Flavours of Italy

What happens when an iconic Italian fashion house turns to hotel-keeping? The chic restaurant at Hotel Missoni reveals the answer

Cucina clearly aspires to be one of hippest places to eat in Edinburgh. But you can’t get to the first floor restaurant – deliberately situated in the heart of the Missoni hotel, the first such venture by the iconic Italian fashion house – without first taking in the fabulous, airy ground floor bar. This in itself is a study in breathless chic, with its red woven Tivoli stools, copper topped bar, designer light shades and turquoise walls. On the night we visit, there’s a huddle of Scottish fashionistas having a ‘meeting’. Men wear light coloured linen suits and young women wear impossibly high heels with deep tans. It almost feels like Glasgow. Bar staff – wearing Missoni – are either Italian or look Italian, and are good looking and persuasive. Upstairs is a stunning arrangement of clashing colours and monochrome mayhem (we’d booked for 8pm, apparently rather early, since we got a clear overview of the space). It’s been described by Rosita Missoni as ‘tutti i colori’, and she’s not wrong.

The dotty, flowery and squiggly monochrome crockery is from Missoni’s Bianco Nero range. We felt distinctly underdressed by comparison. Thankfully, Cucina is not just eye candy. There’s some serious Italian cooking going on here, which is what you’d expect from executive chef Giorgio Locatelli, the two-Michelin starred proprietor of Locanda Locatelli in London’s Marylebone. Cucina’s head chef is Mattia Camorani, a protégé of the great man himself. Much was indeed a work of art – in particular, the minestrone di verdure casareccio, traditional vegetable soup (£7). Its proper absence of tomatoes or pasta allowed the jewel-bright colours of al dente broccoli, mangetouts and beans to shine through a thin, barely-seasoned stock, though I have to say it tasted like a crunchy detox drink.

The menu is pleasantly limited, quite reserved in its ambitions, and extremely well priced. My starter of bresaola di manzo al caprino at £7 was very generous and its beefy saltiness came stomping through the awesomely thin slices. I did find its goat’s cheese dressing overpowering, though. I was tempted by the veal (achingly fashionable these days if it’s British), but since nobody could or would tell me its provenance, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. So I opted for agnello arrosto, slow cooked saddle of lamb, with baby carrots and honey turnips (£17). Two hearty slices arrived, topped with the most flavoursome vegetables I think I’ve ever tasted. However, I can’t divulge its provenance either, since again nobody was able to tell me even after several days of phone calls. My partner’s risotto al gamberi (£16) looked as good as it tasted, its fat chunks of prawn slowly revealing themselves in the rice, which was perfectly suspended in a rich fishy stock of creamy tomato. A strict rationing of Parmesan allowed the freshest flavours of the sea to swim through.

The wine list being exclusively Italian, the sommelier easily persuaded us to choose a Puglian red at a stonking £37.50, which was the closest to a Bordeaux she could find for us. Our tap water glasses were constantly refilled from a beautiful glass jug. We actually found the staff to be irritatingly over-zealous, though I’m sure that will settle down. A degustation dessert of three types chocolate (£7) surprised me by being semi-freddo, and its nougat base was as soft as a pillow. Which just goes to show that appearances aren’t everything.

field facts

Price: Dinner for two: £125.90 (food £61.50; drinks £64.40)

Cate’s rating: 4 star

Cucina at Hotel Missoni, 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD 0131 240 1666. www.hotelmissoni. com

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