On Edinburgh’s Leith Walk you’ll find a small bistro called The Little Chartroom, but despite it’s small size this little restaurant has a big reputation. The concept is simple – seasonal British fare with a French twist – but the flavours are bold and inventive. From mushroom custard with wild garlic and leeks, to elderflower butter sauce and even haggis with hashrowns, there’s plenty to marvel at. Husband and wife team, Shaun McCarron and Roberta Hall-McCarron are the masterminds behind this buzzing establishment, but as we believe here at Honest Grapes, the food is only as good as the wine that is paired with it.
We caught up with Finn Porelli, Head Sommelier at The Little Chartroom, to find out how he devised the perfect wine list to pair with their ever-changing British menu.
What defines a good wine list for you?
A good wine list has something for everyone, from reliable classics to the esoteric.
How do you work with the chefs to marry their creations with the wine list?
Whenever there is a new dish we try it together with the Chefs, we will try various wines with the same dish and see what works. Trying with the Chefs gives you a much better understanding of how all the flavours come together. We then find the one we think compliments the dish the most.
How much focus do you put on organic and biodynamic wines?
Over time I have found that a lot of the best wines come from producers who practice either organic or biodynamic viticulture. It is not the deciding factor for whether a wine gets listed or not, taste is first and foremost. But it does make sense that the more care and attention put in in vineyard the higher the quality of the resulting wine. It is also something guests are requesting more.
Describe your method for putting together a wine list. How do you select wines for your clientele? Do you make sure the majority of the wines are crowd pleasers? Do you make room for the more risk-taking guest, with natural wines or unfamiliar varieties?
As I said before there needs to be something for everyone. It also depends on the size of the list, we have a list of around 110 bins and I would say our list is split pretty evenly between reliable classics and more unusual. We also like have a few "cult" wines, insider wines that true connoisseurs know. You also want to have a large selection of wine that work well with food.
How is your wine list set up for pairings and would/do you offer a paired menu?
We do offer a 3 course wine pairing i.e a glass paired with starter main & dessert. We also have over 20 wines by the glass should a guest not want an entire wine pairing.
Do you curate the menu down to the desserts? And if so, which would be the best pudding pairing at The Little Chartroom?
Yes, we have 2 sweet wine suggestions with each dessert. My favourite at the moment is our Chocolate Paris-Brest filled with chocolate chantilly, chocolate ganache, macerated cherries & pistachio paired with Recioto della Valpolicella, Giovanni Allegrini, Veneto, 2017.
Seeing as the menu has a largely British feel, do you incorporate British wines on the menu and how big of a part do they play?
At the moment we don't have any English wines on the list. I have worked with some great English wines in the past though.