It was the free nibbles, handed out by the friendly Fine Food and Dining Society committee in purple aprons at the entrance, that did it for me. Pea guacamole on tortilla chips along with lemon bars provided a great introduction to what is now one of St Andrews’ best-known town and gown events.
The Fine Food Fayre, now in its third year, was a six-hour extravaganza of food and drink, showcasing produce from all over Scotland, but with an emphasis on locally sourced goods. After being declared a success last year, raising more than £5,000 for the RAG charities, it was definitely a tough act to follow.
But it managed admirably, attracting more than 50 stall holders with wares as varied as knives, strawberry chilli sauce (surprisingly delicious), rapeseed oil, chocolates, cheese and even wedding cakes. The array of stalls and goods on offer was a strong point; it was clear that thought had gone into making the fayre as varied as possible, with a combination of local restaurants, food retailers and artisan producers.
Possibly one of the only low points was the societies area downstairs in the Stewart Room; the room itself is quite dark and cramped, and there were only ten stalls, leaving a lot of empty space. The labelling and branding of the societies’ stalls was also slightly lacking.
The layout of the whole venue was thoughtful, but the popularity of the event and the size of Younger Hall meant it was crowded and difficult to move most of the time. However, this was testament to the popularity of the event, and as such was hard to find much fault with. The atmosphere was convivial; a jazz band playing on stage provided gentle background music, which added to the friendly ambience.
In the conference room, to the left of the main venue, were various hot food vendors. The food here was more exotic, ranging from Lebanese to Ghanaian and Japanese, and there was also food available to take away, adding greater variety to the event.
This year the fayre included cookery demonstrations from Tony Singh (of The Incredible Spice Men fame) and St Andrews’ own Scott Davies (head chef of the Adamson, and runner-up in this year’s Masterchef: The Professionals). The demonstrations were held upstairs and filled up quickly; I heard one of the committee turn away a disappointed group from Tony Singh’s dal broth with langoustines demo.
Overall, the entire event was consummately professional; from the striking purple and black branding of the website, which matched the aprons of the committee, to the wonderful raffle prizes (the best of which was a holiday for four to the South of France) and the children’s play area. The organisers had clearly put a huge amount of time and effort into the fayre, and judging by the weight of my bag compared to that of my purse, it was a great success.