2022 is going magnificently so far.
Not only do my chocolate, negroni and crisp habits continue unabated, I managed to break a New Year’s resolution just a couple of hours in.
This was going to be my annum of meticulous planning. Proper preparation prevents poor performance, as the alliterative motto goes.
For the last few months, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, never making arrangements for anything beyond the next week.
I blame Covid. I’m so used to cancellations that I’m too scared to arrange anything.
We were visiting St Andrews, and the newly refurbished hotel Rusacks, which is now owned by US chain Marine & Lawn, was going to be my lunchtime destination on January 1. Their executive head chef is Derek Johnstone, who was the inaugural winner of Masterchef: The Professionals back in 2008, when Gregg Wallace still had a lush mop of hair.
As is to be expected, their more formal 18 Rooftop Restaurant and Bar was booked up when I tried to bag a table a couple of days in advance, and One Under, their bar, sounded a bit too casual. However, we did find space in The Bridge - their all-day dining restaurant. I dodged the brunch option, and ticked the a la carte box on the on-line booking form.
When we got there, it was brunch only. “That IS our a la carte today”, said the waitress.
Righty-ho. Still, no hardship. I love a hotel brekkie, and, among other things, this place offers buttermilk Scotch pancakes (£8) with blueberries, lavender, vanilla cream and maple syrup, or The Bridge Full Scottish (£12), with bacon, sausage, haggis and all the trimmings.
The marble-topped tables were set with white cups, and mini jars of jam and marmalade.
We pretended we had a room upstairs at this plush five-star venue, with its views over the Old Course, Swilcan Bridge and down to the beach, where we could see distant blobs of pink and blue, aka loony dookers.
The new dining room is swanky, with a Gatsby meets the Hamptons vibe, thanks to wicker chairs with striped seating, real-looking ivy clambering up the walls, antiqued mirrors and painting of golfers. We played guess who. Both managed Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo. I ruined the game by saying Chevy Chase, before remembering that he’s the star of Caddyshack.
Since it was after 12pm, I went for something a bit more substantial than the menu’s other brunch options, with the flat iron of Aberdeen Angus steak (£18). It was charred, cooked perfectly medium rare, as requested, and there wasn’t a seam of unlucky gristle to be found.
This came with two perfect fried duck eggs, which had yolks as yellow as Sunny D, a truckload of salted fries, and a bird bath full of barbecue sauce. I also tried a transparent pink Northside (£9) cocktail, which was rather refreshing, with a monochrome striped straw and hibiscus flowers, as well as London Dry Gin, Peychaud’s Bitters and ginger ale.
We also had the honey-roast gammon (£19), which didn’t have that bouncy texture of this Seventies-style option, but was a good dry and hammy saucer of meat. It came with two hen’s eggs, and those chips. They’d forgotten the mustard and whisky sauce, but this khaki and booze spiked gravy came quickly once we’d flagged its absence up.
We finished our teas, then decided to try somewhere else for pudding, since neither of us could face pancakes.
Jannettas Gelataria was shut and so was Fisher & Donaldson, so we ended up at Northpoint Cafe at 24 North Street, which was about the only place open. “Where Wills and Kate met (for coffee)”, it says, on the window.
We bagged a table, and ordered two cakes from the display - the chocolate orange (£2.95) and blueberry and lemon (£2.95), along with a double espresso and mocha (£2.50 each).
The coffee is a bit meh, but the cakes were real old-fashioned granny’s tea room style - thick and dense sponge, with buttercream icing trowelled on as if by a drunken plasterer.
Even though it’s not trendy, the students obviously like it here too.
One twenty-something couple was taking a photo of a cheese toastie, using some very professional-looking equipment. There was also a group of young blokes, still wet fringed, spiky eye-lashed and pink cheeked from their dook.
They’ve started the year the right way. Me, not so much, though I promise to try harder.
My next and hopefully more thorough review is already in the calendar. Promise.
Rusacks St Andrews
(0344 879 9136, www.marineandlawn.com)
Places to try Nearby
Another former Masterchef, Dean Banks, has moved his St Andrews restaurant to a new location. It offers a tasting menu only, with dishes that might include halibut, brown crab and galangal curry.
Located in the Links Clubhouse, you don’t have to play golf to hang out in this new restaurant. They serve options including the St Andrews Birdie - guinea fowl, wood pigeon and chicken with puff pastry, carrot puree and glazed onions.
This is the sister restaurant to The Adamson next door and serves up excellent cocktails and sharing plates including ox cheek, truffle, celeriac, wild rice, chestnut mushroom and pickled shallots.