This guide is your all-access pass to the cooking and dining scene in university residence halls. It is divided into Catered and Self Catered Halls. For each hall, you will find a general summary of what to expect, something notable to look out for, quotes from previous and current residents, an insider trick, and a health tip. The university website has specific details of each hall’s meal plan and catering staff, but this guide is designed to let you in on the things you won’t find anywhere else.
Catered halls are the more common variety in St Andrews. Halls that offer catering are Andrew Melville, David Russell Apartments, McIntosh, St. Regulus, John Burnet, St. Salvator’s, and University Hall. Catered halls also have shared kitchens so that residents can cook for themselves between meals, and – depending on the specific meal plan – when certain meals aren’t provided.
Andrew Melville Hall
What to expect: Melville offers the standard 19 meals a week, like most other catered halls. This means three meals on weekdays and two on weekends. There is a standard breakfast bar with hot and cold cereal, eggs, vegetables, meats, fruit, and yoghurt, along with juice and hot beverages. Lunch and dinner consist of two to four hot entrees, two to four hot sides, soup, salad, baked potatoes, fruit, and dessert.
What to watch out for: Fantastic views from the dining hall. A panorama of the famous Old Course is perhaps the most quintessential St Andrews view, and Melville residents get it three meals a day.
Residents say… “The food has been steadily improving over the past few years. For hall food, it can be really good. There are, of course, exceptions, notably, the Mexican food, but more often than not, hall food is enjoyable.”
Insider trick: The Hall Committee will host its infamous pizza socials throughout the year, so pay attention and don’t miss those.
Health hack: Melville’s location on the outskirts of town mean that residents who come back for lunch have a 15 minute walk each way from the town center. Resist the temptation to grab a sausage roll from Greggs and trek back to hall. You’ll get both exercise and the food you’ve already paid for, a health and budget win-win situation.
David Russell Apartments
What to expect: A hot breakfast bar with porridge and rotating hot breakfast items like eggs and sausage. Cold cereal, fruit, toast, coffee, and juice are also provided. Lunch is only provided on weekends, and dinner is only provided on weekdays; both consist of soup and salad bars, three hot options, three to four sides, fruit, drinks, and dessert.
What to watch out for: Cool new people. DRA is one of the biggest and most international halls. Take advantage of this by being social at meals. It’s easy to sit with the same people every time, but because there are fewer meals provided than at many smaller halls closer to town, shared meals are one of the best ways to meet other residents who aren’t in your flat or building.
Residents say… “The catered food is standard hall fare, but the real benefit of catering is having a hot meal when you wake up, and when you come back at the end of the day. It’s also one of the best ways to meet other DRA people besides the bar, so make an effort to get to meals at least during the first few weeks.”
Insider trick: Many halls in town, like McIntosh, will allow non-residents to eat lunch in their dining halls for £3 to £5. Make friends with in-town hall residents, and go back to their halls with them for lunch. You could probably get better food at a grocery store or café, but if you’ve forgotten to pack lunch or just want to spend time with friends, guest lunches at other halls are a great way to go.
Health hack: Get up and go to breakfast. Even if you don’t have a class early in the morning to wake up for, filling up early in the day means you’ll spend less money on lunch and won’t be as easily tempted by the smell of fish and chips when you’re walking past The Tailend. It may or may not be the most important meal of the day, but getting to breakfast will definitely save you a fortune on food costs and in calories.
What to expect: A breakfast bar that consists of cereal, porridge, fruit, and traditional hot breakfast items. Lunch and dinner include two to four hot options, one of which is vegetarian, soup, a sandwich bar, a salad bar, and several sides, usually vegetables and potatoes, and dessert.
What to watch out for: Potatoes. Lots of ‘em. Roasted, baked, boiled, mashed, or hidden in chips, wedges, tater tots or curly fries. The true legacy of McIntosh Hall dining is a lifetime of expecting three potato dishes at every meal. Also, be aware that McIntosh is considered to have the best hall food in St Andrews, but this is hotly debated.
Residents say… “Sometimes the soup tastes more like ‘red’ than ‘tomato.’ See what you can grab from the salad bar to make it more palatable. Also, there’s often haggis next to the sausage on the breakfast bar. Try it at least once, just because.”
Insider trick: The staff isn’t shy about reminding you that you can only take one piece of fruit. Grab one every meal, and even if you don’t eat it then and there; keep it as a snack for later.
Health hack: Skip the main hot food bar. Grab a bowl of soup, then jump straight to the veggie sides, and fill your plate with a baked potato and whatever else is there. Then move to the salad bar to embellish with olives, cheese, salad dressing, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
St. Regulus Hall
What to expect: Cereal, toast, porridge, hot breakfast items, juice, and coffee each morning, followed by three options for lunch and dinner, with a starter (usually soup), baked potato bar (only at dinner occasionally), salad bar, sandwich bar, and dessert. Sometimes, weekend breakfasts don’t have hot items, but instead have a selection of pastries, muffins, fruit, and yoghurt.
What to watch out for: There will be a roast Sunday lunch once a week, and it’s consistently very good. If the more avant-garde hall meals aren’t quite to your taste, keep an eye out for this classic.
Residents say… “Meals are primarily a social event for the first few weeks. Regs is a small hall, and meals are a great excuse to introduce yourself to everyone, and to pick up people’s names you’ve already forgotten.”
Insider trick: One of the least-liked aspects of the Regs dining experience, according to a 2013 survey of its residents, wasn’t actually the food itself but the times at which it was served. Since it can be logistically difficult to move meal times around, spend the first few weeks getting used to the new meal times rather than just skipping the inconveniently timed ones. You’ll get your money’s worth, and a few weeks of inconvenience at the beginning of the year will make the rest of the year easier.
Health hack: The dining staff can be very accommodating and will often indulge requests for a partial item. Ask for meatballs without spaghetti, or a burger without a bun and make up the difference at the salad bar to avoid sneaky extra carbs.
John Burnet Hall
What to expect: Breakfast consists of cereal, porridge, fruit, and traditional hot foods. Lunch has a sandwich bar, baked potatoes, and two hot options. Dinner is traditionally three hot options; there is always a vegetarian option and the other two rotate between poultry, beef, and fish. There are sides, salad, soup, and dessert served at each lunch and dinnertime too.
What to watch out for: The incredibly friendly staff. I dare you to find a JBH resident who didn’t love the ladies in the kitchen. They take a genuine interest in the students, and are kind, funny people.
Residents say… “Never pass on the sticky toffee pudding. And the soup can be really amazing, so that’s recommended as well.”
Insider trick: Be friendly. The dining hall typically isn’t full, especially at breakfast, but JBH is small enough where you’re bound to recognize someone – so go sit with them! Many a friendship has started in the dining hall.
Health hack: The vegetarian options are generally much less fatty, and there is always plenty of salad and soup if you want to skip some of the less-healthy hot meals.
St. Salvator’s Hall and Gannochy House
What to expect: A breakfast bar that consists of cereal, porridge, fruit, yoghurt, and traditional hot breakfast items. Lunch and dinner include two to four hot options, one of which is vegetarian, soup or a sandwich bar, a salad bar, several sides, and dessert.
What to watch out for: Kettle stealing. The kitchens on each floor are stocked with appliances, and there’s a bit of a chronic kettle-snatching problem. It’s all good fun, though, and you’ll always be able to make a cup of tea, even if your kettle is a floor away.
Residents say… “Don’t expect Michelin starred cuisine, but it’s nice to have hot food to come home to at the end of a day of lectures.”
Insider trick: Sallies residents have the chance once a year to attend High Table, where students dress up, wear their gowns, and have a meal and after dinner drinks with the wardennial staff. Make sure to take advantage of this tradition when you have the opportunity.
Health hack: Sallies is the closest hall to the town center and is barely a minute’s walk from most shops and restaurants, including stores open until the wee hours of the morning. Muster up all your willpower and resist the ease of buying snacks whenever the urge strikes. Keep a bag of apples or something equally nutritious in your room to help with this.
What to expect: Like most other halls University Hall offers a standard breakfast bar consisting of a hot cooked breakfast, toast, porridge, cereal and fruit. For lunch, expect a sandwich bar, three hot options, one of which will be vegetarian, a salad bar, and either soup or dessert (never both, to most people’s disappointment.). Dinner is pretty much the same as lunch, but both dessert and soup are on offer.
What to watch out for: Try to avoid the cheesecakes. They are misleadingly attractive and pretty much unpalatable. However, there is the legendary monthly ‘full-day breakfast’’ – which runs for double the usual service time – and famous sweet potato chips.
Residents say… “Skip the stew because of the mystery meat. Try to avoid meat in random brown sauce, because despite being sold as a variety of things, from ‘Irish ale stew’ to ‘beef bourguignon’, they’re all largely the same.”
Insider trick: Skip the queue if you are in a rush by grabbing a bowl of soup and sprucing it up at the salad bar. Go later to meals if you are hungry, because you’ll have to wait until the last 15 minutes of food service for seconds, and there’s usually a battle.
Health hack: Don’t eat every meal in hall. Since Uni Hall is on the outskirts of town, use that as an excuse to order a packed lunch from the kitchen ahead of time. According to many residents, the philosophy of eating in hall is essentially ‘would you like some more carbs alongside the two carbs you already have on your plate?’ It’s no wonder the University Hall song references fame for ‘lots of tatties’. A packed lunch – which is usually a sandwich, crisps, fruit, and a chocolate bar – is at least marginally healthier.
Self-catered halls vary: Agnes Blackadder has kitchens shared by everyone in a corridor, while DRA and Albany Park have a kitchen for a five bedroom flat or two, four or six bedroom house, respectively. All the kitchens come furnished, but none are too fancy. Ovens, microwaves, electric kettles and hobs can be expected, but toasters, blenders, food processors, or electric whisks should not be anticipated.
Agnes Blackadder Hall
What to expect: Each corridor has a kitchen that all six to twelve of its residents share. They come equipped with standard kitchenware, but many residents bring their own cookware and appliances. Kitchens also require a keycard to unlock so other corridors’ residents can’t access kitchens that aren’t their own. There’s also a café in hall where residents can buy hot and cold drinks, snacks, and lunch without having to walk the 15 minutes back into town to get it.
What to watch out for: Shared refrigerators mean that your food is public. Drunk, lazy, or morally lax people have no problem taking food that isn’t theirs. Keep anything you’re really attached to in your room if you can, or keep it in a bag or plastic bin in the fridge with your name on it. If you have an allergy or have to keep medication at a certain temperature, talk to the residence managers about having a small fridge in your room.
Residents say… “Get to know your kitchen mates (the people you share a kitchen with). ABH is a big hall, and kitchens are a quick way to find a group of people to socialise with. Also, when it comes time to throw kitchen parties, you’ll want to be on good terms with them”
Insider trick: Agnes Blackadder has its own café, and even though it’s not a full service restaurant, it’s certainly better than having microwave pizza because you don’t really feel like cooking. Use it as an excuse to take a study break, and go grab a coffee or a sandwich and clear your head when you’re falling asleep at your desk.
Health hack: ABH is a short walk outside of town, so many residents bring a packed lunch with them or just purchase lunch in town when they’re there. For a quick, portable, healthy lunch, hit up Zest 2 Go, a salad bar and smoothie shop at the south end of Market Street. Also, the Library café is famous for its soups, so stop by there as well.
David Russell Apartments
What to expect: DRA residents come in both the catered and self-catered variety. For the self-catered residents, expect a stovetop cooker, microwave, dishwasher, oven, and fridge-freezer. Other appliances are not usually provided. There are often some pots and pans provided, but residents will need to bring or buy their own kitchenware. Kitchens also have locking cupboards, so if you have allergies – or just nosy flat-mates – you can lock your food away. There isn’t a dining table provided, but there is a breakfast bar-type counter with chairs, and couches and coffee tables for casual dining.
What to watch out for: Because DRA is a short walk away from town, it has its own bar for students to enjoy an evening out without having to trudge into town and back again after the night is done. The DRA bar is popular among students, and provides an affordable and convenient solution to the complications posed by DRA’s distance from the town center.
Residents say… “Lots of people complain about being put in DRA because it can be socially isolating, but take advantage of having your own flat and kitchen and invite people around to bake cookies or make dinner together. You’ll have good food and good company.”
Insider trick: Eating in the DRA Bistro when you’re not on a catering plan can be pricey. It’s a good last resort, but try not to do it too much or it’ll quickly eat up your food budget.
Health hack: With no scheduled meals, it’s particularly easy to fall into bad eating habits. Try to keep to a schedule and carry a granola bar or an apple with you when you’re away from hall to combat hunger between meals, rather than just eating earlier. The more consistent your eating is, the easier it will be to control how much junk food you eat, and the less hungry you will be. No one likes a growling stomach during a lecture, and eating regularly can help with this.
What to expect: Albany Park is divided into houses, and each has their own kitchen. However, these kitchens are not very well equipped. A stovetop cooker and an oven are standard, as well as a fridge-freezer, microwave, and electric kettle, but not much beyond that is provided. Talk to your housemates about splitting the cost of other kitchen appliances.
What to watch out for: Cooking for yourself is an adventure in self-control. Going shopping hungry means you’ll have a kitchen full of Doritos, but shopping when full means you won’t have anything when you want it. There are thousands of tips and tricks for shopping and cooking when you live on your own to be found online, so even if you think you’re set, do some reading because often you don’t know what you don’t know.
Residents say… “The kitchens are as good as you make them. There’s not a lot there to begin with, and it can tricky learning how to share what space there is with your housemates. Be incredibly courteous and don’t give your housemates any reason to resent you, by cooking really smelly food, not throwing out past date groceries, or not washing dishes and you should be fine.”
Insider trick: Don’t get caught in the expensive habit of buying each day’s food when you want it. Organize a shopping trip to Morrison’s or Aldi, then split the cost of cab fare with a few friends and make a big trip out to get everything you’ll need for a few weeks. It’s budget friendly, and you won’t get caught with only stale pizza crust, bruised apples, and water for dinner.
Health hack: Walk!: because Albany Park is a 15-minute walk out of town, and it can be tempting to call Domino’s delivery when you don’t feel like cooking. There’s nothing wrong with a takeaway, but walk into town to pick it up so you have a half hour of exercise to counter the Meat Lover’s Pizza and Cinnamon Roll Fries you’re eating for dinner.