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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bella Vista for my sister

My sister's birthday weekend celebrations began in earnest with dinner two Friday's ago (yes, I've taken a while to get this written) at Bella Vista. I've been a fan of this place for a while now, as it delivers the best coffee in Geraldton (using a special Five Senses blend) and I've enjoyed many a delicious meal lunch or dinner here as well (their crab angelhair pasta dish is crabbily angelic). It is very small and pokey inside, and you need to get a key from the staff to use the dodgy toilets next door (not really the type of toilets you want to visit without backup or a taser), but they are gearing up to move to new and improved premises soon so this decor/space/safety issue should be sorted out soon!

We were all looking forward to celebrating my sister's birthday with some great food and nice wine (well, those of us who were not still sick and thus driving). It is BYO, so with wine bottles in hand we scurried in out of the cold and squeezed our way to our table.

As is quite common at Bella Vista, there was a range of "Entrée - share plates" to choose from, in addition to some main dishes. The selection of eleven entrees included quite a few tempting choices, ranging from the $16.50 "rabbit rillette with pickled vegetables and toasted Turkish breads" to the $18 "pumpkin and coconut soup with crisp chicken, chilli and rice noodle dumplings" to "light panfried bread coated scallops with Asian slaw, peanut and pork sauce and candied chilli" for $22.

The mains only offered four choices which all sounded very nice (well, I admit I wasn't tempted by the grilled eye fillet steak). I was sure my sister would go for the "casselout (yes, that's how they spelled it) of duck confit, slow roasted pork, borlotti beans chickpeas, lentils, cacciatora sausage and side of broccolini" ($36), whilst I was tossing up between the "goat tagine with saffron, dates, Israeli couscous with mint yoghurt" ($33) and the "roasted lamb leg with celeriac cream, roasted kipfler potatoes, broad beans, mint jus and spiced tomato jam" ($35).

The first choice to make though was whether to go for two entrees or one main, seeing as both options ended up costing about the same. My sister chose contrarily to my assumption (she's changed since she turned.. um.... older) and went for the "panfried figs wrapped in pancetta with goats cheese, rocket and mint salad" ($18) and the "glazed pork ribs with hoi-sin honey and chickpea wedges" ($18), her friend R also chose the figs in addition to the "seafood roll - whiting fillet, with a mousse of prawns and scallops wrapped in nori paper with soy-ginger bok choy" ($22), her friend A chose only the "panfried chorizo sausage with lemon, fresh tomato and polenta cubes ($16.50), my cousin and I both went for the goat tagine and my sister's friend M asked for something not on the menu - a simple garden salad in line with her strong-willed adherence to reaching her weight loss goal!

Wine was drunk and conversation enjoyed while we waited, not too long, for our dishes to come out. They all looked very nice coming out of the kitchen, and we got stuck in with gusto. Well, as much sticking in with gusto as one can do when you don't have a great deal of elbow room and you're wearing nice clothes that you'd rather not get goat juice all over.

Panfried figs wrapped in pancetta with goats cheese, rocket & mint salad ($18)

These really were very good, as my sister was kind enough to give me a good taste of the cheesy, figgy, piggy goodness. A great combination of flavours that was bound to work, and which I may have to try to recreate at home. I think for $18 it could have done with more than three figs, but then again I guess it was a decent size for an entrée dish.

Glazed pork ribs with hoi sin honey & chickpea wedges ($18)

Again this dish was enjoyed, tasting as rich as it looked. I had a taste of the sauce, and could have wiped the dish clean with some bread. The chickpea "wedges" were curious, I couldn't quite identify them in the dish but could imagine some poor kitchenhand being told to cut up millions of chickpeas into wedges, with a tiny tiny knife.

Seafood roll - whiting fillet with a mousse of prawns & scallops wrapped in nori paper, with soy ginger bok choy ($22)

I didn't taste this dish, but from memory it was enjoyed by R. At least, I don't remember any complaints!

Panfried chorizo sausage with lemon, fresh tomato & polenta cubes ($16.50)

A was a little disappointed with this dish, finding it far too oily and lacking the promised "fresh tomato". I guess she may have been able to tolerate the oiliness a little better if she had ordered it in addition to something else, but I can certainly understand how it would be overwhelming to eat just this dish for dinner. I have to say though that it was quite impressive coming out. Really, I'm like a child sometimes getting excited at seeing a sizzling hot plate being brought out. It's a wonder I don't have to be reminded not to touch the hot plate as it'll give me owies.

Goat tagine with saffron, dates Israeli couscous & mint yoghurt ($33)

Now, onto my dinner! This smelt and tasted divine, it really did. The flavour was rich and hearty and had interesting depth. Unfortunately, there was about two mouthfuls of meat in the entire dish. The rest was bone, fat and connective tissue. Despite the whole lack-of-elbow-room thing, and the desire to leave the restaurant with my clothes free from goat juice, I actually had to get in there with my hands to try and find some more edible parts once I'd eaten all I could find with a knife and fork. Sadly my fingers were no more successful. My cousin's goat was the same, and we both felt quite disappointed at paying $33 for a dish and being left hungry at the end of it.

Oh, and M's salad, how could I forget the salad! Well, I could forget it because it was a garden salad that looked pretty much like most decent garden salads I've seen before. I refrained from photographing it because I was already feeling like a papparazza, and although it looked like a nice fresh mix of greens, tomato and avocado, I figured it was not worth documenting. Apparently however, it was, as the bill revealed that this salad was worth $18.

Sadly, this feeling that we had paid too much for a number of the dishes tarnished our view of the experience at Bella Vista this night. I would love to have left the restaurant with nothing but the amazing flavour of the tagine on my mind, but I was instead thinking of what there was to eat at home.

So, it's a bit of a mixed review really. Happily, Bella Vista still packs a punch with an interesting menu that really delivers on the flavours, but the prices (which seem to have recently increased) are discouraging, particularly when you're not built with the ability to eat bone and cartilage.

I will certainly be going back to Bella Vista for their exceptional coffees and great lunches (although I am unsure if their lunch prices have also increased), and in all honesty I think the flavours will likely draw me back for dinner, but there are a number of other Geraldton restaurants that I'm now thinking are worth a revisit to try and find better value for my money.

Bella Vista
205 Marine Tce, Geraldton
Phone: 08 9964 2681
Opening hours: I'm sorry, I'm not sure as they seem to change a bit. Will update when I get further information!


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 29, 2009 at 4:50 PM  

I would have totally ordered the goat tagine too! And lol at the spelling of cassoulet! I like hte term "crabbily angelic" and I suppose it can be applied to humans too! :P

Nicole July 31, 2009 at 1:32 PM  

Awesome, next time I'm in Gero visiting family will have to try there so far our favourite place to eat at has been that sort of Italian place that's near the round about down the bottom of the main street. Ahhh what's it called? Anyway, its awesome there :)

Rilsta July 31, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

When I saw the description of "chickpea wedges" I was like, huh? How can a tiny chickpea be broken into wedges?! The pork looks good though!

It's always disappointing to pay good money for a meal out and still come home hungry!

Chef Fresco August 1, 2009 at 6:40 AM  

Impressive! Looks like a lot of work, but well worth it!

Conor August 2, 2009 at 10:05 AM  

Lorraine - Maybe if both of us ordered it at the same time we would have had enough meat for one of us! I also think the menu had the spelling "tomatoe".

Nicole - You should, but definitely be warned about the potential for priciness there these days. And yes, it's Topolinis, as you already remembered :)

Rilsta - I know, it confused me too! Tiny little chickpeas. Why don't they grate them too? Or julienne, hehe.

Chef Fresco - A lot of work to find the meat in my tagine! :D

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