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The Forager, Dollar, review - Dean Banks adds a country pub to his empire

We experience the latest Scottish gastropub

Published: February 25, 2023

It’ll be wild garlic time soon. When the scent of ramsons fills the air, we can officially celebrate surviving another winter.

​Of course, these plants, which grow everywhere, are foraging 101.

​I’m sure chef Dean Banks is way more advanced and knows his pignuts from sweet cicely.

​In fact, he’s named his new dog-friendly place in tribute, with a logo that consists of a hand holding a freshly plucked leaf. As this restaurateur is a MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 finalist, another potential title might have been The Greg’s Arms, but maybe he can roll that out as a second branch next year.

​Banks has taken over the former premises of Dollar pub, The Kings Seat, and installed a slightly incongruous travel-themed interior, with luggage straps on seats.

The Forager

​There’s also a huge video screen, which was playing a film of a log fire on our visit, and the double level space means you can watch the waiting staff expertly negotiating the stairs with drinks on trays. One of them had an ingenious squatting method. Not a drop was spilled and they’ll probably develop buns of steel.

​This venue is the latest addition to Banks’ rapidly expanding empire, which includes The Pompadour and Dulse restaurants in Edinburgh, Haar St Andrews, Haar At Home, Waagyu Burger, Mond Vodka and Lunun Gin.

​According to the press release, he opened this three-month-old place as he couldn’t find the perfect Scottish country pub, in the style of celebrity chef Tom Kerridge’s English venues. (Perhaps he hasn’t experienced The Bonnie Badger, Kinneuchar Inn et al).

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​Anyway, the foraging theme only seems to extend as far as the branding. Their lunchtime menu features the prerequisite pub classics, like fish and chips, Sunday roast, pies, but also fancier bits.

​I’m pretty sure I’ve had the trout pastrami (£9) at Dulse, and I enjoyed it last time too. For the fishy redux, there was a fan of size-six-shoe-length strips, along with a large dollop of creme fraiche that was topped by herby oil, and three lacy pieces of sea-salted rye bread melba toast on the side. In contrast to the Edinburgh restaurant, it’s a few quid cheaper to experience this dish in Dollar and the portion seems supersized.

​Despite this, it was still the Jack Sprat to my other half’s mega plateful.

​When you read ‘ham hock croquette’ (£10), you might expect something matchbox-sized. Four mouthfuls at the most.

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​This was a brick of a thing, with salty shredded meat in a pale crumbly coating, and a caper-laden sauce gribiche on the side, as well as, in another ramekin, a take on piccalilli. To justify eating this mighty helping, we’re going to have to ditch our office jobs and take up tough manual labour. If any walls need building in Dollar, sign us up.

​We know Banks is a whizz with fish, and the main course of copper-skinned roast cod (£30) didn’t disappoint.

​It came on a silky pile of lightly citrusy lemon mash, along with struts of BBQ broccoli, with char-edged florets, as if someone had singed their bouffant, as well as a rich and buttery chicken sauce. This was the perfect follow-up to the hefty pork starter.

​My spiced lamb rump (£26) featured three chunky and bouncy coasters of pink meat, with a dukkah-ish crust, and a pleasingly acidic chimichurri on the side, as well as a portion of skinny fries.

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​If you’re a pub, I suppose you have to have sticky toffee pudding (£8) on the list. However, it’s only a minor crime not to order it and, as we don’t have any previous convictions, I think we’ll be okay.

​We went for something a bit lighter and shared a helping of passionfruit creme brulee (£8). It was sunshine yellow, slick, lush and fruity, with the prerequisite tortoiseshell sugar seal that dug deep into my molars. This dish made me sink a little lower into the banquette. Perhaps we could spend the entire afternoon here, while warming our cockles beside the video of the open fire.

​Scotland has another excellent country pub and I’d be happy to see out the rest of the winter in this space.

​Give me a shout when the wild garlic appears.

The Forager

19-23 Bridge Street


(01259 742 200)

Ham hock croquette

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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