It was a bold move by Victor and Carina Contini to dispense with cliched Italian fare on the new menu of their restaurant in Edinburgh's George Street. Dispensing with pizza and pasta, they have come up with a range of delicious, fresh and imaginative sharing plates that point to a new direction in modern Scots-Italian eating, and also serve as a serious signifier of how the millennial demographic is changing the way we all eat.
Calabrian salami with roasted aubergine, mint creme fraiche, pomegranate and pistachio crumb; DOP (protected designation of origin) buffalo mozzarella with figs and Italian honey and sourdough toast; venison haunch with cavolo nero; and Scottish cod poached in cold-pressed olive oil and served with fennel, samphire and chilli (see below) certainly made me and my tastebuds sit up and take notice. My personal fave is a dish of on-trend raw cauliflower with porcini and lemon oil and dotted with Venetian spiced walnuts. (Continues after photos .../)
The restaurant itself has undergone an interior revamp, whose most significant changes include a lowering of the central bar to open up the entire space, and a stunning statement wall of heavenly cherubs that greet diners are they arrive. It certainly locates us in southern Italy, while the food itself is sourced both there and in Scotland.
This makes sense when many high street chains continue to serve individual bowls of carb- and calorie-heavy pasta, and pizzas with an increasingly outlandish range of toppings, while at the other end of the scale the artisan pizza movement is also making inroads.
I want to give a shout-out to Contini executive chef Suzanne O'Connor, who is also in charge of the couple's two other Edinburgh restaurants - at the Scottish National Gallery and at Cannonball in the High Street - for her efforts in shaking up our perceptions of modern Italian cuisine. Suzanne is a member of the Slow Food Chefs' Alliance (@slowfoodHQ) (#chefsalliance).