Forage & Chatter has opened up where previously the Edinburgh Larder resided on Alva Street. Cameron, the owner, has worked with a number of high profile chefs in London and has come home to launch his own venture.
The proposition is simple enough; locally sourced ingredients turned into fine dining dishes at a price most foodies will be more than happy to pay.
I’m on a bit of personal journey with simplicity and minimalism at the moment so the simplicity of the menu along with the minimalist dining room really appealed. Inside it’s all brick and wood with some modern tartan splashes here and there. The restaurant has three areas all interlinked, making it the kind of place where you don’t feel on show. You can go in your smart casuals and just enjoy the food, wine, and company.
We began with a nice glass of Villa Sandi and some warm and crispy bread balls with yoghurt butter topped with mushroom powder, and a vibrant green dip made up of blended spinach, basil and mint.
Before we’d manage to empty our glasses, we were quickly onto a chardonnay that Cameron had selected for us. I prefer to let someone else who has more knowledge than myself make the wine selection, I figure if it’s wrong then I can blame them! Of course this went beautifully with the dishes we’d chosen.
Having now been writing for Foodinburgh for over a year, I have tried out many different restaurants and often take the same few people with me. This time it was my friend’s turn and we have started playing a little game where I predict what she will choose from the menu. Forage & Chatter’s was more of a challenge as much of the food doesn’t revolve around your old familiar favourites. However, I was very pleased to maintain my 100% accuracy record – as predicted she chose the Liver Parfait, Parsnip, Endive and Honey.
This was a dish that was perfectly balanced with earthy notes contrasting with the sweet honey, and bitter endive. It was served with a couple of slices of what appeared to be fried bread. There were lots of oohs and aahs and I was made to taste some, so I think it went down well.
I chose the BBQ Pork Shoulder, Crispy Squid, Cauliflower and Radish. The pork had a natural barbecue flavour and sat atop a cauliflower puree which had a light and fluffy texture, I suspect it had been through an espuma gun. The dish would have been fine without the squid but it did add a bit of texture and felt like a little bonus. The dish as a whole was on the sweeter side, but I liked it and would happily order it again.
The starters had made a positive impact on us, and the mains were quick to build upon that positive impression. My friend had the Aged Borders Beef Sirloin & Featherblade, Smoked Bacon, Celeriac, Cavolo Nero. Can I just say, the beef wasn’t overcooked, she asked for it medium well (I know, I know, but the diner’s always right. Except when they aren’t haha). Anyway, she enjoyed it!
I had Curried Butter Monkfish, Early Winter Squash, Bay. The fish was perfectly cooked, and the spices and sweetness of the veg worked well together. The toasted pumpkin spices added a little crunch and nuttiness making this one of my favourite dishes of 2016.
At this point in the meal with the standard being set so high, we started to speculate whether this could be a potential contender for our best meal together in 2016. Twenty Princes Street had held top spot until now…
However desserts didn’t hit as high a note as the rest of the meal. Beautifully presented and full of potential, but both missing a bit of sweetness.
The Valhrona Chocolate, Malt, Salt, and Peanuts was just a little bit too bitter. Perhaps if there’d been a touch more sugar in the ganache, or a couple of candied nuts.
The Lemon Curd and Douglas Fir was just a little too sharp and the pastry shards not quite crunchy enough to give you the texture balance you craved. Perhaps a few nougatine intermixed might have solved what was really a minor issue.
I so wanted Forage & Chatter to be perfect, and it very nearly was. We were a spoonful of sugar away from it being our best meal of 2016 (it’s also very reasonably priced). That said, despite all the competition in Edinburgh at the moment, I expect Forage & Chatter to do very well indeed, we will certainly be recommending it to anyone that will listen!
Forage & Chatter
Location: 1A Alva Street
Price: Starters £6.50-£9, Mains £15-£22, Desserts £6
Good for: Affordable fine dining in a relaxed environment