Monday, 28 July 2014

Edinburgh is Delicious: A taste of Italy in Edinburgh at Contini

As poor doomed Juliet said, "A rose by any name would smell as sweet". Which provides a fittingly Italian introduction to our recent trip to Contini, formerly known as Centotre, one of George Street's premier eateries. Like Juliet's rose, we learned that a change in name does not, equal a change in nature and the ristorante continues its decade-long trend of dishing up moreish Italian fare with flair and elegance. There have been some changes, but happy ones only, with restauranteurs Victor and Carina bringing in a new daily menu to make the most of seasonal Venetian ingredients, which are brought in from Venice in a weekly basis (with Scottish products sent back in return!). Keen for a blissful taste of Italy, the Edinburgh Etiquette team headed along to see what daily spin on the classics was on offer. And - we REALLY loved it.
Primi piatti was an epic affair. We began with some classic Italian antipasti - super sweet tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olives, aubergine and courgette, plus a platter of cured meats piled high with rocket, and a giant basket of ciabatta with plenty of premium balsamic vinegar and EV olive oil for dipping. Two cheesy, oozy, herby focaccias (including a gluten-free option) and an enormous plate of fritto misto, with no less than four kinds of seafood dressed in a crisp and featherlight batter, completed the spread.

The feast (there is no other word for it) continued with an indulgent but perfectly apportioned double whammy of pizza and pasta. The five of us shared a classic Margherita, and a rocket-laden gluten-free offering topped with roasted cremini mushrooms - both fresh, crispy and layered with gloriously savoury Italian flavours. Handmade gnocci with a rich butter sugo, mozzarella and tons of fragrant basil was flawlessly-executed pasta dish low on frills and big on fresh flavour. However, our favourite, difficult though it was to pick, had to be the Contadino pasta - perfectly al dente orecchiette with crumbled piccante sausage and porcini mushrooms, bound with plenty of Parmesan and cream.
All of which would seem like more than enough sustenance for one evening, but luckily the phenomenon of the dessert stomach - scientifically known as "the Yummy Chamber"* - came into play. A moist and darkly rich slice of torta al ciocollato (a flourless chocolate cake, proper grown up stuff) was served with creme fraiche and honeycomb, and promptly devoured. We were interested to learn that Contini actually make a small but hotly-requested batch of honey from their very own Edinburgh bees each year, and although we didn't get to try it (as it wasn't yet ready) it's another testament to Contini's equal commitment to local Scottish and Italian ingredients for their perfect mix.

And, there was cheese. Not a sniff of Applewood-smoked cheddar in sight - we enjoyed a tart Parmigiano Reggiano, melting slices of Fontina and and Gorgonzola and a pale and salty Pecorino Sardo. It was a stunning end to an utterly incredible meal.

If you fancy treating yourself (and you should! You should!), you can check out what Contini's daily menu has in store over at the restaurant's website, then head on over to their George Street digs in your very best stretchy eating trews. A huge thank you to the team for having us along! We shall be back.

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