The sheer size of Forgan’s – particularly its high ceiling, which gives it an airy atmosphere – is surprising, as all you see from Market Street is a narrow stone alleyway strewn with flower pots and vegetables.
Inside, the year-old St Andrews restaurant reminds me of a renovated Brooklyn warehouse (but with a distinctly British vibe). In fact, the building was once a golf club factory owned by Robert Forgan, known for making some of the best ‘cleeks’ (clubs) money can buy; rumour has it this is one of the oldest factories of its kind in the world. The space is now filled with mismatched tables and chairs that somehow seem to synchronize; the floor is covered in threadbare rugs; and leather satchels stand in for art on the walls.
Especially interesting are the toilets (yes, you read that correctly). A map adorns the wall, with luggage tags listing the origins of diners and drinkers. I was particularly taken with the pages of poetry pasted onto the cubicle walls, one featuring the famous Sorley Maclean’s work in both Gaelic and English.
In the restaurant there are five private ‘bothies’ (booths) available for parties of 8 or more to book, each with its own cosy wood burning stove. As our group of friends only numbered six, we were shown to a spot near the rear of the restaurant; a little dark, but then atmospheric lighting isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
All of the food here is prepared using seasonal, local produce sourced from farmers and artisans dedicated to sustainable agriculture. The dishes were delicious: for me, a starter of garlic mushroom cream and red onion bruschetta, and a light but flavoursome main course consisting of seared tuna, olives, green beans, and slivers of potatoes, all drizzled in a soy and sesame dressing.
Our evening passed in a blur, filled with food, white wine, and copious cockt-ales. The latter are a Forgan’s special, a fun twist on a traditional cocktail, substituting spirits with craft ales, with names like IPA-a-rita, Bitter Fruit, and Breakfast Beer.
Forgan’s is a real community-orientated space, hosting ‘gatherings’ by day and night that range from wine clubs to book clubs and craft afternoons. The weekly Friday night gathering, from 10.30pm onwards, is ‘The Shoogle’: a modern style ceilidh for beginners.
Beginners would have had to listen closely, and be quick on their feet, as the Forgan’s fling was the fastest, most frenzied – quite possibly the most fun – ceilidh I’ve ever experienced. We danced and laughed and gasped for breath, but didn’t give up until the bitter end, spurred on by the talented trio of musicians (not to mention a few more well-deserved cockt-ales).
Forgan’s opened last summer, a few years after my friends and I left the town, but it is without doubt an excellent addition to the St Andrews social scene. Whether you dine at Forgan’s or not, you absolutely have to stop by for an ale-infused tipple and get stuck into a ‘Strip the Willow: the cockt-ales and ceilidhs are not to be missed.