Docklands Italian Dining from Bella Cosa
Taking an Italian friend to an Italian restaurant is always a challenge. As I was once told, each Italian believes their own way is the only right way. And, how to make something as simple as a meat ragu will vary from village to village. Bella Cosa, an Italian restaurant in Docklands, had a lot to live up to. We were invited to review and find out more.
It has changed since I first visited and the space it occupied is now split, with a classy Indian restaurant on the top floor and Bella Cosa occupying the ground floor, with open kitchen, Pizza oven and pasta machine on hand. The original restaurant served Japanese Italian fusion dishes and, in a different location, would I’m sure have been a London foodie favourite. Here though, just too far from the main office area of Canary Wharf for a quick lunch, it’s probably better suited to the current menu. Though, they do offer a free taxi service for any office workers who want to enjoy a lunch of authentic Italian food cooked by an Italian chef. And, they are doing their own version of Eat Out to Help Out with 50% off food to a maximum of £10 from Sunday through to Friday and with a free glass of Prosecco if you book a table between 3 and 6.30 pm. There’s still a stunning private dining room on the first floor, shared between the two restaurants, for when life is back to some kind of normality.
What of the food and wine though? The menu has changed a lot and the wine list is simpler. But, my Italian friend was excited by the Italian wine list, in particular by a rosé wine which she said was really special (she’s a wine educator!). RosaMara Valtemisi 2019 was truly delicious and worked very well both as an aperitif and with our shared starters. Almost Provençal in appearance, this delicate and elegant rosé wine is currently on the list both by the glass and by the bottle. My friend’s excitement increased when she identified the wine supplier as Alivini, an Italian specialist importer that she recommended (they also sell retail). She was even impressed with the Luigi Bormioli glassware – authentic and top-quality Italian of course.
Meanwhile, our starters, mushrooms and truffle arancini with light garlic mayo and fried squid with aioli had arrived. The arancini looked beautiful if not quite as we’d expected – it was definitely one for the gram since these are normally served whole. My companion visibly winced but once she tasted them was more than happy. Although she said that she’d have expected them to be served whole (in the UK in small, crumbed and deep-fried balls, in Italy in larger ‘cones’) and that she’d also have expected the mushroom filling to be placed in the middle rather than mixed through the rice, the overall taste and texture of the filling was excellent, creamy and rich.
Our squid was delicious with a suitably crispy shell and perfectly cooked fish complemented by a light mayo.
Main courses were both exceptionally good. For me, a fillet steak topped with crispy leek and served with a side of broccoli. I was surprised how well the light shards of leek worked with the meat and impressed with the beautifully cooked and rested steak. Underneath, just enough lightly roasted new potatoes and a smattering of jus to finish the dish off perfectly.
My companion chose the more adventurous pan-fried Sea Bass with caponata. I make caponata at home, it’s a Sicilian sweet and sour dish not unlike a rather special ratatouille. Beautifully presented, the dish came with a generous portion of caponata which my companion really enjoyed.
‘The chef must be Sicilian’ she commented. Indeed there were a few other Sicilian dishes on the menu (Paccheri Alla Norma for example). We asked and she was quite right – born in Sicily and trained in Rome.
We finished the meal by sharing a tiramisu which was light and delicious and where again, my Italian companion commented on the authenticity. I make my own tiramisu ‘English Trifle’ style with Sponge Fingers but apparently, as served here, it should be made with a special kind of fat-free and light-as-a-feather sponge. It was totally moreish and even though I really didn’t need any more to eat, somehow the whole generous helping vanished!
Bella Cosa has migrated from the fine dining restaurant into a place which is altogether more accessible, though the food is in no way compromised. If you enjoyed their offering before you’ll still find plenty to choose from – and if you are looking for a classic Italian restaurant serving uncomplicated, made from scratch dishes that are as close to authentic as you’ll find without visiting Italy, it’s not a bad bed. Pizzas are between £9 and £13.50 which main courses start at £13 and go up to £22. The wine list has plenty of budget options and one or two really special wines available both by the glass and by the bottle.
And, in the summer, when it’s not a grey, rainy day, the riverside view will be superb.
213 Marsh Wall,
Isle of Dogs,
London E14 9FJ
020 7132 1212
Disclosure: We were guests of Bella Cosa but all content is editorially given and we were under no obligation to write a review.