Bella Italia

I quite like Bella Italia, yes I know it is a chain and they use a range of pre-made ingredients in their cooking and it’s all systems and less about flair and passion. Even having said that compared to other places I enjoy the food, the service, the atmosphere and the Italian’ess.

I was there on Monday for lunch and had an enjoyable meal. I started with the calamari and unlike other places which serve pre-cooked rubbery squid rings, at Bella Italia they do use the whole squid. However they do seem to overcook it, it would  be much better if they cooked for half the time that they do. Still nice, but not how I like it. It arrived with lemon and mayonnaise.

I had pizza for my main course, a Quattro Stagioni, the four seasons; pepperoni, smoked ham, roasted mushrooms and artichokes. It was quite nice, I prefer the pizza from Pizza Express, but this is so much better than the pizzas you can get in other (so-called) pizza eateries. The smoked ham was too salty for me, so that went off, but the mushrooms and artichokes were done well. The pizza base was just right, thin and not too crispy or too soggy. The tomato sauce was slightly too salty, but did taste of tomates. I would have liked a little more cheese.

The pasta dish ordered by my other half was very nice as well, Penne Funghi Pancetta. which was pancetta bacon, mushrooms and penne pasta sauteed in a creamy cheese sauce.

We had soft drinks and left before we could have coffee as we were pushed for time.

The service was fine, though it did take a little time for our main courses to arrive, and it felt like they had been waiting for a while.

Overall it was a nice place for lunch and I would make a return visit.

Café Rouge – too salty even it was by the sea…

I really like Café Rouge, I have had nice meals there in Brighton and Bath, so when I was in Cardiff recently I stopped to get a coffee and a snack.

I ordered a baguette with fries and a coffee.

Well I was disappointed, the baguette sandwich was fine and what I was expecting, however the fries were so very salty. I have never understood why some places insist on salting their fries (or chips) before serving them to the customer. Are people getting so lazy now that even if they want salt on their fries they couldn’t be bothered to do it themselves and let the restaurant or café do it for them. Even so in this instance there seemed to be a about three days of your recommended daily allowance on a pathetically small portion of fries in Café Rouge. I had to send them back, and though the waitress seemed to indicate that was how they came, I did manage to get unsalted fries. I got the impression that the fries I had before *may* have been secondhand or from the bottom of a badly salted batch.

I don’t like a lot of salt on my food (I never add it myself to my food or my cooking) so when I get something which is heavily salted in a restaurant I can’t eat it. Sometimes I remember to ask, but usually I forget.

So apart from the very very salty fries, what else did I not like about Café Rouge in Cardiff, well, the sausage in my baguette was overcooked and slightly burnt in places, I am guess they meant chargrilled, but it was more charred than grilled.

Another thing, the service was very very intrusive. I really wanted to be left alone to enjoy my meal, but the waitress kept coming up to me to see if I wanted this, or wanted that, or was it okay, etc… I had only just put my fork down on my empty plate and she was there ready to take it away.

Please give me a little time…

Also it took ages for my order to arrive in the first place (so I did get my time then, but she was always there…). It wasn’t as though the place was really busy, six of us all together I think, and the others were either about to leave or had their food on their table. There were about six waiting staff, there may have been more, but I think they needed more staff in the kitchens.

Overall I was disappointed with the food and the service, I know Café Rouge is a chain, but in this case the Cardiff branch was a real disappointment. I will probably go to the one in Bath again, but Cardiff, well there are plenty of other places to eat in the vicinity and the tapas place looked interesting.

The Italian Academy of Cooking slams Italian restaurants in the UK

The Italian Academy of Cooking has launched a scathing attack on the standard of Italian restaurants abroad.

It says two-thirds of the restaurants they reviewed mistook the ingredients or the preparations.

Italians are very proud of their cooking and their recipes, rooted in many different regions and traditions.

But when they travel, most stay well away from Italian food and with good reason: some 60% of Italian restaurants abroad are awful, the academy says.

Read more

Rante Restaurant, Radisson SAS Hotel, Espoo, Finland

Last July I was in Finland and I went to the Rante Restaurant in the Radisson SAS Hotel in Espoo in Finland is an Italian restaurant which also serves some Finnish dishes.

I had originally walked into Haguland (Tapiola) to see if I could get a meal there (as I am generally not a great fan of hotel restaurants) and couldn’t find anything open or the only other choice was McDonalds.

So after quite a nice walk, I went back to the hotel and went into the restaurant. I sat down at a table and looked over the menu.

I decided that an antipasto would be nice, followed by carpaccio and then the reindeer.

For the antipasto I asked for prawns in pesto, and thought this would arrive quickly.

Fifty minutes later it did!

A small bowl of small prawns in pesto arrived, I don’t know why I thought they would be grilled prawns, but they were not.

I did not have to wait as long for my next course, beef carpaccio.

This was superb, coming with some weird leaves (more like grass) and some what I think were very large pickled capers!

I then thought ah not too long to my main course, couldn’t have been more wrong, forty minutes later it eventually arrived.

Well the reindeer was certainly worth the wait and certainly not what I expected. On the way to the Hotel from the airport I used a Yellow Line taxi, these are communal shared taxis, one of the occupants, a shipping consultant for the Silja Line, had mentioned in passing conversation that when he had reindeer he had found it very strongly flavoured akin to venison. So I was expecting the reindeer fillet to be very strongly flavoured, but it wasn’t it was very delicate, tender, almost melt in the mouth. It came with a fantastic sauce, a few vegtables. I had asked for the chive mash to be replaced with french fries (as that was what I fancied.

I decided against a desert as the neighbouring table had to wait an age for theirs and it was getting late.

Overall I was pleased with the quality of the food, the only real disappointment was the prawns.

The carpaccio and the reindeer were excellent.