Stylish Scottish-Italian cuisine at the Contini Cannonball Ristorante, Edinburgh
It was in 2004, when Victor and Carina Contini opened Centotre, their first Edinburgh restaurant at 103 George Street, Edinburgh, a grand, ornate setting in a former Bank. I was extremely impressed as I wrote in my review:
“Victor and Carina Contini are passionate, pedantic and purist about seriously good Italian food and wine. This is the D&G of Milanese eating and drinking in Edinburgh. Bellisimo!.”
Ten years on, it’s renamed Contini Ristorante, and continues to wow diners with fresh, simple, quality cuisine. Also in the Contini collection is the Scottish Restaurant and Café located in the most perfect scenic spot, Princes Street Gardens beneath the National Gallery.
September 2014, the iconic 16th century Cannonball House at the top of Royal Mile is address of their third restaurant. Overlooking the Castle Esplanade, this new venture is in partnership with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo which takes place here every August during the Edinburgh Festival season.
The name comes from the fact there is a cannonball lodged in the west wall. One theory is it was fired from the Castle in 1745 aimed at Holyrood Palace where Bonnie Prince Charlie was in residence. Alternatively, the cannonball marks the precise height above sea-level.
Over the centuries, the building has changed from private home to Castlehill Primary School, Tattoo and government offices. Now, the grand Townhouse has been artistically renovated to provide three distinctive venues: a traditional Gelateria, the Caffe for coffees, breakfast and Italian street food and the Contini Cannonball Ristorante.
The Old Town has such a magical atmosphere as you wander up the cobbled street of the Royal Mile with its ancient Closes and up to the top of Castlehill. Then climb three flights of stairs with its high school banisters to reach Cannonball on the top floor – don’t worry, there is a lift too!
The smart, modern design reflects the building’s heritage with furnishings in tartan, tweed and dark wood as well as vintage black and white photographs. Tall windows offer superb views across the Esplanade to the Castle.
The ambience is casual and contemporary with a smart Cocktail bar – superb drinks list from Italian wines, Scottish beers and Whisky. Sample one of the House signature creations – Edinburgh Gin Cannonball Cocktail: Edinburgh Cannonball gin, Royal Mile Whisky raspberry liqueur, cranberry juice tonic and lemon – this fruity concoction sounds divine.
For dinner, my partner Ken and I experienced the 5 course Tasting Menu, a gourmet feast of selected dishes from the A La Carte Menu. To start, home made bread and olives, with a glass of Contini’s own label Prosecco. Then the first of five courses: A rich creamy Spinach and nutmeg soup with grated Pecorini cheese. Ken also took the option of a soft poached egg on top, the drizzling yolk creating a yellow and green mosaic.
Then juicy, sweet Scallops from the Isle of Mull sprinkled with dried mara seaweed adding a delicious salty crunch. With this we sipped a glass of Garganega, a crisp Veneto white wine. Next, Pumpkin Gnocchi flavoured with sage butter – very tasty but a rather large portion for a starter!.
Fine Scottish seafood for our main course: a tender halibut steak served with Salsa Verde (tangy combination of anchovy, capers and garlic), dark green kale and Amalfi lemon. These giant citrus fruits from the sunny Sorrento peninsula are used for the famous Lemoncello liqueur.
The ambience is lively with happy chatter and relaxing soundtrack – Billie Holliday and jazzy blues.
We finish with the crème de la crème: Chocolate and Cherry Torte – rich, dark Valrhona 70% has perfect texture and bittersweet taste. Simply luscious!
The A La Carte menu specialises in classic Scottish good food – Oysters, Eyemouth crab, Grouse, Venison and not forgetting Carina’s own speciality, Orkney Lobster Thermidor Macaroni Cheese. Now that really sums up the iconic Contini brand of Italian-inspired Scottish cuisine!.
The Contini Caffe, Gelateria and Cannonball is a most exciting and innovative concept in hospitality, morning, noon and night. Call in for porridge and a cappuccino, a Panini and glass of wine, home-made ice-cream, Sunday Roast lunch or a romantic mini-banquet Dinner overlooking the floodlit Castle at night.
Contini Cannonball is the Ferrari … the Armani of fashionable, stylish, cool and casual wining and dining. Cibo delizioso!
Victor and Carina Contini – Cannonball
Cannonball House, 356 Castle Hill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE.
t. 0131 225 1550.
Wednesday – Saturday; 12 noon – 2.30pm. 5.30pm-10pm
Sunday; 10am-8pm – Brunch, Roast Lunch, High Tea.
http://www.contini.com – for more details on Gelateria, Caffe and Cannonball.