My first experience of Edinburgh’s Centotre was its opening way back in 2004 when I reported on it for DRAM. Nearly a decade on, and one of us has aged better than the other, although the George Street Italian restaurant was still in need of a little maintenance according to owners Carina and Victor Contini. The long and short of what they sanctioned was a lick of paint and some new fixtures and fittings – and, as they say, it’s amazing what a lick of paint can do.
The husband-and-wife team decided to shut the restaurant for only three-and-a-bit days (last month) for the work to be carried out. Two companies were involved, Ampersand Interiors and Ambience Furniture, both based in the capital.
The Continis weren’t around on this particular visit, but I was treated to an equally as informative guided tour by Assistant GM Sarah Louden. She kicked things off by telling me just what I was thinking at the time. She said, “It’s amazing just what the team achieved in so little time. Painting the ceiling alone must have taken a full day as it’s domed and so intricate with all the original and intricate detailing.”
The first change any Centotre regular will spot is the difference the mini redesign has made to the outside of the building, which has been brightened up by new pink dividers separating the outdoor seating from the rest of the pavement, and some new A-boards in a similar shocking pink.
Then there’s the reception area as you enter. It’s only a small space, and is now dominated by a large pendant shade in a red pattern, with the domed ceiling bathed in a cool blue light. A further splash of colour comes from the pink couch, a practical addition too, as there was no seating in this part of the restaurant previously.
The square space you enter into is still unequally divided by a central bar/pizza servery sectioning off a third of the space to the front of the building, and here is located some window seat booths. The majority of the space is to the other side of the servery, the one overlooked by the pizza-making area, and it is here that has seen the mainstay of the work.
The free-standing stylish white Italian-made chairs and tables remain, but some of them have now been replaced by some brand new benches in a light grey leather which are arranged in two parallel rows, and as well as looking great they also make for easier service.
Sarah explains, “The addition of the new seating, as well as looking really luxuriant, have also allowed us far greater flexibility, and we can now cater for larger parties. We did of course have booths along the sides of the room which have now been reupholstered in grey leather, being previously brown.
“As well as altering the look and feel it has also changed the acoustics by having a softening effect.”
Says Andrew Paterson, Sales Director, at Ambience Designs, “They wanted us to deliver a softer look to attract more evening diners, so the new upholstery on the existing booths as well as the new benches did the trick, as well as the addition of some new window blinds.”
Perhaps the biggest change is the removal of the large pink banners that hung vertically on the wall – ceiling to floor – in pink, and displaying the Centotre sign in white letters. These have been replaced by long mirrors with a black frame and a smoky marbled effect emblazoned on them. The mirrored theme has also been continued beneath the servery to great effect.
New lighting comes courtesy of ceiling spots and huge pendant lamps hanging from the ceiling which, says Sarah, have been a real welcome addition. “With the new lights we now have a greater variety of moods we are able to create and we can single out particular tables to make the lighting more intimate,” she said.
The small space to the front overlooked by the bar has undergone minimal changes like a stretch of padded pink fabric across the bottom of the bar, next to which are some new grey leather upholstered bar stools in a really soft material. The toilets have also been spruced up with a collage of vintage Italian paraphernalia in the gents paired with gunmetal grey walls, and a burst of pink floral wallpaper in the ladies. The audio on how to speak Italian is still being pumped out in both facilities and, according to Sarah, accounts for unusually long toilet trips.
What’s been added or altered hasn’t taken anything away from one of the capital’s most stunning interiors. Says Sarah, “The overall finished result is a lot cleaner and fresher, and our motto is ‘love feeling special’ and the design fits this perfectly, as Centotre remains a special place to many of our customers.”