to be very popular though, so we’re going to continue with it for the foreseeable future.
How important is the family run ethos at Kirk View?
Rob: It’s me and my wife, Kelly still running things. Our head chef, Heather, she’s been with us for just over three years now. It’s a very small team, there’s only six of us at the moment doing everything but yes, it is very much family orientated.
What do customers enjoy most about Kirk View?
Rob: Our afternoon teas, we get a lot of really positive feedback on them. But our biggest complement that we get has to be the freshness of the food.
Our customer base are 95% women. I don’t know if that’s a general thing in most restaurants but in this restaurant, a lot of women come here. We don’t have enough men to be honest with you. It’s the ladies of Aberdeen that keep us in business.
That’s interesting… Any ideas as to why that might be?
Rob: We’re not a pub, I don’t have beer on draught, I don’t have any TV to watch football, you know. Men generally like to go to the pub, don’t they? Women generally like to sit down, have a cocktail and a chat. We do a lot of cocktails, we’ve got a lot of gin on offer. We’re probably more suited to a female clientele in that sense. We do obviously get men in here though, and the menu works for them too.
Head chef Heather has also been an integral part of the business since joining three years ago. We spoke to her about how customers have reacted to the new Scottish fusion tapas approach at Kirk View.
How did your own journey into cooking begin?
Heather: I started out in kitchens when I was 13. I was washing dishes in a little hotel in Stonehaven. When I was 18, I decided I had enough of school. I was good at the desserts that I was working on in the kitchen already, and my boss wanted me to move up to become one of the chefs.
After that, I moved around a couple of places, mainly in Stonehaven, and I was actually ready to give up cooking before I found Kirk View. I’d had enough. This was the last place that I had an interview for and I decided that if Kirk View wasn’t for me, then I was going to look for a whole new career.
But luckily, I joined the Kirk View team and I fell back in love with what I was doing again. I found it at the right time, and now I’ve been here just coming up for three years. I’m still loving it.
What kinds of local produce do you champion in your café?
Heather: I’m always looking for local suppliers, especially fish because the quality up here, of course, is really good. At the moment, one of the dishes on our menu is a haggis and quail scotch egg and I actually get the quails eggs from my Grandad! He has quails at his house and sells eggs so it works out quite well. I just text my gran saying ‘I need some eggs please.’
Is now a more important time than ever to be working alongside local businesses?
Heather: Definitely. But it’s also something that we’ve always done. I’ve always wanted to use stuff that’s very local, very fresh.
What was the inspiration behind your Scottish tapas fusion menu?
Heather: Before Covid, we did a lot of themed nights where we’d have a steak night, a tapas night – we were always trying to come up with something new. Then we were just playing about with ideas during lockdown trying to figure out what would be best for us to do, and we just stumbled across the idea of blending our favourite nights and dishes. From there, we realised that tapas was the way to go and it’s proven to be popular.
We noticed that you have a TikTok channel too. Do you see social media as an important engagement tool as a business?
Heather: Nowadays, a lot of people are on social media so we’ve just taken on trying new things out, reaching new people, and a lot of people do come in because they’ve seen something that we’ve posted. So, I do think it’s really important to have all that.
What’s special about Kirk View?
Heather: There’s always a nice atmosphere here. Everyone’s always really friendly, nobody’s grudging coming into work, everybody’s happy to be here. You come in, get fresh food, you don’t have to sit too close to strangers, the cocktails are always really good – we’re always playing about with them. All the things that Rob uses to make the cocktails come from my kitchen, so I’m quite often in about them too.