I interviewed restaurateur and chef Roberta Hall-McCarron recently.
We talked about her new place, Eleanore, which has moved into the old premises of her recently relocated restaurant, The Little Chartroom, now on Bonnington Road.
I also heard about her die-hard customers. She has diners who book a table every Sunday, and they’ll block the whole year off for them.
I’d love to be one of those but restaurant reviewers are itinerant. It’s like I’m constantly on Tinder, having first dates, but never taking it any further. I’m the hummingbird, going flower to flower. Eleanore is my latest nectar stop.
However, The Little Chartroom fanclub has monopolised it already, as we could only get a Saturday table at noon, and that was bagged weeks in advance.
Hall-McCarron and her husband Shaun McCarron have transformed the space. There are now three tables positioned parallel to each other, as if you’re on a boat, as well as coxswain window seats. They only have high stools, which my sciatica would normally grumble about, but these are comfy ones. The playlist is Fleetwood Mac, The Velvet Underground, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston. My other half was black affrontit by my hammy lip-synching.
There are also prints of Hall-McCarron’s family boat, also named Eleanore, and clever filing units on the wall where you can slot the menu and wine list.
We tried a glass of Fleche Saignante Crémant d’Alsace, Domaine Brand & Fils, France (£9.50), which tasted like barley sugar and pastry, and the sunshiney citrussy tonic that was escubac and salted grapefruit (£6).
There are small plates and bigger ones. We ordered six, and, in contrast to the usual sharing plate convention, they didn’t come out when ready, but consecutively.
The first and littlest dish was the cured halibut, orange kosho (£7.50) with four cat’s tongues of fish. They were simple and sea fresh, with a button of kosho on each. The taste of this reminded me of that Tango advert that was banned because primary school kids tried to reenact it. The one when the big tangerine-hued man slapped whoever was taking a swig of the juice. Anyway, it was intensely citrusy and fresh, then the chilli heat clubbed us, like we were baby seals.
Next was the flatbread with sunflower seed and lovage (£4.50). There were two well fired, cross-hatched and crumpet-y breads, with a lovely spongy chewy-ness, and a dollop of sunflower seed hummus on the side that was topped by a bright green lovage oil tarn.
The hash brown (£7) was third in line. Apparently, this was one of the favourites at their Portobello lockdown pop-up, The Little Chartroom on the Prom, which has now closed. We had two of these oily and crispy-shelled blocks, along with a heap of chopped hispi cabbage that was dotted with little pink shrimps, and came with pink dots of their tangy XO Marie Rose sauce on the side.
Both of us also loved the BBQ king oyster (£11), with bits of this Henry VIII sized royal mushie, as well as the strangely amorphous maitake (or hen-of-the-woods). There were lots of lovely pickled bits in the smoky tasting mix, including mushrooms and shallot, as well as celeriac puree and a beautifully acidic and rich shiitake Bordelaise.
"Maitake translates as dancing mushrooms in Japanese”, I told my husband, and he looked nervous, as Tina Turner had just come on the stereo and I was looking antsy.
I remained seated as our pumpkin tortelli (£14) arrived. This dish consisted of six parcels of yolky yellow and sturdy pasta, each filled with a creamy pumpkin paste, and there were shards of pressed and pickled pumpkin, plus a seasoning of long pepper and some crispy sage, to lift the creamy and carby-ness.
Last up was the most substantial dish of pork (£21). It was a beautiful piece of char-edged loin, and came with wedges of soft quince, chicory that was topped by a golden feathery blanket of toasted fennel seeds and a sherry sauce. It had a lovely contrast of fatty rich-ness and bitter piquant flavours.
There was no space for pudding, so we couldn’t try the tirami-choux (£8.50). I assign you to try it on your visit, and report to me immediately afterwards, so I can live vicariously.
The food at this place is sophisticated and intriguing. It doesn’t always go straight for the obvious salty, sugary, buttery jugular, but draws you in, like a siren song or Proud Mary. (On the stereo here, and I know ALL the lyrics).
I want to be one of their rolling-on-the-river regulars.
30-31 Albert Place
(0131 600 0990, www.eleanore.uk)
Places to try Nearby
We passed this place after visiting Eleanore and it was hoaching, so we’re pleased to see it’s still a popular spot. Current dishes include beef cheek spring roll with aubergine and miso, gochujang glaze and sesame, as well as its especially walnut whip dessert.
Gulp Ramen, 9 Albert Place, Edinburgh (www.gulpramen.com)
If you’re in the mood for noodles, then try this ramen joint. It just reopened after a holiday, and they’re serving their pork and prawn dumplings, shiitake and kaffir lime broth, as well as bowls of shoyu and tonkotsu ramen.
For those who walk off lunch, then wish that they had ordered dessert, you can always visit this Portuguese bakehouse and espresso bar for its excellent pastel de nata