Ardfern, a new all-day dining space from Roberta Hall McCarron to open in Edinburgh this spring

Award-winning chef Roberta Hall McCarron and her husband Shaun, will open Ardfern, a new café, bar, restaurant and bottle shop in Edinburgh’s Leith this spring. They tell Rosalind Erskine what diners can expect.

“It was never the plan to open a third venue,” laughed husband and wife team, Roberta Hall McCarron and Shaun McCarron. With their daughter almost two, Roberta and Shaun had struck on a good work life balance. But the couple found it hard to turn down the opportunity when owners of Mistral, Julie Di Toro and Sam Barker, told them they were selling up. The venue, which opened in 2021 as a wine bar and kitchen, is right next door to Little Chartroom, Roberta and Shaun’s first restaurant, which opened in 2018 but moved to its current premises in 2021.

Taking its name from a village in Argyll and Bute, Ardfern will be Roberta and Shaun’s third venture, joining The Little Chartroom and Eleanore. From morning till night, Ardfern will offer a relaxed all-day experience, with brunch, bar snacks and heartier dinners alongside cocktails, draught beer and wine from its bottle shop. For those that remember the Little Chartroom brunches, which were shelved during Covid, the return of all day dining from Roberta will be a welcome one. Shaun explained the desire to get back to serving breakfast, saying: “the brunch menu at Little Chartroom was good fun - we had lots of fun with it. The chefs were able to put out some really exciting breakfast dishes, which we didn't feel were being served anywhere else. For example, devil sweetbreads on toast with poached eggs, alongside a more traditional sort of full breakfast, but always with Roberta’s spin on it.”

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Ardfern will follow the same style as Little Chartroom and Eleanore - relaxed yet stylish and personal to Roberta and Shaun. The interiors at Ardfern will reference the landscape and colour palette of the coastal village, evoking the feeling of warmth and comfort. Dark wood and natural texture will establish a sense of place, the point of where the land meets the sea. A mixture of counter and table seating will be available, allowing guests to linger at the bar or book a table in advance.

Roberta and Shaun are set to open their third venue in Edinburgh this spring/summer.Roberta and Shaun are set to open their third venue in Edinburgh this spring/summer.
Roberta and Shaun are set to open their third venue in Edinburgh this spring/summer.

Roberta explained that she named Ardfern after the village where her family kept their boat moored, and is the perfect name to continue the theme across the three businesses. Little Chartroom references a part of the wheelhouse on a boat while Eleanore is the name of the family boat. She said: “I spent lots of time there (in Ardfearn) and have many fond memories of it but I was nervous telling my dad we were going to call the new venue Ardfearn. It was my dad’s love of sailing that influenced the holidays we took. But he’s really happy about it.” Shaun added: “Our businesses are really personal. We've always wanted them to feel that you're very much coming into our home. Continuing that (family sailing) theme throughout, even though it's a subtle nod and a lot of people wouldn't ever know it or get it, means a lot to us.”

The couple are also keen to continue what Mistral started, with Roberta saying: “We are changing what we can to put our own little stamp on it”. Shaun added: “they've got a great business and a really loyal following. We want to continue offering what they've done and continue to carry on the good work they've started but add an all day dining offering. We get excited by quite naughty breakfast dishes with some great produce.”

Speaking of, the morning menu at Ardfern includes brunch, featuring a selection of Scottish staples such as a beef haggis buttery, fried duck egg, brown sauce and a full Scottish breakfast with thick-cut bacon, homemade haggis and tattie scones. Lighter options like overnight oats with fig jam and almond crunch, and BBQ flatbread with girolles, asparagus and mushroom marmalade will also be available alongside cooked-to-order filled doughnuts, pastries from Company Bakery and freshly squeezed juice. Daytime will revolve around leisurely bites accompanied by cocktails and a carefully curated wine list of 100 or so bottles. Dishes will include merguez pâté en croûte, braised beef shin and Isle of Mull cheddar toastie and oysters served either naturally or with a seaweed hot sauce, as well as a selection of charcuterie and cheeses from beloved Scottish suppliers East Coast Cured and IJ Mellis. The cocktail list is inspired by aperitivo classics and contemporary takes using a selection of local Leith-produced spirits. As night falls, the menu will shift towards larger, heartier plates of food. Dishes will include: shrimp and langoustine potato rosti; chicken kofta with date molasses, egg yolk purée and crispy chicken skin ; fish finger sandwich, mussel curry sauce and kohlrabi slaw and pies.

The expansion couldn’t happen without Roberta and Shaun’s team, who are as excited as the couple about the new venue as it gives some a chance to enhance their skills. Finn Porrelli, the sommelier for Little Chartroom will also now oversee wines at Ardfern. Shaun said: “We want to get back on the rota and work more regularly to allow the team around us to grow and take on more responsibility along the way. When we had our daughter, we put everything in place for the two restaurants to run independently without us, because there was a really good team around us. The core team has been with us since we moved the Little Chartroom in 2021.”

Ardfern will be an all day dining venueArdfern will be an all day dining venue
Ardfern will be an all day dining venue

The location is key for many reasons but also means that the team can have less waste. Shaun explained: “Having a business right next door and a different offering is going to allow us to be less wasteful and be able to really utilise every last little bit of produce that comes into the Little Chartroom. When we change the menu we'll often have five or six portions leftover. We can now serve that next door as a slightly more simplified, but equally as delicious meal.”

Roberta added: “we want Ardfern to be a place where people can come at any time of the day for any occasion and really be able to treat it as their own. Be it a morning meeting over a coffee, a glass of wine after work or a celebratory brunch or dinner. We want it to be totally accessible.”

Ardfern will be located at 10-12 Bonnington Road, EH6 5JD. Brunch will be from 8am - 3pm; Bar snacks: 12pm - 11pm and Dinner: 5pm - 8:30pm.

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