So, my favourite Bristol restaurant, Bell’s Diner has spawned an offshoot (A boisterous little sister, in their own words) Bellita. Located on the site of the highly regarded Flinty Red; which recently ascended to restaurant Valhalla. It’s always sad when a respected restaurant closes its doors, but these things happen and change is apparently good. So that’s enough mourning. Onwards and upwards. The King is dead, long live the Queen! And all that.
I’m extremely pleased to report that after three visits (just to be sure) it appears that Bellita has hit the ground running and is living up to the ‘enfant terrible’ of Bell’s tag; seemingly rather effortlessly. A fact that leaves me with the total non-dilemma of living smack-bang equidistant between my favourite restaurant (Bell’s) and its sibling, Bellita; Yes, I am the proverbial dog with two dicks.
The food at Bell’s Diner has always been superb and it’s their sous chef; Joe Harvey under Head Chef Sam Sohn-Rethel who has made the leap and is running the kitchen at Bellita; bringing a few favourites off their menu along, as well as a whole load of new dishes encompassing the same Spanish, North African, Mediterranean vibe that has made Bell’s Diner so consistently interesting.
As at Bell’s, Kate Hawking’s has pulled together a cracking, tight little wine list backed up by an interesting selection of shims (aperitifs) shrubs (fruit cordials made with fruit, sugar and vinegar) and shandies (ginger or raspberry) along with classic Negroni’s and Campari/Aperol Spritz.
I should mention the restaurant interior, because despite the food at Flinty Red being superb, I was never really taken with the actual room. It had something of a 1980’s wine bar feel about it and just seemed a bit Spartan and characterless. The new owners have addressed this somewhat, the colour scheme being subtly warmer. The large, ugly ceiling air-con panels have gone. There’s also some high tables and stools to perch on, with seating running down one side of the room. It’s definitely an improvement.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been a few times now and the potato and parmesan fritters are f*cking immense. Yeah, I do have a thing for potatoes…and cheese (which right minded person doesn’t?) but bloody hell, tres oui to the upmost. I’ll just say three words; hot, crisp, oozing. My work here is done.
The Jamon Iberico croqueta are similarly immense, but my ingrained; greedy bastardo, economy head reckons three spud and cheese fritters for £3, trumps Jamon Iberico croqueta at £2 each EVERY TIME! But then saying that, it’s all so reasonable; live a little and get some of those too.
The gem salad with Caesar dressing is definitely worth ordering, to balance out all the frigging potatoes that you’re gonna have to eat. Because It’s a pomme de terre bonanza at Bellita and I couldn’t be more happy. Did I mention how much I frigging love potatoes?
Fried potatoes with aioli and mojo verde (I had to ask what mojo verde was, turns out it’s a mint-chilli version of salsa verde) How good does that sound. The spuds are so crispy and bloody delicious. So yeah!
But then there’s fried potatoes with chicken stock and parsley and these are even better. The same crisp, fluffy potatoes as before but paddling around in a pool of intense chicken stock, it’s like some kind of messed up potato package holiday in that bowl, until you ruin the potato party, playing the part of a ravenous spud eating Godzilla type monster, reaching in and plucking one before devouring it an orgy or violence.
Errrr….is it just me who thinks like this?
Moving swiftly on….
Burnt aubergine. Pepper and onion salad with pomegranates and chilli. Very Ottolenghi’ish and a cracking little side order.
Rice, Feta and Saffron Filo parcel with pumpkin borani and pistachios. This was a stunning plate of food. I ate these with my mate Elly, and she was absolutely ecstatic; making all sorts of alarming growling noises from across the other side of the table. It’s such a nicely balanced dish, sweet pumpkin, sour yoghurt, salty feta, crisp filo and creamy borani. These are a definite must order. In fact, maybe order two rounds of these.
Sam from Bell’s Diner has had a similar dish to this on the menu from way back when he was working at Manna; slow cooked trout, tzatziki and pickled cucumber. Beautiful, soft and translucent fish, slightly sweet, when eaten with the creamy yoghurt and sharpness of the cucumber it’s a superb plate of food.
I wasn’t such a fan of the Cornish clams cooked in garlic butter with leeks and Pernod. It looked cracking and I loved the bowl it was served in, but I thought the alcohol whack from the Pernod was a bit on the aggressive side and slightly overpowering.
Chorizo, morcilla and butifarra with white beans, cooked with smoked ham hock and aioli is a banging plate of food, a small bowl of everything meaty and there’s sod all wrong with that. Definitely one for eating alongside the fried potatoes and mopping up with some bread.
After this lot, I was stuffed silly, but still managed to pitch in and help demolish a rather superb chocolate torte with salted caramel sauce and mascarpone.
It’s obvious that the team at Bell’s Diner have got another huge success on their hands. The food is happily, very similar in terms of quality and style to what you’d find on the menu at Bellita’s older, more established sibling but there’s a slightly different vibe. It’s more informal and more about sticking your head in and propping up the bar with a few small plates rather than booking and sitting down to full on meals. Although you can definitely do that as well, I’m looking forward to ordering the Charcoal-grilled 8 year old Galician beef sirloin with chicken stock potatoes, for two; at some point.
So, in conclusion I’ve got a cracking little offshoot of my favourite Bristol restaurant just a 5 minute walk from my flat and Bristol has another superb restaurant to add to the existing handful of true belters. Winner-winner chicken stock fried potato dinner.
34 Cotham Hill
Telephone – 0117 923 8755