Let’s face it, St. Andrews has a lot of pubs. Some are good, some are bad, and some are so bad one worries about its clients. There is, however, one that stands head and shoulders above the rest: my love, my passion, my homeland, Aikman’s Bar and Bistro.
That was the beginning of the first draft of this piece. In it, I sought to justify my claim with reason. I wrote about my beloved LaChouffe, France’s finest alcohol product, while facetiously scoffing at the inferior drinks other pubs offered. I admired Aikman’s cheap, but fantastic food which serves itself well to the little pub. I boasted about Aikman’s local, non-corporate ownership, a fading phenomenon in Scotland’s pub scene. I fanboyed over its cosy, familiar vibe soaked in St. Andrew’s culture as a Scottish university town. I’d even written a sonnet which my editors thought didn’t quite work in a newspaper format. In another week, I’m sure the piece would be lively, full of jokes and casual slides at other pubs in town. This week wasn’t that week, though, and the piece felt dead. So, I’m going to write about the real reason I gravitate towards Aikman’s.
When I first came to St. Andrews this year, I didn’t know anyone. This was natural because I was (and still am) a study abroad student. Moving away from both my old haunts and habits, I felt stranded for the first few days. Further, my flatmates and I, years apart in age didn’t share (and still don’t share) many similarities. I went about my days, sure, figuring things out steadily. Still, for most of the first week, I was what one would only generously call a shrinking wallflower.
This was until I sheepishly drifted through the Fresher’s Fayre, held––in perhaps the most awkward fashion––around the St. Andrews Track. Along this line of tables, I encountered several organisations, met several people, but only at one did I stay for long. There, I found my first friend in this new country who, after talking with me the next day, invited me along to a night out with their friends. We went to Aikman’s.
The first evening there was perhaps not too different from the rest I would attend. I descended the stairs to the cellar bar, sitting down at sticky tables with soon-to-be friends. Among drinks and introductions, those across from me all assented to the same chorus: “It’s the best pub in town.” Having spent countless evenings there since, I can’t help but agree.
Aikman’s is, in many ways, unremarkable. Some of its beer is good, some of its beer is bad. Some of its food is good, some of its food is bad. Some of its vibe is good, and the rest of its vibe is good too (I’ll die on this hill). But it is my pub. And it is my friends’ pub. That’s all I can say, really, but that’s all that I need to say. Because at the end of the day, Aikman’s is the place I spend time with people I care about. It’s the place my friends and I pose questionable theoretical scenarios and assert equally questionable ethics in response. It’s the place we buy each other one more drink instead of just letting each other leave. It’s the place we celebrate and the place we lament about our victories and our bad beats respectively. It’s our place, and for that it’s the best pub in St. Andrews.
I will leave this piece how I started it, with an excerpt of my first draft. Despite the new, sentimental attitude of the piece, I still find it a suitable conclusion:
One might wonder what credentials the author of this humble opinion possesses to laud Aikman’s laurels above the rest. Here, I must admit some deficiencies as a reviewer. I cannot say I’ve visited every pub in St. Andrews, nor visited any nearly so much as my beloved Aikman’s. To those naysayers who would then decry my view as unobjective heresy, I simply ask them why I would go to any other pub when I’ve already been to the best one? Why should I torment myself so? Instead, I will proudly bear my bias, resigning myself to a casual fanaticism satiated only by the cold trickle of imported beer passing my lips.
Aikman’s is home. I love it dearly and would be happy to share a pint with anyone in favour, undecided, or disgruntled about my review of its hallowed walls.
Illustration: Bethany Morton