I hesitate to use the word hipster as it can be a bit patronising, but I promise you in this case it is meant with the greatest affection. I happened across Forest Cafe one day while out and about in Edinburgh looking for something reasonably priced to eat and boy, did we strike gold with this place.
The whole place is run by volunteers and is a charity that supports local artists. The decor inside and out is decidedly arty. On the ceiling as we walked in hung what looked like a frame filled with upside-down cones made of carpet.
The random bunting, odd posters and intricate drawings on the wall reminded me of many a student flat I’d visited in the nineties and to be honest, I felt instantly at home. Some find art spaces pretentious, but I felt this was the very opposite. There was a casual, friendly approach to service, which suited us fine.
We ordered at the counter, the menu being displayed on a chalk board behind it. Everything is vegetarian here, with most being vegan too, or able to be made vegan on request. We opted for a falafel meal and some nachos. The prices here are incredibly reasonable, which is very welcome in what can be an expensive city for eating out.
The table tops were cut-outs of old maps and what looked like pages from magazines, arranged into collages and laminated. We looked around and there seemed to be a fair few regulars here, some even bringing their canine companions in for a drink. This place is also very near University-land, so students frequent Forest as well.
We didn’t have to wait very long for our food and we decided to share both when our plates came. I tucked into the nachos with glee and although the sauce hadn’t been what I was expecting, it was very tasty. My hands got a bit messy halfway through, and when I asked for a napkin I was given some blue kitchen roll which did the job nicely. The falafel meal had lots of different tastes and the hummus especially was just gorgeous. Both dishes were really well presented, yummy and filling.
We sat sipping on our ginger beer for a bit and took in the surroundings. It seems this place supports all kinds of artists covering everything from knitting clubs, to spoken word, through musical concerts to freestyle humming (whatever that is…) It’s an inclusive place that encourages you to share out any leftover food you may have. They have free bread and a free shop and all of their exhibitions and events are free. It’s a rare thing, especially in a large city.
The longer we sat the more we felt we should try out a vegan dessert, so we shared one of their date slices which was very rich and satisfying with its crumble-style topping. I honestly can’t fault anything about Forest Cafe. The food is scrumptious, the prices very affordable and with an atmosphere of casual friendliness, you couldn’t really ask for much more.