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Slow Food, Big Table at Cafe St Honore
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Cafe St Honore
34 North West Thistle Street Lane,
EH12 1EA
0131 226 2211

I'm late, I'm late for a very, important date.  

Apologies to chef Neil Forbes for interrupting his flow as I enter Cafe St Honore like Alice's rabbit for the Slow Food Big Table event.

I am, however, soon calm and drawn into the introductory talk Neil is delivering.  Peelham Farm charcuterie, Errington's cheese biscuits, Belhaven smokehouse kipper pate and homemade sourdough shave the edge from my appetite as I listen. He talks about the connection between love and food and his visit to Terre Madre several years ago, the international annual slow food festival held in Italy where the movement was born.  The experience, he says, confirmed all his gastronomic passions and instincts and he returned inspired and determined to uncover more local suppliers and to cook with a broader range of ingredients from Scotland's natural larder.

Our main course is Phantassie organic chard, golden beetroot, Gypsey potatoes and Lanark Blue bake with toasted buckwheat. It's one of those dishes I eat while also plotting to cook it at home. I have always eaten Humphrey Errington's artisan raw milk cheese on its own but cooked in this bake its flavour shines. Layers of earthy leaves and roots between mandolined slices of tatties are garnished with a heap of fresh salad leaves and toasted buckwheat redolent of the texture of Dijon mustard. 

The rain has been pelting down all day, so fat scarlet strawberries from the Ochils on top of buttermilk pudding remind us it is actually summer. An ancient grain beremeal adds a subtle, pleasing texture to homemade shortbread.  

Love for ingredients, producers, people and sustainability infuse Neil's business ethos. He reveals how he and his staff have a 'coffee huddle' each morning. No talk of work allowed - just a 'how are you?' His compassion for food, its production and for all those people connected with it, put into daily practice in a simple act.

Mrs Bite has a secret personal rule. Make friends with Italians as they are always close to where the good food is.

The Italian community in Edinburgh are very involved in Slow Food Edinburgh carrying the torch for the movement's founder Carlo Petrini in our city.

If you love good food and a convivial atmosphere the next event takes place at Cafe St Honore in June 12 and the subject will be The Future of Food. (S. Wilson)

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