Bella Italia Oprington review

This time last week I had the chance to pop along the the new branch of Bella Italia that has opened in Orpington just next to the new cinema complex at The Walnuts centre. I have to admit it has been a few years since I was in a Bella Italia restaurant and so I was interested to see what had changed both in style and menu.

On entering the quirky style decor caught my eye immediately with vibrant colours and fabulous wall art. What did catch my attention was the brilliant use of lots of huge old picture frames painted in bright colours that made up the so called ceiling which you could see much higher up. I also adored the wire framed bulb lights which really suited the style perfectly.

bella italia decor

We went on a Tuesday evening around 630ish and although there were customers in there it wasn’t particularly busy so we had our choice of seats. Tables were decorated with old wine bottles with a candle in the top as your table light, kind of cheesy but something I personally have always liked for a bit of a rustic feel. They had a main menu but also they had a specials menu already on the table for you to have a look through- a meal for less than 300 calories ( believe it or not using the popular ‘vegetable spaghetti’ as the base) wonderful if you are on a healthy eating plan without missing out on going out with friends. There are also lots of gluten free options too some that are dishes in their own right and some that can be adapted to gluten free from the main menu such as the pizzas.

Having my husband with me ( my personal designated driver) I gladly opted for a lovely glass of rose wine whilst we had a good snoop of the menu which is quite extensive with everything from pizzas and calzones, pasta dishes, ribs and even sea bass. My husband knew exactly what he wanted and had looked forward to a calzone all day. I on the other hand am absolutely rubbish at choosing when there is so much on offer!

So, for starters I went for something I have never tried before and ordered Tempura Kind Prawns with a mayonnaise dip, my husband decided on the deep fried calamari- again something he doesn’t have that often. Both dishes came up on wooden boards with the fish served in mini fry baskets which both my husband and I loving that presentation. the prawns were delicious and I wouldn’t hesitating to order this again.

bella italia starter

For mains my husband ordered the Carne calzone, filled with pancetta, spicy meatballs, red onion, mozzarella and beef ragu. It took me a while to decide but I went for Pollo Formaggi al Forno which was chicken and crispy pancetta  in a four cheese sauce with giant shell pasta and a crumb topping. We both ordered a side salad but chose one of each , a mixed salad and a rocket and granello cheese one so we could share.

bella italia mains

As you can see both dishes came up well sized and mine was extremely filling to the point I couldn’t finish it. My husband was  very pleased with his calzone saying the only thing it needed was just an extra spoonful or two of sauce juice as that is how he likes it.

We were both quite full but thought it would be very rude not to try a dessert and they did the perfect option which was a choice of 3 of the 5 different dessert shots that included banoffee pie and strawberry cheesecake and a mini pannacotta to name just a couple. However, our luck wasn’t in that evening as our server apologised and told us there had been an accident in the kitchen and the desserts had fallen and there wasn’t any left. So we went for a 4 scoop sharing gelato bowl with a mixture of flavours and some chocolate beans on top ( although there are lots of toppings to choose from).

YES we did actually share it!
YES we did actually share it!

I can only speak about our experience on that evening in that particular branch, but we enjoyed the food, the service was good and the staff were friendly. Our meal didn’t feel rushed in any way but we also didn’t wait overly long for the courses to be cooked either. I can see this branch becoming popular as it is right next to the cinema and would make a great pre or post film dinner option. They also serve breakfasts and lunches too so there would be something for any part of the day depending on your plans and there is also lots of covered seating outside for when the weather warms up too. This would be a nice relaxed place to come with the girls for a good natter, a bit of wine drinking and lots of yummy food for a great night out. The night we were there we noticed couples like ourselves, families, groups of friends and even a couple ,one of which was using a mobility scooter, and the layout of the seating meant it was easy for her to have it beside her table and therefore she wasn’t excluded in any way.

From my experience that evening I would have no trouble recommending this restaurant to others and I know I will certainly go back there myself.

 

DISCLAIMER: my meal was complimentary in return for an honest review. All view are my own and I can only base that on the food and service we received at the branch we visited on that particular evening.

 

 

Lunch at Bexleyheath Marriott Hotel

I was recently invited to have lunch at my local Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath and having only been in there once before many years ago for an afternoon tea with friends I took the opportunity to go and have a look at what was there. It has always ‘appeared’ quite business like to me as an outsider however, once you are inside the spacious and open reception area automatically that view is changed.

Love these light trees dotted about the hotel areas
Love these light trees dotted about the hotel areas

We were directed to the bar area which is much more informal than the restaurant looked and also had a different menu on offer. The bar had a welcoming feel with a mix of table styles, smaller ones with straight backed chairs as you would expect but also lower style tables surrounded by lovely comfy sofas for those who were just having a drink rather than eating.

While my friend and I was there we saw two other groups having an afternoon tea, as well as two ladies in their spa robes ( yes they have a spa here too) who wandered casually in for a drink and snacks in between their treatments which in fact we thought they were very brave to do so!

We were given the Copper Lunch Menu to choose from which had everything from sandwiches and panini’s, salads and burgers and then individual style mains. I chose the Battered Haddock Fillet ,Beer Batter, Scraps, Pickled Onion, Minted Mushy Peas, Lemon, Tartar Sauce, Double Cooked Chips priced at £12.50 and my friend chose the (V) Roasted Pumpkin and Sage Ravioli, Chestnut Mushrooms, Sage Butter, British Truffle Oil, Pecorino priced at £15.00. We also enjoyed a gorgeous glass of Pinot Grigot rose while we had a good old gossip and waited for our food. In all fairness, we did wait quite a while for the main course and then dessert considering it wasn’t very busy that particular day, however, as we were having a lovely catch up, and didn’t need to do a school pick up it wasn’t an issue for us and it was a lovely relaxing atmosphere anyway.

When our food arrived I immediately new I had made the right choice on mine, it looked beautifully cooked, crisp and smelled delicious.

The chips were amazing and the batter on the fish was beautifully dry and crisp and don't even get me started on the minted mushy peas! :)
The chips were amazing and the batter on the fish was beautifully dry and crisp and don’t even get me started on the minted mushy peas!

My friend however, was a little disappointed at the portion size of her pasta dish as a main, especially for the price, but she did say she thoroughly enjoyed it none the less.

As you can see the portion size of the pasta came up a little disappointing considering the price although the taste was  lovely
As you can see the portion size of the pasta came up a little disappointing considering the price although the taste was lovely

It was a tough choice on desserts as I probably could have ordered any one of them to be honest, but I opted for the Rhubarb and custard, Honeycomb crumble priced at £5.95 as I though it was a lovely traditional crumble and custard. This couldn’t have been more wrong it came up almost as a trifle and although I was a little disappointed it was truly lush! After gorging on my fish and chips, which was a very filling meal this dessert was light and creamy and a perfect finish to my meal, I think anything more substantial for me would have left me feeling a little too stuffed. The only thing I would say is that 4 tiny pieces of honeycomb on the top does not make a crumble and it would have benefited from some more honeycomb.

See it's not a traditional crumble.............but absolutely gorgeous, so light and creamy!
See it’s not a traditional crumble………….but absolutely gorgeous, so light and creamy!

My friend though opted for the Sticky Toffee pudding, butterscotch with frozen caramel cream priced at £4.50, again as her pasta dish was not overly filling this was a perfect dessert for her and was exactly what it said on the menu. I did try a little and it tasted beautiful and was a good size dessert too.

Looks lush and tasted lush.............enough said!
Looks lush and tasted lush………….enough said!

I loved the tree lights the hotel has both in the bar area and the reception are they are truly stunning and really added a touch of elegance for the hotel. The staff in the bar were very approachable and friendly and we were ‘checked’ on a few times and even the barman came over checking if we needed more drinks too. It was a lovely lunch overall and having never really used the hotel in that respect before I would certainly go back as a treat again. I think when you see a hotel it doesn’t really occur to you to book into the restaurant or bar for lunch unless you are staying there, but obviously with special lunch menus, Christmas dinner and New Year options and afternoon teas available it is actually a shame not to when it is on your doorstep.

DISCLOSURE: I was invited  to enjoy a courtesy lunch at the Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath for review purposes however, all views are my own