The Little Chartroom talks game season
Chef Roberta Hall-McCarron and Shaun McCarron, owners of The Little Chartroom, know a thing or two about sourcing and cooking game. From August through to February you will see all manner of game dishes regularly featuring on their ever-changing menu.
Game is one of Roberta’s favourite ingredients and often it is the only meat option on their small menu. This is partly due to Roberta’s confidence in cooking it and, according to Shaun, the dining public are incredibly adventurous.
“When we first opened we were scared to put grouse on the menu as the only meat option, but when we put it on as a special it sold out every time… then we had hare as the only option and we sold tons of it!”
From rabbit croquette with beef dripping mayo on the brunch menu to mallard pithiviers at dinner, the variety and quality of game is a result of their close relationship with their local supplier, Castle Game Scotland.
Offering a complete field or moor to kitchen service these two ex-policemen not only shoot all their produce themselves (having access to some of the best estates in Scotland) but they’ll deliver and butcher the meat personally.
On one occasion, after Roberta accidentally ordered a whole roe deer they happily butchered it down to just the loin for them in Roberta’s kitchen. It is this relationship that means The Little Chartroom is guaranteed to have some of the first grouse of the season this year.
Get ahead of the game with Roberta’s guide to grouse:
The restaurant is closed on Mondays so Shaun and I will have our ‘traditional Sunday roast’ on a Monday. When grouse is in season, I tend to use it quite often when cooking a roast because traditional roast grouse served with game chips, some veg and bread sauce tastes incredible. Add some juniper berries and thyme to the bird when roasting to sweeten it up.
Personally, I am a big fan of barbecuing grouse, the distinct flavours shine through, make sure to lather the bird in an oil of your choice so it doesn’t dry out. I would usually serve it up with girolles and spinach, with a side of damson jam and bred sauce.
For the quickest and easiest way to cook grouse at home, whether you are grilling it or roasting it is to take out the wish bone and remove the legs. It’s best to cook the crown and legs separately rather than cooking the bird whole to save time.
Where to find grouse & game:
You may not find game in your local butchers and grouse is so popular it sells quickly. But good quality grouse can be found across the UK – here are my top three game dealers:
- George Bowers Butchers, Edinburgh
Always one of the first butcheries to stock grouse in August, the bird is hand packed and prepared straight from their own game larder. They stock game pies as well which are delicious!
- Stockbridge Market, Edinburgh
Shaun and I are big fans of The Stockbridge Market, with everything from artisan chocolates to, of course, grouse! Head over to Ridley’s Fish & Game stall where grouse from the Northumberland moors is available from 18th August. Stockbridge Market takes place every Sunday on Saunders Street.
- Farmison, award-winning online butcher
If you don’t live near a good quality butcher that sells game, Farmison is the next best thing. They sourced all their meat sustainability from the moorlands and valleys of the Yorkshire Dales.
The season opens with The Glorious Twelfth on 12th August – the first bird up is a Scottish native, the red grouse. You can expect to see red grouse (aka ‘The King of Game’) on The Little Chartroom’s menu from August.
Like any produce, game is seasonal; the older the bird the tougher the meat, which is why Roberta and Shaun will only source birds at specific times. Roberta suggests the best time to source and eat grouse is August to late September, partridge is September until mid-November whilst pheasant can be served and cooked to perfection from October until January.
The Little Chartroom will be one of the first restaurants in Edinburgh serving up grouse, expect to see grouse haggis on the menu and everything from breast to legs using a variety of different techniques like barbecuing.