I stumbled across Ciao Bella a couple of years ago drawn in by their lunch time menu. I have always had a nice lunch here, and even nicer ones when the sun has been shining and they open up the back so you can sit outside drinking ice cold wine (or beer whichever you prefer).
This time however I decided to try Ciao Bella for an evening meal. I had bought the Living Social voucher a few months back knowing that it was somewhere we have enjoyed lunch before.
We had to book a table as this was part of the fine print in the voucher deal, we had no issues with booking on a Friday evening at 7pm.
We walked in to the restaurant and wasn't immediately greeted and so stood looking awkward for a while. We gave our reservation and was shown towards the back of the restaurant. We were seated one table apart from a couple next to us. It happened that I knew the girl sat on the next table as we were old work colleagues. It was nice to catch up a little even though they were just being served their mains as we were seated.
For starters my dining partner for the night ordered duck a l'orange (from the specials board which we thought was more French than Italian) and Garlic bread with cheese for me, as nothing else was really jumping out at me. The garlic bread should really be shared between two as it is so big and I didn't even attempt to finish it as I wanted to save room for my main and possibly a sneaky dessert. DP said their duck leg was nicely cooked and not too fatty although he sort of felt like he had just been given duck leg and marmalade... he didn't eat his marmalade.
For mains I ordered Arrabiata, a spicy sausage pasta dish. I have had this before, it was the first thing I ever ordered here. This time I wasn't so impressed. It wasn't as spicy as it has been previously and there definitely wasn't as much meat. I found my meal to be just warm rather than steaming as if it had been sat maybe waiting for DP's? I'm not sure whether this is due to a different cook serving in the even than during the day or if they just have a new chef altogether.
DP had the Saltimbocca alla Romana, pan fried veal with parma ham and sage served with masala sauce and saute potatoes. Not the neatest potato stack I have ever seen in a restaurant. I didn't think the veal looked too appetising either but DP seemed to like it as they ate it all, not the best they had ever tasted but enjoyable.
We decided to share a dessert, there wasn't much choice... and it wasn't very inspiring. (Note the top dessert reads dark and white chocolate mouse?!..)
We decided to order the dessert of the day which was a lemon cheesecake.
This was nicely presented and was lovely even if it was a bit too thick and sickly for us to finish it all! Maybe if I hadn't of eaten so much bread I could have finished the lot!
I noticed that my ex-work-colleague struggled to finish her Calzone and passed it over to her partner. Her partner (lovely chatty man) mentioned to us that he liked to give restaurants feedback. His reasoning being "how are they ever meant to improve if you don't give them feedback?" I suppose a bit like my blog but a bit more direct! So when the waitress asked how their meals were whilst clearing their plates he gave it to her straight. He told the waitress that some of his chips were under cooked and his steak was okay but maybe a little over done. As he also finished his partners Calzone he told her all about that too, commenting that it was a little undercooked also and a bit doughy but he absolutely loved the tomato sauce. The waitress didn't take the feedback as graciously as it was given, and seemed to be quite taken aback by it all. I wonder if his comments were passed on?
During the meal I had two large glasses of Pinot Grigio and wanted to take my time to finish off the last glass. This however wasn't possible.
After each course was served to us several different waitresses kept peering over DP's shoulder to see if we had finished, and this grew in frequency towards the end of the meal. After our dessert had been removed it was extremely obvious that they wanted us to sup up and leave. The restaurant wasn't full and it wasn't late either (approximately 9pm). I was very uncomfortable, to be honest I have never felt that uncomfortable in a restaurant before. It was a little upsetting as this was supposed to be a nice meal. There were far too many waiting staff on this night with drinks turning up twice and being asked for our orders by several different people. It just lacked organisation and good management of staff.
We were definitely not forgotten about.
Great for a lunch, but lacks that extra sparkle for a dinner meal. It's good belly filling food but nothing overtly special.
The service was appauling and there was no rapport built up with any of the many waiters and waitresses, we even noticed some leaning(!) not doing anything at all.
Here are some pictures from our more enjoyable experiences at Ciao Bella (note these were all lunch times!):
20 Dock Street