Canary Wharf. The beating, high-rise heart of financial London, complete with expertly thought-out amenities, artisan food trucks and carefully-placed art ‘for character’.
If the food trucks don’t take your fancy, nor the chain restaurants, there’s a new option in town just a 10-minute walk away (or a 15-minute walk in circles and a £7 cab for those who aren’t familiar with the semi-pedestrianised, water-enclosed money-jungle). It’s Bella Cosa.
Situated past the South Quay DLR on the riverside itself, the new restaurant makes the most of its location with a glass-fronted wall on running along both the lower level and upper level of this casual/fine-dining restaurant.
The layout is kept flexible to accommodate business lunches for the cityboys as well as lingering dinners for local residents.
Forming a focal point downstairs is the chef’s island, where antipasti is created in front of diner’s eyes. Set further back, the open kitchen houses a stone pizza oven served in the more informal, buzzy downstairs area.
But step to the first floor and the atmosphere changes. It’s fine dining, Jim, but not quite as we know it. With an immense view of the Thames, and Canary Wharf set back east, the room itself is warm, cosy and everything the wharf isn’t (I’m not a fan, can you tell?). The tables themselves are stylish yet simple – the type of table design Victoria Beckham might create, if she was so inclined. We might argue that the wine room, with incredible backlighting and a breadth of Italian wines (and champers, because you have to) is the star of the show, but there’s also a smaller craft beer room, showcasing the best in Italian wines. And then there’s the food. The food!
Being veggie (no, come back), Italian is always a safe bet, and Bella Cosa is no exception. While there were a small but sufficient number of options on the a la carte, the tasting menu (£60) was too much to resist, particularly as the Executive Chef Kentaro Torii was able to accommodate my veggie self and my non-pork eating guest.
For starters, literally, was a beetroot mousse that was so fluffy and light it may as well have been delicious air. The Caprese salad only escalated expectation. Never mind the mozzarella and variety of sweet, firm tomatoes – the monochrome powders which accompanied the salad made this dish stand out. How does one harness the flavour of olive oil in powder form so delicately? Answers on a postcard…
Next on the list was the five cheese ravioli. Usually, this dish is served with suckling pig cheek, but neither myself nor my guest were able to enjoy this part. As a result, it was more than a little unbalanced, with nothing to counter the creaminess of the pasta, saffron sauce and cheese filling. That’s the risk with altering dishes, both for the chef and the diner.
The main fared much better. The veg option was mid-melty Tomino cheese, served with glazed veg to offset the richness. The seabass went down a treat with my companion, a lawyer well used to extravagant client dinners. The fish itself was excellently cooked, complimented by a clammy broth which, I was told, was not as overpowering as it sounds.
Washed down with a glass of the £9 medium-bodied Soave Classico (ask for recommendations – there’s little chance you’ll be able to navigate through the extensive, well-picked wine list), the restaurant already proved itself to be a new contender on the London dining scene.
Then came the sweets. Oh my.
The pre-dessert was a Pina Colada, but there was nothing pre about it – this was my favourite course of all. The coconut panna cotta flavours blended so wonderfully it made every other panna cotta seem like an imperfect match. On top of that was fresh pineapple that tasted like it had been picked two minutes ago, sliced, diced and served. Cuts of coconut meringue didn’t quite have the meltiness I associate with meringue, but the rest of the dish!
At this point, I was stuffed full of cheese, cream and small-bubbled Prosecco, but when a chocolate/hazelnut concoction is put in front of you with a main element that looks like bath sponge, you can’t say no.
It doesn’t taste like bath sponge, for the record, but its chocolate filling too was a little flavourless, IMHO. The cherry jelly more than made up for it – it sent my saliva glands into overdrive and I’m pretty sure there was a ‘ding ding ding’ in my brain somewhere as it was payout time for my endorphins. Incredible.
Just two weeks old, the menu is inventive and already well-executed on the whole, the interior design is very 2015, and the views are a draw. The real question is whether it will find enough of a clientele in its position on the fringes of the Wharf to keep it packed every night. We’re keen to keep this warm, welcoming asset in this mini-metropolis, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.