My Life in Food – Roberta Hall McCarron, The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh |
Roberta Hall McCarron was named Young British Foodie Chef of Year in 2018 and Food & Travel’s Emerging Chef of the Year in 2019. Now, the chef patron of The Little Chartroom in Edinburgh can add Great British Menu contestant to her name, as she’ll be representing Scotland in the BBC’s hit cooking competition this May. Here, she shares her favourite restaurants and home cooking tips…
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The restaurant I remember from my childhood is San Marco's, a family friendly Italian in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Sadly, it's no longer there, but it was where my family and extended family would go for every special occasion. I had lasagne every time.

The first dish I learned to cook was lemon tart. I was working part-time at The Tower Resturant in Edinburgh and the head chef at the time taught me how to make it. I made eight of them and it was hard work. 

The restaurant I revisit most is Ondine, a really great seafood restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh. They get the best, freshest shellfish and seafood from the east coast of Scotland. It has a really cool relaxed atmosphere. I love to sit at the bar and order the tempura squid with Vietnamese dipping sauce. It’s the one dish I always order if I spy it on the menu.

The chef I admire most is Angela Hartnett. She is incredibly successful and clearly works very hard but always manages to come across as so kind, genuine and humble.

My favourite new opening has to be Spry, a wine bar very close to The Little Chartroom serving really good wines and tasty small plates. 

The most memorable meal I’ve ever had was at Geranium in Copenhagen. I ate lunch there just after I got engaged, which was amazing. The food was out of this world and the dish that will always stick in my mind is the slightly salted and smoked hake with a sauce of buttermilk, parsley and caviar. It was as pretty as a picture and tasted perfect.

My favourite pub is Nauticus on Duke Street in Edinburgh, which champions Scottish liquor and produce. It is right across the road from my house so makes the ideal local. It has a great atmosphere and friendly service – it’s an absolute winner. 

And my favourite London bar is Noble Rot in Bloomsbury, I go there almost every time I’m in London. I love the food, and the selection of wines by the glass is unreal. It sometimes has smoked eel and rhubarb on toast on the menu, which is a real favourite of mine.

My go-to dish on a Sunday night is roast chicken. We open for brunch on Sundays at the restaurant but I can’t miss out on my weekly roast, so we have the full spread when we get home – roast potatoes, greens, gravy, cauliflower cheese – and there has to be Yorkshire puddings, too.

If you’re after a date recommendation, and the relationship is in its early stages, I would say dinner and drinks somewhere busy and lively that’s also quite relaxed. El Cartel in Edinburgh is great: delicious tacos and a really good atmosphere.

After a long, late shift there’s nothing better than a ham baguette with loads of salted butter – it's easy and delicious.

I like to buy my ingredients at Stockbridge Market on a Sunday. It’s great for a food shopping trip – you can get wild game, fresh veg and fresh fish. I go before my days off on Monday and Tuesday. 

My favourite dining companion would have to be my husband, Shaun. He never needs an excuse to splurge on nice food and wine and is always willing to eat my leftovers if I’m feeling full.

If I’m entertaining at home, my fail-safe combination is smoked mackerel pate, made with mackerel, cream cheese, lemon and dill, and served with champagne.

My dream dinner party guest would be Dame Maggie Smith. She's an amazing actress and an incredible role model – she's in her mid-80s, but is still going strong. I bet she's got some really interesting stories. Plus, she's Scottish.

The secret to hosting a good dinner party is organisation. And don't overcomplicate the food.

The best party I’ve ever thrown was my wedding, when 130 people tucked into perfectly cooked beef wellington. Thankfully, I didn't have to cook it. 

Chinese takeaway is a favourite in our house. We usually order lemon chicken, beef in black bean sauce and lots and lots of prawn crackers. 

My favourite quick midweek meal is a chicken stir-fry. It’s so fast and easy, and I can add whatever seasonal vegetables I have leftover at home. 

My perfect Sunday would consist of a roaring fire, beef wellington and a nice light bottle of red burgundy.

The Greenhouse in Dublin is incredibly decadent. When I visited, the kitchen served every luxurious bit of produce possible: foie gras, truffle, rich sauces, turbot, anjou pigeon. It was amazing.

My death-row dinner would have to be pan-fried scallops to start, followed by a whole roast grouse.

As for my idea of food hell, it would be sweetcorn in a sandwich – the worst thing you could ever give me.

30 Albert Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5HN


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