[I wrote this (unpublished) family restaurant review for a different purpose in November 2010]
The western arcade of the extended St David’s Centre in Cardiff is devoted to established chain restaurants. This section of the complex remains open after the shops close. We (two adults and two children) had an early Sunday evening meal at Bellini’s Express, the first restaurant encountered on entering the ground floor.
The difference between a Bellini’s and a Bellini’s Express? Tablecloths, basically. There is a similar menu, but the Express aims for a café-style ambience with marble-topped tables and more informal décor. At the back, the kitchen is fashionably on display – although the high counter obscures most of the culinary action.
Drinks arrived promptly: a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and orange juices. Tap water (with ice and lemon) was supplied on request. The modest wine list, with bottles mainly in the £14 to £24 price range (extending up to £295 for Dom Perignon), would suit most tastes; although only one beer (Peroni) was on offer.
We had plump marinated olives and garlic bread for starters, and shared an ample green salad with our main courses. From our table, we watched people coming and going through the arcade doors; so not the most glamorous location in Cardiff then.
I had the Tortelloni Giganti di Argosta. On an oval plate, three large pasta parcels, filled with sweet lobster meat, sat in a slightly pink tarragon cream sauce containing prawns. One giant prawn rested on top, which warranted a fingerbowl. This was a pleasing dish, although personally I would have liked a bigger hit of tarragon.
My partner had the Calzone Kiev, consisting of spinach, garlic, tomato and chicken pieces in a folded pizza. It looked substantial, but was apparently “not as good as the pasta and meatballs” eaten previously at a different Bellini’s.
Eldest daughter ordered Spaghetti Carbonara, which contained tasty chunks of bacon. This was better than the version I make at home, in that only the yolks of the eggs were used in conjunction with cream and cracked black pepper. I will have to revise my methods.
The youngest ordered from the Bambino menu, a refreshing change from typical nuggets and chips options, with a range of pasta and pizza. She predictably ordered pizza with cheese and tomato, and was not tempted by additional toppings. The Bambino meal also included a drink and a vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.
For dessert, I had Torta di Formaggio. A drizzle of limoncello syrup on the cheese cake was matched by a counter-drizzle of strawberry syrup on the plate, with token slices of strawberry. Coffees rounded off an enjoyable family meal.
Service was efficient, although the profusion of staff attending table seemed a recipe for confusion. We made use of an online offer (Bellini’s free pasta or pizza dish offers are worth looking into before visiting).
St David’s is indeed busy after the shops close and before the evening entertainment begins. However, a similar cluster of restaurants, including Bellini’s, can be found down the road in Cardiff Bay, with waterside views and an atmosphere more to our taste.