Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Bella Vista Cucina Italiana, Blackheath

London can feel like a big place. Living in New Cross, I often find myself crossing the river to meet up with those North dwellers who have The Fear of the South East. This is a recognisable syndrome; confusion, sometimes panic at being told there is no tube station and the overland must be sought. Other symptoms include getting lost, becoming bewildered and crying at London Bridge and all of its 16 platforms.

It was with some happiness that I was invited to a dinner being organised for South Easters, at Bella Vista Cucina Italiana in the rather lovely Blackheath; a mere 10 minutes from my flat. I'd met all the people round the table bar a couple, and we're firm friends; we stick together in our little corner of the capital.

Huge fat buttery green olives tided us over while we sipped on lovely pear-scented glasses of Prosecco. A special set menu of 6 smaller dishes all of which are on the menu was devised for our table with the wines, all Italian, matched by Ben Smith of Enotria.

To start, 'calamari ripeni with sauteed monk's beard'. A new vegetable to me, it was much like a slightly stringier spinach. The tube was stuffed with the tentacles of the squid mixed with basil, spincah and pine nuts. A smooth, rich tomato sauce complemented it nicely.

Next up, a plateful of bresaola with goats cheese, beetroot and rocket. The beef, properly from the bull was thinly sliced and flavoursome. A swig of the wine, a fruity, cherry-scented Dolcetto Nirane Ascheri '09 brought out the beefy, bloody flavour well. A drizzle of olive oil over the leaves was gorgeously fruity, though the goats cheese slightly overwhelmed the flavour of the beef and was more suited to being smeared over the toasted slice of bread.

Grilled mackerel with anchovy, caper and fennel was the best wine and food match of the evening. The fish, stuffed with the anchovy and caper was beautifully fresh and crisp-skinned. Accompanying it, the salsa di Pomodoro was studded with pearl barley which managed to have a moreish creamy quality to it. A crisp '08 Pinot Bianco Classici from Colterenzio was citrussy without being acidic and had a slight flavour of honey to it, mellowing the aniseed tang of the fennel that was cooked until it was juicy, lurking beneath. We all loved this dish, and even converted someone who was previously dubious about the fish. I wanted more.

A pasta dish of Paccheri Amatriciana was a lesson in simplicity. Big fat slappy pasta tubes, cooked to al dente sat in a tomato sauce studded with bacon and basil, topped with a shaving of Pecorino. Being the pasta fiend I am, I finished mine off in no time and helped another diner out with theirs. It's reassuring to see a deft hand with pasta at an Italian restaurant.

Our final savoury course of the night, grilled lamb rump with marjoram sauce, looked mouth-watering. The slices of lamb were pink and tender, but the sauce had a bitter edge which was mildly tempered by the semi-dried tomatoes, though not enough so. The meat sat upon a smooth cannellini bean mash which wasn't to my taste; slightly floury in texture, I'd have preferred polenta or potato (I still ate it all). The Parusso Barolo '05 had a hint of vanilla and tobacco about it and while it was full-bodied, the lamb stood up well to it.

Full to the point of dangerous shirt-button-straining territory, I prayed for a light dessert. The date and mascarpone tart with Frangelico and hazelnut sauce was a delight, and one of the highlights - not something I often say about desserts. The filling was mousse-like in consistency, the pastry crumbly and buttery. It all had just the right amount of sweetness so as to not be cloying or sickly. Crunchy hazelnuts scattered around the plate were scooped up and shovelled in. The '06 Morsi di Luce I felt clashed ever so slightly with it, as it was a touch too sweet for my tastes and I enjoyed it more after I'd finished the dish.

Head chef Alex Tyndall, formerly of Michelin-starred Chapter One (a favourite of my family), came out to have a chat with us. Clearly passionate about finding the best ingredients, he's been cooking at Bella Vista only for a few months and it's obvious that with him at the helm, this place will do well. Quite frankly, it's a relief; Greenwich and Blackheath, both such lovely places to live near, used to have absolutely zip-zero decent eateries. With places like this and reportedly The Old Brewery (of which I haven't visited), things are looking up.

We paid up happily and waddled out to our cabs - shared, of course, since we're all locals. The next morning I woke up thinking about that pasta. I could've eaten it for breakfast.


3/5 Montpelier Vale
Blackheath
London SE3 0TA

Tel: 020 8318 1143

Bella Vista on Urbanspoon

12 comments:

Catherine said...

Wow, has changed a bit since I used to go - a decade ago it was a pretty bog standard Italian. Ever tried Khans, further up Montpelier Vale, towards the heath? I used to eat there very regularly (only lived 5 mins walk away) and loved some of the Nepalese specials.

The Grubworm said...

This is great! I can now meet my friends from Catford halfway! Good know there's more good places appearing in Blackheath

Grumbling Gourmet said...

The lamb does it for me, that looks cooked to perfection! Some really interesting options on the menu too, and definitely the sort of stuff that would tempt me to New Cross!

Rich

Helen said...

This looks delish! Sad I couldn't make it but finances are just too tight. Obviously I wasn't missed though - sniffle ;)
i still can't work out why it's such a ball ache to get from Peckham to blackheath but at least I know there's something worth schlepping out for.

alexthepink said...

Sounds yummy - we're thinking of moving to Blackheath and this gives us another good reason!

The Wine Maestro said...

Lovely post and I'm glad you had a such a fine evening - it's good to hear about restaurants that offer quality sarf of the river.
We enjoyed another Blackheath venue ZeroDegrees a few month's ago which I wrote about: http://brettthewinemaestro.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/terroirising-in-town-and-brewing-in-blackheath/

Deptford dame said...

Thanks for that post. Like Catherine my previous experience of Bella Vista was about 10 years ago and I never went back as it was so underwhelming. Great to know there's somewhere new to try in Blackheath.

The London Foodie said...

All dishes look amazing - how much did it cost you for all courses if you don't mind me asking?

Dr G Potts said...

We USED TO really like eating at Bella Vista, and have been going there for many years (at least 6). We would always take weekend visitors and others visiting us from abroad to Bella Vista for a delicious italian meal. It HAD reliably good food and reasonably friendlyservice.
UNFORTUNATELY we will NO LONGER patronise Bella Vista due to our treatment today. Whilst the food remains good (not great), it is possible to get just as good, or perhaps better, Italian food in SE London, and receive far better, friendlier service and treatment. Our waiter was sweet enough, and the chef smiley as he passed through the dining area. However we received the most appalling, unprovoked treatment from the manageress. We arrived for a very early lunch (12pm) without our 1-year-old who ate very quietly and was very well behaved (he eats with us in restaurants several times a week). Then, having finished eating, and just before we asked for our bill, the baby was getting a little tired and let out a cry, which lasted literally no longer than 20 seconds; the amount of time it took to get the baby's dummy out of our bag. Since it was so early, there were hardly any other diners, except for a single man next to us, and two tables of two far across the far end on the other side of the restaurant in a separate room. However, the manageress rushed over to us and ask if she could give the baby a piece of bread, even though we had finished eating, and the baby about to put the dummy in his mouth. When we said no thanks, and she insisted, and we asked her why, she said the baby was disturbing the other customers. The man next to us said he was not disturbed, and the manageress claimed her other customers had 'turned their heads' when the baby let out his momentary cry. So she basically wanted to stick a piece of bread in our child's mouth to shut him up.
So, we will no longer patronise Bella Vista, nor recommend it as we have been doing. And we will certainly be telling all out parent-friends in the area how family-UNfriendly this place is.
You'd think, in a place like Blackheath, which is mummy-baby central practically everyday of the week, the manageress would no how to politely handle customers with babies and children. But she was incredibly rude and should not be in the hospitality industry!

Anonymous said...

We USED TO really like eating at Bella Vista, and have been going there for many years (at least 6). We would always take weekend visitors and others visiting us from abroad to Bella Vista for a delicious italian meal. It HAD reliably good food and reasonably friendlyservice.
UNFORTUNATELY we will NO LONGER patronise Bella Vista due to our treatment today. Whilst the food remains good (not great), it is possible to get just as good, or perhaps better, Italian food in SE London, and receive far better, friendlier service and treatment. Our waiter was sweet enough, and the chef smiley as he passed through the dining area. However we received the most appalling, unprovoked treatment from the manageress. We arrived for a very early lunch (12pm) without our 1-year-old who ate very quietly and was very well behaved (he eats with us in restaurants several times a week). Then, having finished eating, and just before we asked for our bill, the baby was getting a little tired and let out a cry, which lasted literally no longer than 20 seconds; the amount of time it took to get the baby's dummy out of our bag. Since it was so early, there were hardly any other diners, except for a single man next to us, and two tables of two far across the far end on the other side of the restaurant in a separate room. However, the manageress rushed over to us and ask if she could give the baby a piece of bread, even though we had finished eating, and the baby about to put the dummy in his mouth. When we said no thanks, and she insisted, and we asked her why, she said the baby was disturbing the other customers. The man next to us said he was not disturbed, and the manageress claimed her other customers had 'turned their heads' when the baby let out his momentary cry. So she basically wanted to stick a piece of bread in our child's mouth to shut him up.
So, we will no longer patronise Bella Vista, nor recommend it as we have been doing. And we will certainly be telling all out parent-friends in the area how family-UNfriendly this place is.
You'd think, in a place like Blackheath, which is mummy-baby central practically everyday of the week, the manageress would no how to politely handle customers with babies and children. But she was incredibly rude and should not be in the hospitality industry!

Richard said...

I've only just stumbled upon this review wondering if I should revisit Bella Vista having had two meals (one unremarkable, one awful) there since moving to Blackheath in 2006. Sounds as though I shouldn't have left it so long to go back! Have you been back since this review?

HungryLondoner said...

Hi Hollow Legs. I always love your writing and agree with you about Bella Vista. Have you made it to the Old Brewery yet? I go most weekends!

Thanks and keep up the excellent blog.

Paul (aka the hungry londoner)