Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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Ambiance
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7.5/10
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December 8, 2016

Forage & Chatter, Edinburgh, Restaurant Review

Forage & Chatter serves the sort of food that's best appreciated in silence, says Gaby Soutar

Well, it’s because many of our ingredients are…”

“Foraged?” I interjected.

“Yes, and we want people to relax and feel free to…”

“Chatter?”

“Yes.”

You know when you ask a stupid question about a restaurant’s name, when it’s very self explanatory? That’s my hobby. I always do it.

You never know, I could have found out this place, in the former premises of Edinburgh Larder Bistro, is owned by Ms Forage and Mr Chatter, or that its name has an obscure literary reference (see Edinburgh cafe Love Crumbs, whose namesake is a poem by EE Cummings), maybe to a book about macaques.

Anyway, talking lots is not something I like to do over food. I’ll do it inbetween mouthfuls, of course, but too much of it and a dish can disappear without you even tasting it.

My friend Claire understands that. We catch up when the plates are clear.

On this visit, we were engrossed and almost completely chatter free, even when we burnt our fingertips on the amuse bouche of savoury doughnut-esque South African fried bread rolls.

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Though a potential appetite assassinator, these were lovely, with pesto on the side as well as a scoop of butter sprinkled with an ash-coloured mushroom powder.

Munch-munch, no talky.

Our imaginative starters, chosen from the à la carte menu (though there’s also a two course lunch deal for £14.95, three for £17.95), also required a bit of meditative concentration.

She’d gone for the veggie option of mushroom carpaccio (£8.50), which featured fat beefy slabs of white mushroom flesh, a cushion of mushroom purée, three breadcrumbed bollards of goat’s cheese, sorrel leaves, a mushy purée and a mushy powder.

Great flavours. The only weird thing was that the fromage bonbons were hot, and everything else fridge cold.

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Lack of heat also took the shine off the BBQ pork shoulder (£8.50) offering. It was barely tepid. However, it was a winner otherwise, with five-spiced soft pig, battered squid tentacles, thinly sliced florets and radish petals sinking into a moussey cloud of cauliflower purée, like disco dancers being enveloped by dry ice.

My main of monkfish (£17.50) was only slightly warmer than my starter, though it was still good comfort eating for those who like sweet savouries, with draught excluder sized chunks of spiced fish, a squash purée, toasted seeds and a bay-infused melted butter moat.

Claire went for pearl barley (£15) – a creamy risotto with chives and nanoparticle-sized bits of veg, plus cubes of roasted celeriac, kale, more blobs of the balsamic-y onion purée and slippery onion bits. Maybe it needed a bit more depth, but it was a more than decent veggie option.

Skim-reading has a lot to answer for. I’d gone for the “pear, prune, thyme and hazelnut crumbles” (£6) because I’d read it as crumble, as in “oooh, crumble and custard, nice on a wintery day like this”.

It turned out to be a cold and very sweet prune compote with accompaniments of sliced poached pear and a spoonful of a light crispy granola-ish crumble. Very nice, but in a breakfast-time way.

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Claire chose the Valrhona chocolate (£6). It resembled a cream-splashed stegosaurus, with a segmented body of rich ganache quenelles, and spines made from peanutty biscuit bits that tasted like compressed honeycomb studded with peanut scales.

Not fair. That’s the one I’d have chosen, if Claire hadn’t bagged it. Instead, I had to work my way through a cold crumble that had never even been one in the first place.

That killed the chat stone dead. Still, I suppose Forage & Ignore Each Other Over Lunch Because You’re Enjoying the Food and She Bagged the Best Dessert, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Forage & Chatter

1a Alva Street, Edinburgh

(0131-225 4599, www.forageandchatter.com)

How much?

Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £61.50

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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