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Forage & Chatter
New Review
1a Alva St, ,
0131 225 4599
Tues-Sat 12-230, 6-11 Closed Sun/Mon


A home from home. That is how the owner of Forage and Chatter describes this tucked away West End restaurant. 

And pots of herbs, the aroma of coffee and cooking, a calm green colour palette with touches of warm copper and textures of wood and fabric do indeed hit a hygge sweetspot. F& C has a very relaxed vibe. 

5 Stars on Trip Advisor and a buzzy ambience on a snowy Wednesday night bode well as me and Mr Bite take our seats. 

On perusing the menu we realise a commitment to locally-sourced produce is more than just a name-checking exercise. Ingredients such as sea buckthorn, monkfish, crab and deer jump out. Mr B is delighted with a choice of beers from the Top Out Brewery. As well as being good beer we also like their signature labels depicting Munros. 

For starters we have the crab bisque and pig cheek, both characterised by intensity of flavour and perfect execution. My bisque has a pouring consistency that encourages eager spooning and a depth and richness that only comes from very good stock. Leeks however, manage to be delicately al dente demonstrating fine attention to detail whilst fennel and mussels complete the flavour profile of this refined starter. Mr Bite says the pig cheek is simultaneously both rich and tender from its slow cooking. His eyes veer heavenward from the first mouthful. 

Let’s rewind a moment to the homemade dough balls, yoghurt butter with mushroom powder and herby pesto. Dough is taken to the stage where it usually enters the oven but instead is rolled into spheres and briefly deep-fried; the result is crispy, crusty, warm appetisers which are broken and dolloped with creamy butter; ultra comforting on a snowy eve. 

Who could resist loin of deer for main course. It arrives as a plentiful portion medium rare and juicy on a bed of creamed celeriac, kale and jus. It’s a satisfying and seasonal dish and I enjoy savouring the last of the winter produce before spring is upon us. Mr Bite praises his monkfish on a bed of Puy lentils with crispy bacon. Meaty robust fish, riffs of salty pig and firm flavoursome legumes. 

Our puddings are contrasting in character. I have sea buckthorn, carrot cake, orange, pistachio and white chocolate which is mouth-watering and citrussy, a fruity palate-cleanser. Mr Bite plumps for a luscious rich combo of Vahlrona dulcey mousse, coffee, amaretti and  hazelnut. 

Forage and Chatter take the best produce and presents tasty refined Scottish dishes in a cosy, relaxed atmosphere. (S. Wilson) 

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Good food nae chatter 

I had avoided this basement since the Larder moved because the name just rankles.  Forage, I get, and like.  Chatter?  No-one with brain enough to care what they eat wants to be associated with mere chatter, putting us chimp-like in our place.  Male and female alike recoil at this (I asked), particularly when applied to a restaurant, rather than a café.

Which is a real shame because, if you can get past this, there is much to impress in the kitchen.  Seems ‘chatter’ was meant to evoke ‘relaxed’, rather than raise hackles.  Another gaffe in offering the well-selected wine list only to ‘sir’, not recognising ‘madam’ might be the consumer with wine qualifications, was offset by thoroughly engaging charm.

So breathe … cutlery poised … and we’re off, with the house ‘mini-doughnut’ canapé.  Nice vehicle for interesting parsley & dill pesto and intense powdered ‘shroom-topped whipped yoghourt butter, neatly referencing the wild mushroom logo.  Appetite piqued and soul now soothed, our starters (c£8) were generous and eye-openingly good.  My liver parfait was truly voluptuous, balanced with honey & lemon dressed endive & parsnip puree.  His BBQ pork shoulder with crispy squid, cauliflower & radish elicited rave reviews and looked the part.  Melting, smoky-sweet meat, with enjoyably fine snippets of crispy squid rather than the usual tyres.

His venison loin next was topped with hazelnut crumb on a sweet prune sauce with celeriac.  I had gone for (tangy) curried (rich) butter monkfish with baby squash & toasted seeds.  Both dishes (c£17.50) sweet but delicious on a cold, rainy night, being perfectly seasonal.  A steak knife had been supplied but the loin was cooked rare and cut like butter.  Our greens were saltwater-steamed sprouting broccoli which had then been braised with garlic & ginger.  I’m being precise about the cooking method because it produced amazingly tender stems, perhaps in conjunction with perfectly-timed picking of the product.  

Now in a good pud (£6) mood, I enjoyed refreshing lemon curd dressed with Douglas fir syrup, but envy led my spoon over to intercept some of sir’s ‘Vahlrona chocolate & peanut’.
This is what good restaurants do – take damp, suspicious punters, wave a magic wand and send them forth gleeful, having turned average expectation into outright admiration.

Go Forage! (and less of your Chatter).
(The Go-Between)

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