Forage & Chatter
It’s sometimes good to visit places quite quickly after they open, but I tend to avoid opening nights as far as possible. Thinking Forage & Chatter, the new occupants of the site that was previously home to the Edinburgh Larder Bistro, had been open for a week I booked an early evening table. Upon arrival it turned out it was indeed their opening night. D’oh.
Part of the reason for avoiding opening night (and sometimes opening week) is that there are always issues and they’re often not characteristic of what the business is all about. Service hiccups and misjudged portion sizes are the main ones I’ve experienced and there was a little of that in evidence on this visit.
I was joined by Hayley, Ingrida and Jessica, who runs nearby cafe Strumpets. They’ve been regular supporters of Scran Salon and Hush Hour but this was their first full quest.
The fabric of the place is much as before. It’s an attractive little labyrinth with a signature mezzanine level through the back which is to where we were shown.
To match the foraging theme, there are fresh pots of herbs growing on each table. There are also plant pot light-shades which put me in mind of how much I loathe the decor in the Potting Shed.
Service was an undoubted strength throughout. The only hiccup was that we’d been awkward enough to order a wine that hadn’t reach peak chill to serve straight away, but this was probably just a wee excuse to bring us complimentary glasses of prosecco to celebrate their opening night.
The menu gave us considerable pause for thought as all of the dishes sounded enticing. We eventually settled on trying a good swathe of it across eleven different dishes.
To start we chose the carpaccio of mushrooms with goat’s cheese bonbons, the liver parfait, the pork shoulder with squid and cauliflower, and charred mackerel with foraged herb pesto.
Before that what was probably the highlight of the whole meal arrived: South African-style deep-fried dough balls. Served with more of the pesto and whipped butter, these were outstandingly moreish, like little savoury doughnuts. We asked for more even though we suspected we’d end up too full before the main features arrived. Heavenly.
The starters were all delivered to a very good standard. My mackerel was pronounced the weakest, but I still enjoyed it muchly as it was high quality fish cooked very accurately. The dish could have used a little more brightness from citrus, perhaps.
Jessica’s mushrooms were the winner with the goat’s cheese excellent. Ingrida’s parfait was super light and smooth; we were still talking about it in exultant terms days later. Hayley’s BBQ pork shoulder was a slightly unusual mix with cauliflower and the crisp squid but it came together very effectively.
It was agreed that my curried monkfish dish was the winner from the main courses. It was a colossal portion of three large chunks and with squash and cinnamon to the fore drifted close to being a touch sweet for my palette, but the toasted squash seeds brought things back with little pops of energy.
Hayley’s sirloin was the weak link as it lacked a really sparkling element, although the accompanying relish was notably good.
I really enjoyed the duck dish although Jessica wasn’t quite so convinced. Ingrida’s buttery hake was received warmly by all.
When you’re dining with bakers it’s unlikely that dessert will be just cheese alone. Funnily enough, the cheeseboard was still probably the winner from the desserts as the chutney was very good and the cheese selection nicely balanced.
The lemon and poppyseed souffle had great theatre. When delivered it was quickly pierced and a sphere of ice cream placed comfortably atop it. I’m not sure the dish quite matched the presentation but it was a smart idea.
Hayley’s world was not rocked by the chocolate ganache with rosehip and raspberry. The coffee needed a good bit of work.
So overall, we really enjoyed Forage & Chatter. I’ve perhaps overplayed the minor niggles, but they’re offered more as early feedback than criticism. The place has the feel of a business on track for success with some excellent elements and plenty of promise, particularly given it was their first night. Make sure to visit next time you’re looking for fresh, seasonal, carefully considered food.
Blythe scores Forage & Chatter
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15.5/20
Today’s questers were: Hayley, Ingrida, Jessica, Blythe
We ate: deep-fried dough balls, pork shoulder, mushroom carpaccio, mackerel, chicken liver parfait, hake, monkfish, sirloin, duck, cheese, souffle, chocolate
We drank: white wine, water, coffees
We wore: foraged tops and chattering shoes
Total bill: £164.60
Address: 1a Alva Street, Edinburgh EH2 4PH