The Whisky Forager - a new concept for a new norm.
Updated: Jul 25
By Sharon Wilson
Chef Colin Hinds is having fun. After several years collecting and tasting whiskies, he is opening a 'pop-up', The Whisky Forager in Stockbridge on July 29. A five-course tasting menu of Scottish produce is paired with whiskies and devised by Colin who previously ran the award-winning seafood restaurant, The Kilted Lobster on the same site at St Stephen's Street.
Me and Mr Bite visit for a preview on a sunny evening and chat to Colin. He is entirely down-to-earth (preferring a pint of lager to 'fancy tasting' beers) which may explain why his food tastes so damn good. It may also be his experience of working around the world.
Thus our first course is Confit Duck Leg with a Pineapple and Star Anise glaze. The Ardbeg Beastie Highball is a refreshing but robust accompaniment where mint and smoke give the sweet, aromatic food a run for its money. The dish is made summery by crisp long lettuce leaves.
Next, up are thick chunks of Cured Smoked Salmon dramatically presented in a heavy-lidded pot. Mr Bite doesn't like beetroot but has no problem with the shaved discs and creamy aioli of the root here. We are looking at detail to help Colin with feedback and feel the pickled cumber could be a tad more piquant. The Talisker Special Release 2019 is a spicy astringent explosion that slams through the fatty fish but soon softens to a sweet, caramel complement.
An organic fillet of beef with pearls of barley, girolle ragu and ultra-sticky red wine syrup is very special. Paired with Arran Amarone Cask Finish, it becomes doubly so. If there was one word, to sum up, this whisky, it would be smooth. The other flavours, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, dissolve on the palate in a pleasant puff. A chunky glass matches the majesty of this main course.
Pudding is Raspberry Cranachan Crème Brûlée with plump seasonal fruit and warmed squidgy flapjack - deconstructed Cranachan. The berries lighten the heavy cream. We have some theatre with the Glenmorangie Signet here which is served with a giant citrus bubble on top of the glass. It bursts into a regal combination of chocolate, and dried fruits where the whisky picks up on the fruit.
There are only eight covers in the socially-distanced restaurant and a fellow diner comments on how some of the food and whisky pairings challenge each other while some complement. Whipped Blue Murder, iced grapes and honey fall into the latter category as runny nectar on the palate reveals the same in the Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve.
The regionality and spectrum of flavours within the whisky world is an exciting one for a chef like Colin Hinds to explore and for gastronomes to experience.
If you like to pontificate about flavour (we are shameless!), have a unique experience or just enjoy a damn fine meal, The Whisky Forager is the place for you. There is the opportunity to sample whiskies you maybe couldn't otherwise afford alongside delicious Scottish seasonal food. The pop-up's lifespan may be brief though, so booking now is advised. Hell - book twice!
The Whisky Forager
112 St Stephen Street Edinburgh EH3 5AD
0131 220 6677
Wednesday to Sunday 7pm