Monday, 22 December 2014

Dinner at Bella Italia

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.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Reading

A lot of my friends seem to be jumping on the book Advent bandwagon this year. As an avid reader with two young children that also love books, I think this is such a lovely idea and one I'm really tempted to join in with next year!

We already have a mini stash of books that come out with the Christmas decorations. They stay out for the month of December and then get packed away when the tree comes down in January. I'd really love to collect twenty four different festive themed ones so that we can read something completely different every night in December (ending with 'The Night Before Christmas' on Christmas Eve, of course!)

Last week we added 'The Best Christmas Jumper' by Rachel Bright and Vicki Gausden to our collection. This is a book produced by Costa in support of Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day. 

It's a brilliant rhyming story centred around Costa's four festive cup characters, Father Christmas, Reindeer, Snowman and Elf (and Penguin and Polar Bear too) and the illustrations are just gorgeous. It also has a great moral; to work together and not argue!

The book is on sale in Costa Coffee Shops across the country up until the end of December for just £1.50, £1.17 of which goes to Save the Children. It would make such a lovely stocking filler this year - and could come out every Christmas too. Next time you're buying a cup of coffee, why not pick a copy up xoxo

Thanks to Costa for sending us this little festive treat!

All Hail King Julien!

On Sunday, me and my little crew had THE most lovely and festive day in London. 

We got to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street, Bond Street and down lots of little Mayfair backstreets, and also reviewed Bella Italia in Leicester Square (more of that in another post) but we kicked off the day with heaps of fun at Mahiki courtesy of Netflix and Mothers' Meetings!

We were invited to a special celeb studded screening of the first two episodes of the new Netflix original, All Hail King Julien which is a spin off from the immensely popular film Madagascar and is due to air for the first time tomorrow (just in time for the school holidays!).

I joined Ruth from Rock n Roller Baby and Carolynne from Mummy Endeavours, as well as our good friends (ahem ;)) Pixie Lott, Jaime Winstone and Leah and Jo Wood, for the party to end all parties, where the kids drank virgin coladas from fresh pineapples (us grown ups had wine), we ate delicious party food, we learnt some of King Julien's dance moves and the kids had their faces painted too.

Evie absolutely LOVED King Julien. I thought she might be a bit wary of a giant, dancing ring-tailed lemur but she spent the majority of the afternoon following him around the club and photobombing all the pictures people were taking of him! 

After four hours of partying hard, it was time to say goodbye. It had gotten dark outside which made it the perfect time for West End Christmas light viewing - and I have to say I LOVED Mahiki's display the best! (I'm all about bright, bold colour ever since having kids.... the tackier the better!)

We had a brilliant afternoon - thanks so much to Netflix and Mothers Meetings for inviting us along xoxo

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