Bella Vista

Montpelier Vale, Blackheath

I hadn’t been to Bella Vista since the refurb, but, being a cheapskate, thought I’d go for the early evening cheapo deal. Once I got inside, of course, there were things on the a la carte I couldn’t resist so I was back to spending cash again…

The refurb has worked well. I’m pleased to say that they’ve avoided anything so ultra modern that it’s going to date within seconds of the place reopening, but, now it’s done, I guess it was a little tired before, though I can’t say I’d noticed.

Things are always going to be snug in a restaurant that size, so they haven’t even tried to make it look spacious, instead emphasising the cosiness. I like the mirrors, the high cupboards with the nicknacks and the colour scheme, though the cushions, whilst looking sumptuous, get in the way.

The menu is part new, part old. Francesco said that if he tries to change anything his regulars moan, so he has to quietly slide things on and off the menu and hope no one notices. If you see BVC after anything on the menu, it means “Bella Vista Classic” and it’s a dish he doesn’t dare remove.

I had the Apulian ‘burrata’ cheese with smoked aubergine, partially because I can’t resist aubergine and partly because I’d never had Apulian burrata cheese before. It was fab. My companion had the cold cuts. I was so busy chomping my smoked aubergine I forgot to note down what the cold cuts were actually like (I’ll never make a proper restaurant critic…) but the plate was cleared so I’m guessing it was good.

There are some times when only lasagne will do, and for my sturdy companion, this was one of those times. It was perfectly acceptable, but not an exciting dish, only going half-way to satisfying the lasagne-urge. Probably not a recipe that will make it to BVC menu-stardom…

I resisted the urge to have aubergine in a second dish in the same meal and instead tried the cod in ‘guazzetto Livornese’ which is, according to the handy menu translator, a Tuscan fish and tomato sauce – tangy and pungent, and really rather tasty, even if it is a wise idea to brush your teeth immediately afterwards, if you’re going to be within 10 feet of anyone else…
I can’t remember what the hell the wine was – only that I enjoyed it and its label had a comedy picture involving a donkey on it, which we each guessed the story behind, then asked the waiter if he knew what it was about. He didn’t but was happy to supply an alternative unlikely, shaggy-dog-alike yarn. He got his mate over who told a fourth, equally nonsense, tale behind the picture.

Actually, it might not have been our first bottle.

Bella Vista’s been around for over 20 years now. Deservedly.

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