The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sealed their return to their former university town by enjoying a quiet romantic meal – until word got out.

William and Kate stayed overnight in St Andrews before a day of royal events – 20 years after the couple first met there when students.

When boyfriend and girlfriend, they were known to enjoy the fare at Pizza Express but on Tuesday night they ventured to a fashionable spot, Forgan’s, a contemporary restaurant with a Scottish twist.

The couple asked for a private seating area at the back of the eatery that has welcomed famous golfing celebrities such as Rory McIlroy.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land yachting on the beach at St Andrews
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge land yachting on the beach at St Andrews (Phil Noble/PA)

“There was a crowd outside once they left but as far as inside goes it was quiet,” said manager Marc, who declined to give his last name.

“There was no pomp and ceremony or fanfare, they were very nice and when they left they were very complimentary.”

The manager, who was off duty when the couple arrived, was called by staff at home, and said: “Word certainly reached me we had guests come in.”

He believed his restaurant was recommended to Kate by a society she was a member of when a student at St Andrews.

In their first year in 2001, William and Kate lived a few doors apart at St Salvator’s hall of residence and became friendly, socialising together and playing tennis.

She captured his attention when the prince forked out £200 for a front row seat at a charity student fashion show where Kate strode confidently down the catwalk in a see-through lace dress which revealed her black underwear.

Kate, who is five months older than William, is also credited with persuading him to continue his studies when he considered quitting in his first year.

The Duchess of Cambridge after land yachting on the beach at St Andrews
Kate after land yachting on the beach at St Andrews (Andrew Milligan/PA)

They began sharing a four-bedroom Edwardian townhouse in Fife at the start of their second year and at the time, William’s future wife was dating fellow student Rupert Finch.

After living in a halls of residence during their first year, they later house-shared with other students and it is rumoured the future king and queen became an item around Christmas 2003.

The first confirmation that the flatmates were romantically linked came when they were pictured on the slopes of the posh Swiss ski resort Klosters in March 2004.

The manager declined to say what the couple had eaten, but on the menu at Forgan’s was honey and whisky glazed short rib of beef priced at £17, herb crusted salmon £16 and sumac cauliflower steak £11.

William and Kate began their day in St Andrews racing each other in land yachts on the town’s West Sands beach. They were joined by six teenage carers trying the activity as part of respite from their duties looking after family members.

The Cambridges quickly got the hang of the sail-powered buggies but it was William who proved the winner in their head to head match across the rain and wind-lashed beach.

The session was arranged by the organisation Fife Young Carers which has operated since 1995 and now supports 597 young people, with the figure rising monthly.

During their visit to St Andrews the couple met under graduates benefitting from the Students’ Association and University’s Can Do project, which has facilitated hundreds of Covid-safe events since last autumn.

The duke asked the students: “Has it been hard throughout lockdown (stuck) in your rooms?” before adding the period must have been difficult for those just starting their courses.

The couple also helped to finish painting socially distanced hearts for a lawn at the university, introduced by the Can Do scheme to encourage students to spend more time safely out doors in small groups.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tour of Scotland
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge look at local produce during a meeting with fishermen and their families in Fife (Chris Jackson/PA)

In the Can Do marquee they joined an interfaith discussion with students from a range of religious backgrounds, chatted to members of a sowing group and watched a dance class with students performing by themselves due to restrictions.

They clapped after the young men and women danced the cha cha cha and William later asked “Do you dance in your bedroom on Zoom?” and when told he was correct replied: “It’s almost impossible to dance on Zoom”.

William and Kate ended their day by chatting to members of the Fishermen’s Mutual Association and their families at Pittenweem’s historic harbour in Fife.

Despite the location of the visit being kept secret dozens of well-wishers were waiting including an entire nursery school.

The couple were told about the state of the fishing industry in Fife, and the impact of the last year on fishing communities.

When offered freshly caught langoustines and dressed crab by the organisers, William said “I’ve already had fish and chips” – but the duke and duchess could not resist.