Finally we got around to using some of our Tesco Clubcard points on some vouchers for Bella Italia, following news on Twitter that they had a separate gluten-free menu. With great excitement we bundled the kids into the car and drove into Exeter.
Before going to the restaurant we took a tour around Lush Cosmetics to break up the walk in the cold! Oh goodness, it was like kids in a sweetshop…their eyes were bigger than saucers as the staff mixed together various products making wonderful, colourful, beautiful smelling ‘potions’! They then showed my daughter some gold sparkly powder which they sprinkled in her hair and rubbed in to the back of her hands…her eyes grew even bigger! Meanwhile, my son was walking around the store with his nose in the air, obediently ‘not touching,’ and smelling everthing that his nose could reach! The staff seemed to fall in love with them and sent them off with a free bath bomb each and a sample of sparkly powder. I have never seen such excited children about bath time! I thought that perhaps this was karma for all the things that I try and do to make other people’s lives a little happier…until we came back to our car after our meal to find we had been issued a ticket! Mmmm…the less I dwell on that the better!
Anyway, on to my ‘big fuss pot’s’ review of Bella Italia…
As soon as we arrived we were made to feel very welcome with the staff appearing with the menus along with an activity pack for each of the kids. In my daughters words “they were kind to give us things to play with.”
The kids menu (above) cost £5.95 and included a drink, starter, main and desert. The menu was very clearly marked with the options that could be gluten free, as you can see, and those that were vegetarian. My daughter chose the cucumber and carrot sticks with tomato dip as a starter (the only choice for her) followed by pasta and pesto. Within five minutes of placing the order the starter arrived, keeping the kids happy and engaged. Both son and daughter agreed that the tomato sauce was very tasty.
After a while of working through the activities, the main courses arrived. The pasta looked well coated in pesto although my initial reaction was that I had never seen gluten-free pasta penne so small. However, having tried a sneeky mouthful I was reassured that it was gluten-free pasta, having a familiar, slightly grainy texture. The sauce according to my daughter was “not as nice as at home, but ok” (I have to add here that I buy Sacla pesto and I don’t make it!). When I tried it I felt it was rather bitter and certainly wasn’t the best pesto I had tried. She did look very longingly as her brothers ‘fish fingers’ and chips and said that she wished she could have chips too.
Finally, she chose to have a real juice ice lolly for pudding that was made from fresh, not from concentrate juice (she could have had ice cream too but as I questioned it with the waitress I don’t think she ‘trusted’ it). It looked exactly like a ‘Calippo’ but a healthy version made by the restaurant chain. My daughter thought that this was the best bit of the meal and polished the whole thing off pretty quickly despite the cold temperatures outside!
Her overall scores for the restaurant are as follows:
Food – 5/10 (“quite nice”)
Overall experience 6/10
When asked if she would like to go back there one day she replied “maybe”. I think this has a lot to do with not knowing whether she would feel ill afterwards which she has experienced on occation after eating out.
So, in summary, a pretty good place to eat with a child who has to avoid gluten but certainly not, in her view, the best place she has been to (because that is The Home Kitchen in Dawlish, run by a coeliac and very trusted by her – see my previous post…’surely the best place to eat for coeliacs’!) It remains to be seen what her tummy thinks of the experience in terms of any cross contamination. I will update you about that if there is anything to report! The following day and lo has a poorly tummy 🙁