Bella Italia, Centre 27, Leeds – Restaurant Review
By Rebecca Tredget
I’m not really sure what to expect from Bella Italia, especially one that’s on a retail park that I’d only ever previously visited for Ikea. I have no idea what the food will be like or what sort of people will be dining there. Well, it seems to be mostly couples dining (before the cinema probably), families and groups of friends (before the cinema probably) and tweenage birthday parties (yes, before the cinema probably). The interior has been redecorated and it’s very comfortable – modern Italian with lots of booths and arty features.
The drinks menu isn’t vast. There are a few different wines of each colour, a few different beers (all the big names) and a few different cocktails. I go for a large glass of the Sauvignon Blanc, Tor Del Colle (£5.25) which is lovely and crisp. The kind of wine you want to drink outside on a warm summer evening (sadly, it wasn’t a warm summer’s evening). My date goes for a bottle of Budweiser (£3.60). Both are very reasonably priced and perfectly acceptable.
To commence we opt for one of the ‘sharing’ starters, the Baked Italian Cheese & Dipping Breads (£9.75). It is baked Tomino cheese with a selection of breads. I’ve never had Tomino before but it is akin to Camembert/Brie, very mild and gooey and perfect for dipping bread into. The breads were a range of warm ciabatta, focaccia and dough balls, all delicious, in fact the rosemary focaccia is a delight. It is a generous portion for two people but nevertheless, we eat it all. A good start for Bella Italia…
“Could have been perfect”
For mains I decide to go a bit left-field and order a burger… in an Italian restaurant! One of the Bella Double Piccante Burgers (£12.75) is described as being a “mammoth burger for monster appetites”. Slathered on a lovely, fresh ciabatta bun is a fiery Piri Piri mayonnaise which contrasts wonderfully with the crisp lettuce and juicy tomato.
Melted cheese drips down the patty along with a sprinkle of chopped green chillies. So far, so good. Until we get to the actual burger. Unfortunately the meat really lets the whole burger down. I am hoping for smoky, juicy, plump burgers (there are two patties in the Bella Doubles) but what I get is limp, lifeless and lacklustre. A crying shame because every other element of the burger is delicious, and it could so nearly have been perfect.
Not everything is ruined though. The burger is served with a lovely, smoky tomato salsa and fries. I decide to substitute the potato fries that come with it for courgette fries, and my god am I glad. The courgette fries are fantastic. Lightly fried in batter, but not greasy. Soft, sweet batons of courgette are truly the stars of the meal. However, my date’s dinner does not fare so well.
“Room for improvement”
He chooses the Carne Calzone (£9.95) which looks promising on arrival. However the advertised pancetta is nowhere to be seen and the meatballs match my burger’s quality. Plus, the tomato sauce that is liberally spooned on top is cold. And, sadly, in the words of Mary Berry, it had a soggy bottom. I try a nibble and some elements are nice. The sauce tastes of fresh tomatoes and basil, the edges are crisp as they should be, however, there is definite room for improvement.
After feeling a bit let down by the main courses I had high hopes for the desserts. I order the Cookie Dough Lava Cake (£5.50) and my dining partner goes for the Cioccolato Diavola (£5.25). The Cookie Dough Lava Cake is molten chocolate sandwiched between two warm chocolate chip cookies with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce on top. Perfection for my sweet tooth. The cookies are doughy and soft with a delicious chocolate centre, perfect with the melting ice cream. My date’s dessert is even better. A warm slab of fudgey, gooey brownie covered in melted chocolate, praline pieces and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So dense, rich and chocolatey, I have serious food envy.
“A good re-brand”
Service throughout our meal is fantastic. We are seated straight away and continuously asked whether everything is okay and if we needed anything. None of the staff are aware we were reviewing, so it really was a testament to them at how efficient and friendly they are.
I have to say, although it felt a bit strange visiting a restaurant on a retail park it was brilliant being able to park right outside (even better for young families or those with trouble walking, I imagine) . It’s also perfect if you’re popping to the cinema next door before or after. However, it just didn’t deliver on the main courses. This was a huge shame as it really was only a couple of very simple things that needed improving. A good re-brand, but extra tweaks needed on the mains.
Centre 27 Leisure Park, Birstall, Leeds WF17 9TD
01924 422 374
A three course meal for two including two drinks was roughly £55