The Little Chartroom is a hard act to follow.
Now that the restaurant has moved to its new premises on Bonnington Road and is in the process of opening its second venue, Eleanore, their street food van, Little Chartroom on the Prom, is no more.
For many Edinburgh foodies, this pop-up made lockdown a little more bearable and inspired lengthy queues in Portobello for its top notch alfresco menu. However, street food and seafood purveyor, Shrimpwreck, is likely to do the same.
It seems like the perfect fit for the seaside location, and they're due to open their Seafood Hut on October 22.
“The Little Chartroom is incredible and I am such a huge fan of their food”, says Shimpwreck’s founder and owner, Ewen Hutchison, 31, who popped up at various venues during lockdown, including Leith bar, Nauticus, and Stockbridge’s Neighbourgood. “However, slinging out a serious amount of tasty seafood from a tiny space is what I’ve been doing for six years. This unit is big in comparison to our food truck and Shrimpwreck's street food combined with the views of the sea is perfect!”
They should fit in nicely as part of Portobello’s foodie Renaissance. These days, you’ll find bakery Twelve Triangles, coffee shop Tanifiki and other exciting independents in this part of town.
“I'm from Edinburgh and know the area well,” says Hutchison. “It's perfect for our brand and the food we serve. It's also a neighbourhood with some great new additions over the past few years, including Bross Bagels, our neighbours, Civerinos Prom Slice, and Aemilia. I'm sure more will start popping up and it's great to be a part of the food scene here.”
Shrimpwreck, which was featured on the BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu back in 2018, was launched in 2016 from a tiny pop-up stall in Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. Hutchison had given up an office job that he hated, but only sold three shrimp buns - the only item on the menu - on the first day trading at his start-up.
“I had absolutely no idea about bookkeeping, had a very, VERY bare stall and little experience of hospitality in general”, he says.
Since then, things have improved considerably, and they’ve regularly served customers at The Pitt in Edinburgh and Glasgow’s Big Feed and Platform, where they stayed for almost two years.
Although winter might be considered a tricky time to focus on a new location, lovers of Scottish street food are pretty hardcore, and their opening menu has been designed to suit the cold.
“We will have all our classics”, says Hutchison. “Shrimp buns, fish finger sarnies, buffalo shrimp and squid but also some winter warmers too. Chowders, fish pies and our new crab mac and cheese. In summer we will bring back the grill and get some more new additions on the menu. Lobsters and lobster rolls will also be back very soon!”
This business owner is used to grafting in the cold. No cushy restaurant kitchen for him.
“The kitchen equipment always keeps us pretty cosy. I've done plenty of events outside in the winter and find I end up in a T-shirt. Maybe ask me again in a month's time when we are all huddled around the main fryer in the back corner of the shack”, he says.
Hutchison has been completely hands on, when it comes to creating Shrimpwreck's new home.
They’ve kept the look rustic, so it resembles a ramshackle fishing hut, with an awning of tactile planks that look as if they’ve been bleached by the sun and buffed by the wind and salt water.
If you don’t want to sit on the wall, or the sand, there’s also some outdoor seating right outside, on the promenade, which will be shared with next door cafe Crumbs of Portobello and Prom Slice.
“It’s a work in progress just now but already looks incredible”, Hutchison says. “We have used nearly all reclaimed wood that I picked up from a scrapyard in Montrose. I have also sourced a load of old bits from fishing boats for decoration. We could have bought new but wanted to keep it looking old and worn and of course recycle as much as we could. That worked out cheaper too!”
However, just because they now have a permanent home, it doesn’t mean their travelling days are over. Once the shack is up and running, Shrimpwreck’s owner and his “incredible staff” hope to get the truck on the road again and continue with pop-ups, wedding catering and events on the side. For Hutchison, this is the start of an exciting new chapter of growth after a tricky couple of years.
“Lockdown wasn't great as, along with a lot of other businesses, I had to close. I picked up another couple of jobs during this time to keep things going. However, the start of this year was a bit worrying as I was struggling to keep up with the ongoing business outgoings without any sales income”, he says. “I didn't realise at the time but it wasn't all bad. I was able to take a step back and reassess. It gave me a break and a new sense of passion and excitement for the brand so I could take it on it's new path. The dream for me since day one was to open up my very own shack on the beach. Once I heard about this spot in Portobello it was a no brainer and I had to take it on!”
For updates, follow Shrimpwreck on Instagram @ShrimpWreck or see www.shrimpwreck.co.uk