Edinburgh’s resurgent dining scene has it all, from charming neighbourhood wine bars to genuine luxury fine dining, and leading the way are Roberta Hall-McCarron’s Eleanore and The Little Chartroom - a pair of restaurants that combine the best of both worlds.
Roberta first made a name for herself as co-founder and chef of The Little Chartroom - the debut restaurant she founded with husband Shaun when the pair left Castle Terrace. Old sailing maps line the walls - a nod to the influence of family sailing trips during her childhood, when Roberta and her family would cook fresh Scottish seafood on the boat. The restaurant scooped a litany of awards in its debut year, marking out Hall-McCarron as one of Scotland’s brightest young cheffing talents.
Roberta’s star has continued to rise from that point. Two appearances on BBC’s Great British Menu followed, then during the COVID pandemic, The Little Chartroom launches a food truck on Edinburgh’s north coast; the truck was scheduled to run for a couple of years, but a chance discovery of an exciting new permanent site in Edinburgh resulted in a change of direction - The Little Chartroom moved to a new site in Bonnington, north Edinburgh, and the old Little Chartroom site became Eleanore, running a casual snacks, small plates and natural wines setup stemming from the menus at the food truck. ‘We were always so busy at The Little Chartroom,’ says Roberta, ‘so it made sense to move it to a larger site and make the most of that demand.’
The expansion has also allowed Shaun and Roberta to further grow teams at both sites, and that in turn has allowed Roberta more time to be a mother (she and Shaun welcomed a baby girl into the world in 2022) as well as the opportunity to do more popups and guest chef appearances. ‘Chefs these days do so many more events,’ she explains. ‘We've been offered those things in the past but always had to say no because we’d have to close the restaurant to do it. Now the restaurant can run itself and I can go and do those things, which is great - it’s good fun, and it’s good to show people outside of Edinburgh what we do.’
We’re always intrigued to know what top chefs make of other restaurants, so we asked Roberta to give us some of her favourite restaurant spots, and she didn’t disappoint! Scroll down for Roberta’s picks.
Da Terra, London
Roberta says: 'I was pregnant when we ate here, and it was still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in a restaurant. I hadn’t really experienced that level of flawless service and storytelling in food before. The food is so on-point but the experience was still friendly and relaxed, for me that ticks all the boxes. And it was absolutely delicious. Rafael is a fantastic chef and Charlie is brilliant at running the whole show.'
Where: 8 Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2 9NF
Book now: Da Terra
Roberta says: 'I love Merlin’s approach to food, he really does preach that farm-to-table ethos. It’s kind of frustrating because his food looks incredibly simple, but you know that it’s not! I’ve met him a couple of times and I like how he is and how he creates. Whenever I’m looking for inspiration I’m definitely on his Instagram having a wee sift through! Everything he does looks so elegant and simple, it delivers every time.'
Where: 1 High Street, Bruton, BA10 0AB
Book now: Osip
Roberta says: 'I love Simon’s style and ethos. We had such a good time, it was eighteen courses but you never feel like the staff are at the table too much - everything is slick. The food is exquisite, everything about it is wonderful. Funnily, Shaun (Roberta’s husband) and I had bought each other vouchers without speaking to each other, so it was pretty clear we both wanted to go!'
Where: Cavendish Street, Cartmel, LA11 6PZ
Book now: L’Enclume
Glenturret Lalique, Scotland
Roberta says: 'I think Mark (Donald) is cooking the best food in Scotland. He’s exciting to watch, and he’s very driven as well - we’re only going to see more from him. We went and ate at Glenturret and had a wonderful meal. I remember eating his food at Number One as well - it’s fun, tasty, interesting. They don’t do overnight stays but you can stay nearby - Gleneagles is only ten minutes up the road so you could stay there!'
Where: Glenturret Distillery, Crieff, Tayside, PH7 4HA
Book now: Glenturret Lalique
Quality Chop House, London
Roberta says: 'An absolute fave of mine! Love the vibe, the old pews and Victorian crockery, but I love Shaun’s (Quality Chop House head chef Shaun Searley) food as well. Shaun came and cooked here for our guest chefs series, and we had such a good time. Quality Chop isn’t complicated, it’s all about flavour; there’s work involved and he’s very precise but everything is about the produce - he buys the best of the best and doesn’t do anything ridiculous to it. When I was cooking at 180 The Strand I squeezed in a little dinner at the Quality Chop afterwards!'
Where: 92-94 Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, EC1R 3EA
Book now: Quality Chop House
Roberta says: 'We go here quite a lot because it’s handy - if you want something a bit more casual, you know what you’re getting at Hawksmoor. It’s super consistent, which is really difficult to do on the scale that they do it on. If you just want a nice steak and some tasty sides, that’s the go to. And we can take the baby because it’s a big open room, noisy, if she’s screaming her head off no-one cares too much! The staff are incredibly well-trained as well.'
Where: 23 West Register Street, EH2 2AA
Book now: Hawksmoor Edinburgh
Want more chef recommendations? Check out our interviews with the likes of Jeremy Lee and John Chantarasak (a.k.a. English Hippy) for more top quality restaurants to add to your must-visit list.