Daisy Zeijlon, a St Andrews student, explores three streets in three days. Article written for the visitstandrews.com blog in November 2012.
St Andrews is a foodie’s paradise. When friends and relatives from home ask what it’s like to live in such a small town, I say that St Andrews is one of the most densely packed towns I’ve ever visited, in terms of food destinations. On my daily walk down South Street, I pass a gelateria, two cheese shops, a butcher, a greengrocer, a fishmonger and three well-rated restaurants. And this is all on one street! Should you venture past this end of town, you will find a dozen more restaurants, as many cafes and a bottle shop. If I were visiting this jam-packed little town, I would ask not how to fill my days but when to start dieting in preparation for my trip. Not that I endorse diets. So here is my three-day, three-street guide to eating in St Andrews. It’s a town that suits a short stay, whether you are a nervous parent dropping off your overexcited first year in early September or a golfer in town for the Dunhill.
Day One: South Street
Is it raining? Don’t fret!
One of my family’s favourite vacation pastimes is “enjoying the hotel room”, as my brother so adventurously puts it. He adamantly believes that travelling to a new place and forgetting to appreciate your accommodation is a sin. I agree, if you’re staying in one of St Andrews’ cosy B&Bs or hotels-with-a-view. So if the weather is threatening to put a damper on your day, stroll down South Street and pick up some goodies for an indoor picnic. Start at the east end with Jannetta’s, St Andrews’ famous gelateria, which has been owned by the same family for generations. I recommend the elderflower sorbet, but their more adventurous flavours (Turkish delight, anyone?) are worth a try. This sweet treat will nourish you the rest of your mosey, which should include a visit to both The Guid Cheese Shop and I.J. Mellis Cheese Monger. The former specialises in continental cheeses while the latter stocks British cheeses, so to neglect one would be a calamity.
Mellis stocks other picnic-friendly items like bread and cured meats to complete your picnic, and Guid has an ever-evolving selection of honeys to compliment your cheese. Both, of course, stock wine and local ales.
End your wander with a quick visit to Birrell’s, the green grocer, to pick up some seasonable fruit. If you’re lucky enough to catch the tail end of the strawberry season, as we are now, stock up. If not, grab one of the five varieties of apples or something from their colourful array of stone fruit for dessert.
Day Two: Market Street
Walk straight past the smell of Subway and head into Mitchell’s for brunch. If it’s a busy Saturday morning you may have to wait for a table, but you can do so in their deli, perusing all their specialty food items, which range from high-quality olive oil to elderflower cordial. Their Eggs Benedict is exceptional, and if you order a pot of tea it comes adorned in a knit cosy. The hip, inviting décor makes it a wonderful place to spend a morning people-watching and planning your day.
After a fortifying walk on the Fife Coastal Path or a climb up the cathedral tower, you’re ready to tackle Nahm Jim, arguably St Andrews’ most famous restaurant. Normally on holiday I steer clear of restaurants with awards from famous chefs (Gordon Ramsay named it one of his Best Restaurants a few years back) and pictures of celebrities lining the walls. Nahm Jim, though, remains a staple of many a student diet because of its delicious menu. I recommend the red duck pineapple curry, but one of my flatmates will drop whatever he’s doing if a sushi dinner here is proposed. It is a bit pricey but is located conveniently next to Luvian’s, St Andrews’ bottle shop, so if you feel like a nightcap without paying eight pounds for a cocktail, you’re in luck.
Day Three: North Street
North Street, admittedly, is the least lively of the three. It’s the most beautiful (Sallies’ Chapel dominates the skyline) and the most studious (the library resides here). Grab a hot chocolate at Northpoint Café, where all hot drinks, much to students’ delight, are now £1.50. Don’t leave without a scone, for which Northpoint is renowned. I can’t recommend just one, because their flavours change daily, so take at least three: two for your visit and one for later.
For either lunch or dinner, though, I’m going to lead you off North Street to the Scores, just one street over. The Seafood Restaurant is (in my opinion) St Andrews’ best and most formal restaurant. The setting is a glass box perched over the sea, where you can hear the waves and watch the sunset over dinner. An open kitchen fills the dining room with mouth-watering smells and exciting sounds, making your meal an experience, not just a fuel stop. Their tasting menus are phenomenal, but for a budget-minded traveller their two-course £12.95 lunch special is a must.
For a late-night snack before you catch your train or plane in the morning, here is an insider foodie tip: Taste, on the corner of North Street and Greyfriars, is open till ten and sometimes, if you go at the moment they are going to close, you can get the last croissant for free!
Daisy Zeijlon is a third-year Modern History student at the University of St Andrews. When not desperately trying to catch up on reading, she can be found eating, cooking or writing about food and has been caught scrolling through food blogs in the library one too many times. Fortunately, as President of the university’s Fine Food and Dining Society, she has found a role in which foodie procrastination is encouraged. The society aims to encourage students to eat well and locally, even when restrained by that pesky student budget. It does so by organising weekly cooking classes, formal dining events and a slew of educational foodie experiences, and it has won the award for St Andrews’ Best Society in 2010 and 2012.