APHORISMS, maxims and adages. Only Dolly Parton or Oscar Wilde should be allowed. Otherwise, random people write cringey ones, they end up on signs sold in gift shops and then appear in places like this bar and bistro, which is stuffed with them.
40 Portobello High Street
(0131 669 2750, www.forestersguild.co.uk)
“Do more of what makes you happy”; “Smile until your face hurts”; “Life is short”; “Give me the coffee and nobody gets hurt”.
The worst ones are chalked on to the blackboards; “Restaurants are like mouth brothels, there’s no point going to them if one intends to keep one’s belt buckled, F Raphael”, and “He was a wise man who invented beer.” I thought about writing; “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” on a napkin, but decided not to be so facetious.
From the outside, this mouth brothel looks hipster-tastic, with a stripped back shop front and highly polished brass plaques like the ones you’d see outside a building society.
I imagined the clientele might be all beard and no socks, but it’s not quite as trendy indoors.
There are tub chairs and those faux marble topped pub tables, a vintage map of Portobello printed on the ceiling, bell jar-like lampshades and, out back, a beer garden with sorbet-coloured and sock-striped beach huts. On our Sunday lunchtime visit, the place was packed with families.
The menu is nicely designed, in that it’s not thesis-length, but there’s enough to please pub grubbers as well as hoity toities.
We went for the bistro-style smoked ham hock and rabbit terrine (£6.50) and macaroni cheddar cheese and mozzarella bon bons (£5.95). The latter consisted of three breaded bollards of stringy melted cheese, with pasta tubes trapped in the dairy lava. They came with a ramekin of vinegary sweet chilli sauce, which tasted more sophisticated than the usual hot jam, but was annoyingly watery so wouldn’t adhere to the bon-bons’ curves. Still, this option was the calamine lotion to a stodgy food itch that’s usually only satisfied by macaroni pie.
My starter was a nicely presented gelatine-clad and marbled brick of pink and white meat, which was laced with caraway seed and finely chopped leek. Though the carrot ingredient was a little too chunky and solid, this protein fix tasted clean, with semi-transparent sheets of rolled white-wine-vinegar-pickled vegetable on the side and a smudge of cayenne pepper-dusted “piccalilli purée”.
Our first main – Loch Duart salmon (£10.95) – featured a pile of rather bland tasting ratatouille, but also a buttery golden-fringed rosti and a well-seasoned piece of fish, with skin as crisp as a newly-minted bank note.
The Gressingham duck leg cassoulet (£10.95) was equally good, with a paprika-sweet mixture of haricot beans under a fat and soft limb. Perhaps we could have done without the lumps of oddly crumbly and blah chorizo, and they could have done something to jazz up some unadorned steamed kale, but, hey, one can’t have everything.
At least they spoiled us with the puddings. Chocolate and hazelnut brownie (£5.95) was grown-up rather than kiddyish – rich, sticky-centred and cocoa-steamy, with a scoop of double cream and a dozen kirsch-injected cherries on the side.
A bowlful of slick and lush panna cotta (£4.95) was topped with cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced plum quarters and a layer of their fruity blood.
Hey Guild of Foresters, write this on one of your signs: This place won’t make you smile until your face hurts, laugh until you can’t breathe or dance like nobody’s watching, but we’re definitely no lemon.
Lunch for two, excluding drinks