Have you ever licked the plate at the end of a meal? Be honest now. OK, but have you ever wanted to? As a very young child one of my great pleasures was to lick the plate, particularly after we’d had beans on toast. I can recall a stern rebuke from my very proper father, as, despite his very humble beginnings, his favourite saying was ‘manners taketh man’. So we were brought up with good table manners, I think, and I’ve endeavoured to stick by those early lessons. This evening, however, was a struggle – I mean a real Herculean struggle. It was the Bramley Apple Fritter with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce…. Hmmmm…. Oh dear, I seem to have started at the end, so let me not get ahead of myself….
The Bella Luce is one of the gems of Guernsey. Hidden away in the leafy lanes of St. Martin, in Renoir country, The Bella offers five star service and standards, in a four star hotel. We’ve eaten here on many occasions, from family Sunday lunches to those very special occasional treats. It is consistently excellent food, splendidly attentive service, and a very warm welcome. The food is simply delicious. Luke Wheadon, Proprietor of the hotel, and a very experienced Chef himself, may be there to greet you, if he’s not busy making gin in the the hotel’s gin still. If not, Ionel, the restaurant manager, along with Javier and his team will give you a very warm and relaxed welcome. We reviewed The Bella about a year ago now, but since that last formal visit a new Executive Chef, Patricio Filipe, has been arrived, and he’s certainly making his mark. Patricio is just what you’d expect from his name – Latin, passionate about food, and attentive to all the little details that make a really first-class meal. He has painstakingly, reformed the menu, adding in so many of his own ideas and innovations, and his efforts have been worth it.
Our evening started with the most extensive wine list, and with something for every pocket and palate. After the obligatory gin, I moved to a very nice Chateau de la Tilery, Alma Soror, 2011 which washed down the Guernsey marinated onglet with pickled walnuts and blue cheese. It was light and easy as a starter, despite the fact it was preceded by the hotel’s own bread, baked but an hour before we ate, and served with whipped Guernsey butter and sea salt.
I think I may have been full at that stage, but I persevered….!
My dining partner, a dedicated vegetarian, chose a most unusual but delicious celeriac steak, with whipped parsnip and wild mushrooms, topped with truffle infused pearl barley. As a dedicated carnivore I usually shy away, but I did give it a try and it was extremely light, subtle, and greatly enhanced by the lovely pearl barley with hints of truffle oil.
My own main course was a barbecued short rib of beef, garlic mash, and herb salad which description doesn’t really do it justice, as there’s so much more to it, including the very rich jus. It was decadently rich. We both had our fair share of new potatoes, laced with Guernsey butter and parsley, cooked to perfection.
You can always tell when a restaurant is at the top of its game – the service is warm, easy and flawless, the food is delicious without being pretentious, and the surroundings produce an atmosphere in which anybody would be relaxed and at ease. The Bella has it all…. The menu is varied, interesting, simple yet tantalising, very much fitting the Bella’s philosophy of good taste, good texture, and great local ingredients.
The hotel had hosted a gin-tasting that afternoon, as Luke Wheadon has brewed two new delightful flavours of gin. It had been an extremely busy and successful event, yet the staff were still attentive and working very hard to ensure we had a great meal, which we did. Full points to the team….
So, dessert arrived, and I was allowed to pick briefly at my dining companion’s Bakewell tart with vanilla ice cream, just by way of quality control you understand – it was scrumptious. I didn’t want it, you understand, but the Bramley Apple Fritter with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce arrived. It was simply the most delicious dessert I have had in a long, long time.
Go along to The Bella and make sure Patricio is properly welcomed to the island. Whilst you’re there I dare you to lick the plate….