A Chef’s Guide To Edinburgh With Roberta Hall-McCarron

A Chef’s Guide To Edinburgh With Roberta Hall-McCarron

The Edinburgh-born restaurateur takes us on a tour of her hometown, sharing the best breakfast spots, must-visit independent shops and a foodie startup to watch

the drum for Scotland’s natural larder, Edinburgh-born
Roberta Hall-McCarron is the brains behind restaurant The Little
and wine bar Eleanore. The chef, who enjoyed stints in
several award-winning kitchens before starting her own venture with
husband Shaun in 2018, works carefully with the seasons to source
locally and responsibly.

“My menus change all the time and dishes don’t always make a
reappearance, but that’s the beauty of seasonality,” says
Hall-McCarron. “A lot of foodies associate me with game dishes. I
have a number of guests who visit on 12 August. It’s the first day
of the year for grouse and, while it changes every year, the bones
and the way it’s traditionally prepared remain the same.”

It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is both saturated
and predominantly male. “The kitchens I had worked in were
masculine and aggressive, and sexist remarks were commonly made, so
I can understand why women find it hard,” says Hall-McCarron. “I
personally used this as fuel and an incentive to ensure my own
kitchens would never look like that.”

Roberta Hall-McCarron and Sean
Little Chartroom, Food

Roberta and Shaun, left, and a The Little Chartroom dish. |
Photo credit: Aemilia Claudia

The Little Chartroom and Eleanore – which occupies the same
space the restaurant started out in – have become the coolest
hangouts in the Scottish capital. Keen to discover Hall-McCarron’s
tips on how to best spend a weekend in the city, we caught up with
her to chat favourite spots for breakfast, where we should be
staying and the foodie startup that’s making waves.

Where To Eat In Edinburgh According To Chef Roberta

Edinburgh, Scotland Street
Edinburgh, Scotland Castle

City mews, left, and Edinburgh Castle

When’s the best time to visit Edinburgh?

During the Festival Fringe in August. The atmosphere in the city
is electric; there are so many fantastic arts and cultural

Where should we stay?

in the Grassmarket is the perfect self-catered
apartment. The location is ideal and the airy design is beautiful.
It’s helmed by a young couple who have an appetite for craft and
considered architecture.

How should we get around?

On foot. The magic of Edinburgh is that everything is within
walking distance.

Where should we head for breakfast?

Ante. Run by the same team as neighbourhood wine bar
Spry, the charming coffee house is perched at the top of Leith
Walk. You’ll find everything from hot-cross buns to feta flatbreads
and homemade sausage rolls. I can’t recommend it enough.

Eleanore, Interiors
Eleanore, Dining

Inside Eleanore, and something from the menu. | Photo
credit: Aemilia Claudia

We’re having dinner at The Little Chartroom, of course,
followed by a drink at Eleanore. What do you recommend?

The Little Chartroom is where I always cook. It offers
an à la carte menu with the choice of three dishes for each course.
Standouts include the beef short rib, served with creamed potato in
a barbecue sauce, and plaice on the bone, served with golden
beetroot and fennel dressed in a cider butter sauce. There’s also
an exceptional rhubarb and hibiscus doughnut. Always order the game
if it’s the season.

Eleanore is our more casual restaurant and wine bar. It offers a
fixed menu and snacks to savour with a glass of wine – the martinis
are superb, too. There’s an emphasis on Scottish produce at both
addresses. While the spaces are both inspired by our coastline,
with nautical illustrations and decorative maps, it’s Eleanore
that’s the louder little sister, with its central location, high
tables and bar stools.

Give us a run-down on the local bar scene.

I love Nauticus in Leith – it’s my favourite bar for any
occasion. Mistral, a wine bar right next door to The Little
Chartroom, is also great. It stocks a stellar selection of
low-intervention and independent wine labels, plus the vibe is
always super-chilled. If it’s cocktails you’re after, then head
into town to Bramble Bar or Lucky Liquor Co.

Edinburgh, Door
Edinburgh, Street

Edinburgh in spring, left, and city streets

Any startups making positive changes that we should know

Aemilia is a brilliant little pasta shop in
Portobello. They take great care in their sourcing, which shows in
the quality and flavour of their product. At the moment, it’s a
shop, but I hope to see it grow into a restaurant in the near

A favourite independent shop we should check out?

Lifestory is my go-to shop in Edinburgh. I can spend
hours there – and a lot of money in the process. They have
beautiful ceramics and homeware, but also stunning stationery,
jewellery and clothing, too.

How should we spend a weekend in the city?

On the first night, I’d keep it casual: Gulp Ramen is
always a good bet, followed by a drink in Spry. Take a
morning stroll to Arthur’s Seat, after which you’ll want to slip
into Edinburgh Castle, before rewarding yourself with a seafood
lunch at Ondine. Make it dinner at The Little
and cocktails in town. Sundays call for a long, lazy
breakfast at Ante, best chased with a wander along the shore for a
couple of hours.

And, lastly, any trends we should look out for on the food
scene in 2023?

Towards the end of last year, we started seeing a lot more
fine-dining restaurants introduce set menus to keep costs low and
ensure great-value experiences for their guests, which has been a
focus at our restaurants, too. I think we will see even more of
this in 2023.

I also believe that having a solid non-alcoholic offering is
growing more important. We make a lot of shrubs in-house and also
work with Feragaia, a great Scottish non-alcoholic spirits

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