Restaurateurs and Tattoo to create 3-storey eatery

Brigadier David Allfrey, right, meets Victor and Carina Contini at the building. Picture: Toby Williams

Brigadier David Allfrey, right, meets Victor and Carina Contini at the building. Picture: Toby Williams

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ONE of Edinburgh’s most historic buildings is set to be transformed into a three-storey dining “mecca”.

Restaurateurs Victor and Carina Contini have teamed up with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the owner of Cannonball House on Castlehill, to invest “substantially” in a restoration project which will be complete at the end of July.

Having previously served as a private residence and a school, it is hoped the 16th century listed building – which earned its name from the cannonball lodged in its west wall – will be given a new lease of life attracting both locals and visitors.

The ground floor will be an ice cream and porridge bar, while the mezzanine level will be a large informal cafe area, and the upper floor will offer a more “reserved” eating experience.

Carina Contini, who along with her husband already owns Contini Ristorante in George Street and The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound, said she was very excited about the restoration project, which she said was sensitive to the building’s long and varied history.

She said: “It’s casual, it’s not fine dining at all. It’s very much in our style and there’s an offer for everybody. For Edinburgh people who don’t often come up to the Castle, we want them to come up.”

The Contini Caffe – which will also offer private dining options – will draw on the couple’s Italian-Scots heritage, with an interior inspired by their relatives’ post-war 1950s businesses.

Both the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Continis have made a “substantial investment” into the 18-month renovation project, Mrs Contini said.

She added: “We are very excited, I feel like I’m getting married – it’s special.”

The building was used as the Tattoo site office until two years ago. Previously, it was used as the base of several Scottish Parliament offices and it is also the former Castlehill Primary.

Tattoo chief executive Brigadier David Allfrey MBE said the partnership was a first for the organisation. He said: “We are proud and privileged to be working with the Continis on this project. We started work nearly 18 months ago and it is wonderful to see it progressing, the ideas for the internal layout coming together and, of course, the prospect of great food and drink.”

There are several theories about how the cannonball became lodged in the building’s wall. One is that it was fired from the Castle while under siege by the Jacobites in 1745, towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where Bonnie Prince Charlie was staying.

It is widely believed, however, that it was placed there by engineers to indicate the gravitational height of the piped water-supply brought from Comiston Hill to the original Castlehill Reservoir which supplied the Old Town.