A couple of weeks back, the girls and I spent a particularly Christmassy day in London with Ruth, Florence and Jimmy, of RocknRoller Baby fame.
It's funny really because when I lived in London I was never even remotely interested in the festive light displays all over our capital. Three years after leaving the big smoke for country life I find myself longing to pay them a visit every Christmas!
This year, the West End didn't disappoint. We spent an afternoon at Mahiki with King Julien of Madagascar fame, before wandering round Bond, Oxford and Mount Streets, ooh-ing and ahh-ing giant sparkly peacock feathers and baubles that were suspended in the sky. After about forty five minutes we were pretty chilly so we were especially looking forward to our reservation at Bella Italia on Irving Street.
Although Bella Italia is a very popular and large restaurant chain, I hadn't actually eaten at one before and had no idea what to expect. I presumed it would be very similar to the other family friendly Italian eateries we all know and love, but have to say I was extremely surprised and very, very impressed.
I love finding hidden gems in London; little independent restaurants, tucked away off the beaten track, but sometimes, especially where children are involved, it's easier to just go with what you know, where you know your kids will eat the cuisine, and you know there will be highchairs and crayons.
The menu at Bella Italia is brilliant. It has your standard pizza and pasta dishes, yes, but also has a really extensive grill menu - plus infinitely more starters and sides than you would expect. I loved the kids menu as it gives them loads of options, and my kids love to be allowed to make their own choices, it makes them feel so grown up! It's also very reasonably priced at £5.25 - and that includes a drink too.
To start, we shared some garlic pizza bread, the kids had antipastini (Grissini Italian breadsticks, cucumber and carrot sticks, served with a pomodoro sauce) and then I had succulent king prawns baked in garlic & chilli butter, with ciabatta. Oh my!
For my main I had a polpette pizza - mini meatballs, cherry bell peppers, roasted red onions, mozzarella and Granello cheese - while Daisy opted for casarecci pasta with bolognese sauce and Evie had the cod goujons.
I ADORED the dessert menus. Their 'Fabulous & Amazing Gelato Cart', where you get to choose your style, your ice cream and your toppings, was just genius! Or if you're like me and tend to overindulge with your main dish, there are mini desserts too. I had a bite sized serving of cioccolato torte with a double espresso, which was just what I needed to satisfy my sweet craving without making me too full. It was gooooooooood.
In fact everything about our meal was better than good; it was utterly divine. It was fresh, hot and brought to us incredibly quickly. The service at the Irving Street restaurant was wonderful, even before the staff knew we were there to review. There was a bit of a queue ahead of us and I watched as they whizzed around the tables; happy, pleasant, efficient. We also had a bit of an incident with a poorly Jimmy and they were absolutely incredible with him and Ruth.
Thanks so much to Bella Italia for a delicious meal - and the perfect end to a perfect day. The girls and I will most certainly be back.
DISCLAIMER: We were invited to Bella Italia to review the menu. Our meals were complimentary.