Roberta Hall-McCarron

After picking up our 2019 Breakthrough Chef of the Year award, the Edinburgh restaurateur has since impressed on her Great British Menu debut. She talks to Lucy Kehoe about lockdown living

How would you describe your cooking style?

I trained classically during my nine years with the Kitchin Group and that’s reflected in my cooking. On the menu at The Little Chartroom you’ll find traditional combinations which I’ve freshened up a bit. A plate shouldn’t have 10 different flavours on it – keep it simple.

Where will we find you after the lockdown lifts?

Oh gosh, everywhere. First, my local pub, Nauticus. The cocktail list is really good – I can’t wait for one of their negronis. Then there’s Spry, a natural wine bar. The staff are really invested, so the knowledge that comes with the list is incredible. And Noto is one of the best restaurants here for sharing plates – when things get back to the way they were, I’ll be there with friends ordering the whole menu.

What Scottish produce should grace our table this summer?

Shellfish is best at this time of year. I love scallops. They’re great pan-fried in lots of butter to get that delicious caramelisation, but try serving them raw as carpaccio or tartare, too.

Where are you shopping for food during lockdown?

I’ve been helping out at Edinburgh’s Twelve Triangles bakery while we’re shut. As well as great bread and pastries, you’ll find pickles, ferments and fresh produce. Check out restaurant Fhior, too, who are offering boxes of local produce including charcuterie from the fantastic East Coast Cured. For fish, order from Newhaven’s Welch Fishmongers, or my supplier, David Lowrie Fish Merchants – I want them to still be there when I reopen.

Anywhere else in Scotland you particularly rate?

Aran, Flora Shedden’s Perthshire bakery is fantastic. If you’re in the area, stay at the family-run Ballintaggart. It’s a farm restaurant with a few rooms deep in the countryside. Dinner overlooking the valley at one big table with seven delicious courses is a real highlight.

Where did you last go on holiday?

I’ve been to Copenhagen twice now and I’d return in a heartbeat. There’s amazing flavour in the food there, but it remains light and stylish. The menu at three-Michelin-starred Geranium is perfection. I thought I didn’t like liquorice but this wee dessert there – a bite-sized chocolate skull with liquorice inside – completely changed my mind.

How about your first trip once all this is over?

My husband and I bought each other the same Christmas presents this last year – a stay at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume – but we haven’t been able to go yet. I’d also like to go to Japan to learn more about that style of cooking. It’s so distinct, particularly the street food.

What’s next for our Breakthrough Chef of the Year 2019?

With everything so uncertain, all I want is an open restaurant with people inside. For now, watching the Great British Menu is a great distraction. I know the outcome, but it’s still nerve-wracking.Roberta and The Little Chartroom team are working with local charity Soul Food, which helps to provide meals for people in need.

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