Photography: Thanks to Simone Hilliard
And the winner for the best restaurant view in Scotland goes to *drum roll* … Cannonball Restaurant on Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile.
Simone and I visit to sample the new tasting menu ‘Feast of Scotland’ and are breathless at the view of the castle from our table at this historic, three-storey building.
The site dates back to the 1650s but the tenement was built in the 18th century and it became a school in 1905. More recently it housed the Scottish Parliament offices while Holyrood was being built. As with The Mound, oyster shells were found when the building was excavated as part of its refurbishment to the current restaurant and bar. It seems as if the whole of the Old Town is built on discarded shells signalling how popular Scottish seafood once was.
Simone and I are on the top floor and our window seat frames the castle. Only the esplanade is between us and Edinburgh's jewel that crowns the city's skyline.
Cannonball is part of the Contini stable of restaurants that includes The Scottish Café at The Scottish National Gallery and Contini in George Street. I eat at these places so am familiar with the ethos of sourcing local, seasonal produce that patrons Carina and Victor Contini commit to. They work with some 60 artisan producers.
The only question that niggles me as I sit down with Simone is whether, in these difficult times, the price tag of £65 will prove ‘value for money’, even with the unrivalled location.
East Lothian potato soup, crispy shallots and saffron potato skin powder is the second course and I am slightly perturbed. Tattie soup? On a tasting menu? Sounds a bit seventies. However, it transpires that this bowl of deliciousness is an unexpected front runner for my favourite course. Potatoes are whizzed to silky consistency, shallots have a chewy, moreish texture and saffron and oil lend aroma and unctuousness. It fills my heart with joy that our humble root veg can be elevated to such glory.
A rabbit leg rillette as amuse bouche and still steaming, freshly-baked bread rolls with whipped Edinburgh Butter Company butter sprinkled with Isle of Skye sea salt preceded the soup. All are expertly executed scrumptious small dishes.
We both choose fish for our third and fourth courses. Simone comments on how tricky it is to cook the Peterhead Plaice to such perfection. It has dark crisped skin and moist snowy flesh. The Shetland mussels in the broth have a delicate smokiness and are surely the plumpest ever we muse. North Sea Halibut is similarly unspoilt by the cooking process and served on a soft scallion and potato blini which in turns sits on a bed of parsley and caper pesto. Seasoning is spot on.
Although portions are well judged we are struggling a bit with belts and buttons, but oozy, creamy Morangie Brie is appreciated and desserts beg to be eaten.
Simone has rice pudding with rhubarb compote and says:
"The rice is sweet and creamy with a bit of bite and the rhubarb is tangy; a lovely light dish."
My Chocolate Cannonball has the added drama of a Whisky Flambé. The bitterness of the 70% dark chocolate ball, stem ginger and alcohol balance the richness of the mousse. It is a triple xxx adult dessert - flakes need not apply.
The tasting menu at Cannonball Restaurant is without doubt value-for-money. Neither the chef nor the waiting staff put a foot wrong and the food celebrates Scotland as do the views. If you choose to visit you will know doubt leave the restaurant as we did, high on food and the experience.
Top tip: the bar is a classy place to pop in for an aperitif and to soak up the ambience as the sun goes down.