Unless you’re a city boy – not the usual Wonderland reader, perhaps – then you may not usually consider eating out near Canary Wharf. Bella Cosa is out to change all that. A short walk from big-bank territory, it’s split over two levels; a lower floor for quick on-the-go bites and then an upper section committed to the fine dining side of things. As if the name isn’t a giveaway, Bella Cosa is essentially Italian at heart, though with one major difference: the head chef, Kentaro Torri (declared Chef of the Year by the GVCI in 2012) lends a certain Japanese precision, and a fondness for raw fish, to the menu.
Any concerns I had that this would make Bella Cosa an ill-conceived, American Psycho style, Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant were thankfully dispersed when we got down to trying the well-wrought and extensive tasting menu. Still essentially high-tier Italian classics, Torri’s innovations are all restrained and tasteful. Case in point, the seafood ‘carpaccio’: a selection of raw fish semi-cooked (ceviche style) in lime that bares little resemblance to the beef dish it’s name echoes, but is nonetheless fresh, crisp and quite delicious – aside from a lonely raw prawn, which seems to me not just a texture failure but also a food hygiene faux-pas. Not a major issue, however, particularly as it was followed by an intelligently composed Sea Bass with clams and bombastic Sicilian capers. Then came 5 cheese ravioli with pig cheek (repelled by notion of cheek? Don’t be) and, surely the centre piece of the menu, a succulent and hearty portion of pork belly that was double cooked, and all the better for it: see what I mean about precision cooking?
A rather more experimental ‘Pina Colada in Desert’ followed. A nice idea, perhaps, but one that felt a little gimmicky and something of a misfire amid the other elegant dishes. Fortunately, the meal concluded on a high note with a fairly decadent plate of miniature chocolate fancies. For drink? Take the advice of the staff: they know what they’re talking about. The restaurant’s only failing, really, is an almost unavoidable one given it’s location. Unfortunately, tucked away from Canary Wharf proper, it was emptier than its food deserves on a Friday night and so was a little flat atmosphere wise. Perhaps that’s the fate of a business district restaurant outside of office hours. Still, a wise choice for after-work bites or client entertaining.