Forgan’s, St Andrews

forgan's st andrewsG1 Group has transformed a former golf factory in St Andrews into a relaxed new bar and restaurant

St Andrews is often considered to be the “home of golf” because the sport was first played on what is now the Old Course in the early 15th century. It was also once home to the oldest golf club factory in the world – the original site of golfing accessory maker Forgan – until manufacturing ceased in 1963. The factory’s former warehouse has now been transformed by G1 Group into a bar and restaurant, Forgan’s, with a name inspired by its history.

It sits behind the popular Mitchell’s Deli in Market Street and offers good-quality “back to our roots” dining, drinks and entertainment. With its stripped-back wooden floors and fishing nets turned into lighting, the venue is a stylish mix of old and new. It has been developed with leading hospitality designer Jim Hamilton, who has worked on award-winning projects such as G1’s Corinthian Club and the Blythswood Square Hotel, both in Glasgow.

Because of its location off the main street, Jim says they wanted an interior that would draw local people and visitors in. “We tried to create something that will grab people’s attention from the moment they walk in,” he says. The entrance corridor sets the tone, with wooden doors, hanging plants, small trees in buckets and shelves loaded with pots and more plants. “As soon as they step over the threshold, they are immediately put at their ease,” Jim explains. “Forgan’s is a little journey of discovery. We didn’t want it to look like a junk shop or a pastiche but a cool, interesting space.”

The main restaurant and bar has a high ceiling letting in natural light, with an industrial feel from the original steel trusses, columns and beams. One wall is lined with caged shelves showing off the products used in the cooking and behind the bar. “It is the restaurant unashamedly showing its hand to demonstrate that it serves good-quality food and drink,” Jim points out.

The room is broken up with a series of bothies on the side, resembling small huts, which act as semi-private spaces. Using wooden screens and curtains, they can be combined or sub-divided as needed and have fireplaces for the winter. Flexibility is key to Forgan’s, with tables installed so they can slide down into the floor to make way for entertainment including ceilidhs on Fridays and Saturdays. General manager Michelle Nabal says: “We have a wide range of events taking place during the week, from kids’ crafts and games during the day, a mid-week 1950s-inspired tea dance, acoustic music from local musicians and of course our ceilidh clubs.” It is open from 10am seven days a week until midnight and until 1am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Matching the good-quality food and wine, the bar has a strong offering of premium beers on draught, such as Harviestoun’s Schiehallion lager and Eden Brewery’s red ale The Clock as well as their own Forgan’s Ale, brewed at Eden’s St Andrews brewery. More beers are available in bottles, chiefly from Scotland, such as Eden, BrewDog, Innis & Gunn and Williams Bros.

This is reflected in a list of classic cocktails that have been given a twist with the addition of beer. The IPA-a-rita combines premium Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila with fresh lime juice, agave syrup and Deuchars IPA, while the Breakfast Beer is a mix of Tanqueray Gin, Cointreau, almond, orange bitters and Schiehallion. The lager is also used in the Bitter Fruit cocktail which combines it with Aivy Pear, Strawberry and Mint Vodka from Sweden, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, cranberry juice, lime and sugar.

The bar has an extensive range of spirits from around the world, including an interesting list of Scotch whiskies and an emphasis on Scottish gins. For £7.50, you can have a flight of three gins with Fever-Tree tonic, choosing from the likes of Caorunn, Old Raj, Hendrick’s, The Botanist, Blackwood’s, Darnley’s View, Tanqueray No 10 and Edinburgh Gin. Flights are also available for wines and other spirits such as single malt whiskies.

Up on a mezzanine level are the toilets and a giant map of the world covering one wall. Like a low-tech Facebook check-in, customers can pin tags bearing their names into places they have been. Jim says this reflects the international appeal of St Andrews which, because of the golf and its 600-year-old university, attracts over a million overnight visitors every year. “As well as the local market, there is a big international market so Forgan’s is a home away from home.”

Forgan’s, 110 Market Street, St Andrews KY16 9PB
Tel: 01334 466973

forgan's entrance

Who did it
Interior design: Jim Hamilton
Lighting: Ay Illuminate

Originally published in the August 2013 edition of Bar magazine.

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