Orkney is a place famed for its history. It’s also somewhere full of fantastic old buildings that have all played a part in the development of these islands.
Now, one of Kirkwall’s most iconic structures has been given a new lease of life. The B-listed Old Store on Bridge Street Wynd in the centre of the town has been transformed into the stunning Storehouse Restaurant with Rooms, owned and operated by Judith Glue and her partner David Spence.
Originally built in the late 1800s as a herring and pork-curing store, it was last used for storage and as a print works by former Kirkwall business ‘Leonards’. Judith and David bought the building in 2011, intending to use it as a store for their successful Broad Street-based knitwear shop and café. But those plans quickly changed.
“Not long after we completed the purchase, the Kirkwall Townscape Heritage Initiative made the Old Store a ‘priority building’ to try and get it back into use,” said Judith. “We started thinking about things we could do with it – we discussed ideas like flats and offices, but we felt that would spoil the character of the building.”
“We had to find something that could be profitable too, and because we already had experience of running a food business, a larger restaurant seemed like a natural progression,” added David.
After plenty of planning, grant applications and paperwork, local firm Casey Construction began work in spring 2017. An incredible effort by everyone involved saw the doors officially open earlier this week.
Walking in through the old stone arches, you can’t help but be amazed at how it has all turned out. A bar and reception area leads into the Leonards Restaurant with its open kitchen, and the more intimate Aurora-themed dining room, which can be booked for private parties. The entire space is bright and airy, with a welcoming feel and beautiful fixtures and fittings.
But the real character comes from some of the hidden touches. Judith and David made every effort to incorporate parts of the old building into the new, and everywhere you look there is a nod to the past. The original 200-year-old timber supports have been kept throughout the building, old wooden doors make up the bar and various items found in the Old Store have been reused or recycled in creative ways.
“Our vision from the start was to maintain as many original features as we could. Before we even started we had earmarked some of the items we wanted to keep,” said Judith. “We’re delighted with the end result, the work by the contractors, all the sub-contractors and project manager Leslie Burgher has just been fantastic.”
Upstairs there are eight luxury en-suite rooms, all with an Orcadian theme. Again, every effort has been made to maintain the character of the old building, and the décor is of the highest quality. The rooms will be available to book towards the end of the month, with the finishing touches still being applied.
Back in the restaurant, though, it’s business as usual. Lunches have already proved popular with an afternoon menu of light bites and dishes. The evening menu expands on that, with both featuring the finest Orkney meat, fish and produce.
It’s a fine addition to Kirkwall and brings a beautiful old building back into use. “We want to offer good, fresh food, good service and a relaxed atmosphere for all the family,” said Judith.
“Hopefully we’ll add to the buzz about the town,” added David. “Dining out is becoming a bigger thing nowadays – we want to offer a real experience for people and give them the ‘wow factor’.”
It’s safe to say that it’s ‘mission accomplished’.
Find out more about the Storehouse Restaurant with Rooms via the official website. You can also find the business on Facebook.
Coffees, teas, cocktails and drinks are available Monday – Saturday between 10am and 10pm, and between 11pm and 10pm on Sundays.
Lunches are served every day between 12pm and 3pm, with evening dinners available daily between 5pm and 10pm (last orders for food and alcohol is at 10pm). Sunday Roasts are also available every Sunday between 12pm and 3pm, and 5pm and 10pm.