Described as “the boisterous little sister of Bell’s Diner“, Bellita is brought to Bristol by the same team behind the York Road restaurant, and opened on October 16th in the premises formerly housing Flinty Red on Cotham Hill. Combining Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern influences, the kitchen is headed up by former Bell’s sous chef Joe Harvey, who’s turning out some absolute masterpieces.
We visited on a rainy Friday lunchtime, the new, cosy decor (it feels far warmer and richer than Flinty Red used to) and the smells wafting from the kitchen certainly whetting our appetites.
We didn’t really take full advantage of the drinks menu, both opting for soft drinks, but those who fancy something a little harder can choose from a range of shims, shrubs and shandies, beers, and a reasonably short but nicely varied selection of wines, all from female winemakers.
What we were really there for was the food: the menu consisting of a single page of dishes – split into bar snacks, veg, seafood, meat and pudding – and designed for sharing.
We began our exploration of the menu with a few choices from the Bar menu: a jamon iberico croqueta (£2 each) was crisp and golden on the outside, the interior rich and thick and flecked with small pieces of beautifully salty ham…
This was quickly followed by a portion of three potato and Parmesan fritters (£3 for three), again with a crisp, golden exterior, which gave way to a moreish centre, packed full of flavour.
On to the Veg section of the menu, and one of the best salads I’ve had this year (£6.50): a combination of thin slivers of Jerusalem artichoke and pear, the sweetness tempered by slices of bitter chicory, a scattering of whole almonds and shavings of salty Manchego. The whole thing was topped off by a drizzle of truffle oil: just enough to give flavour, but not so much that it overpowered the more delicately flavoured salad ingredients. Fantastic.
The rice, feta and saffron filo parcels (£8) were probably my favourite dish of the visit: two perfectly cooked filo triangles, each one packed full of salty cheese and perfectly cooked rice, with a nice contrast added by the sweet pumpkin and sour yoghurt in the borani, crushed pistachios and pomegranate jewels scattered over the plate.
We rounded off our meal with a selection from the Meat part of the menu, and certainly weren’t disappointed. The two pork cheeks (£12) were beautifully cooked, flaking under the fork, and lovely and sticky having been cooked in Pedro Ximenez. The cauliflower purée on which they sat was incredibly smooth, the wild mushrooms full of flavour and the crispy sage leaves rounding the dish off to make a true autumnal winner.
On this occasion, we didn’t have room for dessert – but we’ll definitely be back. At just shy of £40 for our lunch, including drinks, we felt that it was seriously good value considering the quality of the food and the range available. Highly recommended.