Aged Beef & Braised Ox Cheek, gnocchi, caramelised onion, turnip, cavolo nero – £22.00 – James
After a quick search of the best restaurants in the city, it didn’t take long before I was booking a table for Forage & Chatter, an independent and locally run restaurant, nicely located in the West End of the city. I wanted to make Jessica’s birthday dinner extra special and a highlight of our visit, and that I certainly did.
We were welcomed warmly, had our jackets taken for us, and seated in the corner of the main part of the restaurant. It is split into a few areas, one of the others being the conservatory, which later on was described to us by our waiter and owner, Cameron. It has a retractable roof for natural light in the day time, and since taking over the restaurant in late last year, this along with the rest of the restaurant has been completely improved and renovated.
It was clear from our quick chat with him that he was a serious businessman, with extremely high standards and an impressive background in food and hospitality. This was glowingly reflected in our experience here at Forage & Chatter.
There’s a story behind the impeccable food we had here. Everything is ‘foraged’ locally, within a 25 mile radius of the restaurant. Each staff member had excellent knowledge of the produce that was on the menu, and even always volunteered to explain everything that you might have a question about.
South African style dough balls with pesto, and yoghurt butter with powdered mushroom
First of all, we decided to treat ourselves to a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the extensive wine list. I don’t often opt for wine, but Cameron was more than happy to offer me a taste before we indulged in the bottle. It turned out to be light, fruity and perfect alongside our three course meal.
These delicious and fantastic looking dough balls unexpectedly arrived just after our drinks and were by far the best dough balls we’ve come across. The pesto and butter awoken the taste buds, leaving them crying out for more great food. They were in luck…
Mushroom Carpaccio, goats cheese, herbs – £8.50 – Jessica
Both starters were impeccable and beautifully presented, with strong flavours and unusual yet perfect combinations. In both dishes was the perfect balance of crunch and soft creaminess, and it only whet our appetites and excitement levels for the main courses.
BBQ Pork Shoulder, crispy squid, cauliflower, radish – £8.50 – James
The menu offers a limited selection, but it’s one of those which you know has brilliance stamped over every dish. There were always a couple of vegetarian options for each course, and both meat and fish options too. We both were looking to have something a little different, and take advantage of the fresh and locally sourced meat and fish from the menu. Jessica opted for hake, which she’d never had at a restaurant before, and my steak dish included braised ox cheek, again another first for me.
My word, both were immaculate and deceptively filling. We really can’t find anything to critique. A shared side of rosemary chips made a nice addition and turned out to be a great source of banter with our waiter. Jessica was adamant we would have to have one each as she is in no way going to share, but he made sure we knew the portion was by far enough for even us two. He was right – it’s the little things that made the service speak volumes.
West Coast Hake, onion, courgette, dill, wild leek – £17.00 – Jessica
When I booked via Open Table I made a note to make an extra effort as it was Jessica’s birthday. Without having to ask or be reminded, this plate arrived just before our dessert. Hilarious moment of the visit was when one waitress told Jessica to lick the plate to not waste the good chocolate! Of course she did, only for the one other table left in the restaurant to start giggling! We’re still not quite sure if they believed that we’d been told to do it!
We took inspiration from the table next door to us and ordered exactly the same desserts as we overheard their rave reviews, particularly of the doughnuts. They were a great choice, again of fantastic presentation, and a perfect end to a perfect meal.
But that wasn’t all, as an extra birthday treat we were given a glass of Tokaji dessert wine. In Cameron’s days working in premium restaurants and bars in London, he told us of stories when he sold this at £440 per shot. More affordable versions of this are available – he didn’t just give us about £2000 worth of alcohol! It was so sweet and mainly tasted of honey, a perfect compliment to both desserts, especially my alunga chocolate.
Sea Buckthorn, almond, doughnut, white chocolate – £6.00 – Jessica
Before we left we told Cameron that we were off to look for somewhere to grab another drink or two before heading back to our hotel. He recommended a place called Panda & Son’s, which was only about 5 minutes walk away. It’s a secret hideaway bar, only known mostly to locals. The front presents itself as a barbers shop, with prices in dollars. Go down the staircase and through the library looking door, and you are in one of Edinburgh’s best bars. We stayed and had a drink and popcorn, and we’re so glad we listened to the recommendation.
Alunga chocolate – £6.00 – James
Overall, it was the most complete night and dining experience. The food, service and atmosphere were all spot on. It’s easy to see why the restaurant in its short existence has risen to the top of many best restaurant lists. It’s certainly up there with the best we have ever been to.
Customer service: ★★★★★