It’s a real perk of my job that I get to go out and eat (mainly) delicious food and drink.
Because of this I am often asked either what my favourite restaurant is, or where’s best to go for a meal, usually in Edinburgh. More often than not I refer friends, family and random strangers to my colleague Gaby’s review as she’s been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Saturday magazine for over 15 years, as well as being an Edinburgh native.
But if they really press me for an answer, I’ll often mention chefs who I know are doing stellar work, one of these being Roberta Hall-McCarron, who’s the co-owner of The Little Chartroom, and Eleanore, which opened last year.
I first tried Roberta’s food back in 2019 when she was a guest chef at Gleneagles for one night only. Covid soon hit, which put paid to any future dinners in Edinburgh.
But I followed her journey, from collaborations to TV appearances on the Great British Menu. So it’s a no brainer when choosing where to visit on a rare trip to Edinburgh on a Saturday afternoon.
The Little Chartroom opened in 2018 by Roberta and husband Sean, and has been named in the Estrella Damm National restaurant Awards Top 100 list, won an award from The List magazine and has been Michelin recommended since 2019.
In 2022 it was announced that the restaurant would be relocating to Bonnington Road, from Albert Place, with Eleanore taking the place of the original Little Chartroom.
Named after Roberta’s love of sailing (with Elenore being named after the boat owned by Roberta’s family and named by her mother), the menu takes in land and sea, and is guided by what is available from farmers and fishermen. Here, Roberta creates dishes showcasing her French-British cooking techniques and passion for the best of Scottish produce.
Inside you’ll find a calming palette of rich blue and white, with simple bench and light wood Scandi/Ercol style chairs. The lively open kitchen is at the heart of the restaurant, and there’s a separate bar area for pre and post dinner drinks.
We managed to get booked for a late lunch on a Saturday in November and were very much looking forward to finally visiting the restaurant.
After ordering a couple of drinks - a dry sherry for me (a reminder of my recent holiday to Spain) and a glass of Lebanese Syrah red wine for my boyfriend, we took a look at the concise menu which had three options for each course - all of which were very seasonal.
The three course à la carte menu is £65 per person, with matched wines at £36 per person. Having been at a wedding the night before, we decided to stick to just one drink, so we quickly decided on what to have.
I went for the veggie options, starting with the Spenwood cheese and caramelised onion tart while my boyfriend chose an autumnal array of wild game, starting with venison carpaccio.
My cheese tart consisted of a crisp activated charcoal base, filled with sweet and mellow caramelised onions, topped with a subtle cheese custard and a vibrant herb oil. It was a good size for a starter and tasty without being too rich.
Across the table the venison carpaccio was served with a fennel emulsion, pickled baby turnip crunchy buckwheat, capers and an egg yolk.
A wonderfully balanced dish, the thin and delicate venison was complemented by the punchy fennel that added just enough punch with its hint of aniseed, crunch came from the pickled baby turnips and puffed capers, and the egg yolk added a creaminess. This dish went really well with the Lebanese Syrah.
For mains, my vegetarian course was wild mushroom agnolotti, served with Jerusalem artichoke while the meat course was partridge, game scotch pie, carrot maitake and walnut.
The perfectly al dente, yellow hued pasta, stuffed full of wild mushrooms, was served with chunks of earthy artichoke and topped with thin and crisp artichoke crisps and a mushroom and cream sauce. A real taste of autumn, this dish was the right mix of rich, slightly sweet and nutty thanks to the veg.
For anyone that watched Roberta on the Great British Menu, you might remember her beef pie. The Little Chartroom is offering this creation as a pre-order for Christmas.
The partridge includes a wee scotch pie, but it’s the bird that’s the star of this show. Both the leg and breast were included in this dish. The breast came with a seed topping and sat on top of some wilted greens.
The freshness of the greens balance nicely with the flavour of the game. The legs were on the bone and not the easiest to eat with a knife and fork, but was tackled by just picking them up and eating with fingers (apologies to the table next to us).
The highlight of this dish was a sharp jus/sauce which brought everything to life with a little bit of tartness.
For dessert I chose the pear saravin while it was the cheese course of Colston Basset stilton, quince tarte tatin and honey vinegar that was ordered.
The pear saravin, which looked a bit like a doughnut, was soaked in pear brandy and was studded with caramelised barley with a pear compote in the centre and a side of sour cream and cardamom ice cream. Despite looking dense, the sponge was light as a feather, while the buttery pears were simply delicious.
The barley added some texture and I could have eaten an entire portion of the sublet spiced ice cream.
The Stilton was nice and creamy and salty, and paired really well with the sweetness and denseness of the tarte tatin. There wasn’t much of a vinegar taste from the honey vinegar but overall the flavours worked well together.
I wasn't disappointed by the Little Chartroom, from the look and feel of the restaurant to the dishes and service from staff, it was a triumph. With the option for a tasting menu also available, it’s an ideal spot for a celebratory dinner or, like us, just a relaxed lunch. Next time it won’t take me so long to visit.