TRAVEL: Food, glorious food, in St Andrews

It was was Scotland's largest and most magnificent church and its ruins still show how impressive St Andrews Cathedral must have been in its prime
It was was Scotland's largest and most magnificent church and its ruins still show how impressive St Andrews Cathedral must have been in its prime

As Scotland enters its Year of Food and Drink in 2015, Liz Kennedy samples fare from an Irn Bru creme brulee to giant sausage rolls and love poetry

Ulster folk love ice cream and so do the Scots.

That’s why one of the hottest tickets at the St Andrews’ food and drink festival was for the coldest fare - an ice-cream making master class, one of a series of gourmet events that included everything from sampling ‘nightly night-caps’ of assorted spirits to cheese-tasting.

The cool special event at Jannettas gelateria in the tiny Fife town - the historic home of golf - enabled a select gathering to take a private peek at professionalism of the highest order, watching the master gelato maker Owen Hazel making icecream.

Jannettas has been part of the history of St Andrews since the beginning of the 20th century, when the family left sunny Italy to start a business in Scotland. It’s now a modern gelateria, with 52 flavours to choose from and sundaes of wild cherry with mixed berries and Scottish tablet. My best advice is make some time for a visit if you are anywhere in the Kingdom of Fife. No wonder Owen scooped the Golden Cone 2014 award and for us foodies at his masterclass, the gourmet treat on offer was Prosecco and pomegranate - a potent mix.

Of course, St Andrews is also famous for being where William met Kate, when the Royal couple were both students at Scotland’s oldest university and the buildings in the quaint cobbled streets are redolent of centuries of study by students, who still sport the iconic red gowns. Little has changed in Fife since I was a student there and that is generally a good thing. But what is new is the plethora of perfect places to eat and enjoy a culinary experience. That’s why the Food and Drink festival in November has become part of the local calendar, celebrating Fife’s artisan food producers.

We visited Balgove Larder on a bustling Saturday morning, as the mist shrouded the flock of sheep feeding in the fields of the Strathtyrum Estate. It’s only about half a mile out of St Andrews and came about from the dream of farmer, businessman and food lover Will Docker. There’s an extensive farm shop selling everything from hot smoked salmon to craft beers and giant sausage rolls and a busy cafe. Just watch out for the Highland cows, as you drive out of the farm. No, they aren’t on the road, but you will definitely want to stop and take a picture.

Another hot-to-trot new venue is Forgans, a funky new warehouse right in the centre of the town. It caters for all from students to family parties and is as quirky as it comes. Even the loos are fun, with the walls of the ladies’ facilities papered with love poetry. And the babies’ changing room has free nappies and a mobile above the changing table, which was much appreciated by the youngest member of our party. Oliver also appreciated ‘the wee menu’ for children, which has proper food with reduced portions, at a very reasonabler £4.95, including a drink and an add-on of £1 for starter or pudding. And a certain toddler was only too happy to enjoy melon and raspberry coulis, followed by gourmet sausages and mash and a fruit platter. And he couldn’t have been more welcome, with a big toybox on offer, as well as colouring-in materials. The service was immaculate. My salmon in a bag, with ginger, garlic, coriander and lime was exceptional and cranachan had to be the winner on the dessert menu, classic Scots, with whisky, toasted oatmeal and raspberry, served with a modern twist in a china cup.

And that is pretty much the theme of St Andrews these days. It is comfortable in its Scottishness, but prepared to smile at its own foibles, very much like Glasgow’s opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and the dancing Tunnock’s teacakes. We didn’t encounter any teacakes on our travels, but we did sample an Irn Bru creme brulee. That was on the dessert menu at the Playfair restaurant, part of the boutique Ardgowan hotel, which is contemporary and cosily Scots.

It’s rated three stars and is so centrally located, within walking distance of the university and the world famous Old Course that you won’t need to drive once you arrive in the town.

Staff were friendly and endlessly accommodating to both adult and toddler needs too, especially in Playfair.

Ardgowan’s en-suite bedrooms are located across two adjoining Georgian town houses, on North Street, one street from the sea and the world famous West Sands, where much of the epic Chariots of Fire was filmed. You can always take a jog along the beach, simply to work off some of that ice cream.