Bel Cibo, Victoria Square: Review

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A few weeks back, we’d seen the banner outside Clifton’s Victoria Square Hotel advertising their new Italian restaurant: Bel Cibo. In all honesty, it would never have been somewhere we’d have considered for an evening out, but when they messaged us on Twitter asking if we wanted to test it out, we accepted: we were intrigued to see what it was all about.

Walking through the front door of the hotel (a beautifully grand Victorian building), we were greeted warmly at reception and shown through to the dining room, which had a strange feel to it. Much of the decor felt pretty old-school – traditional hotel dining room style – but with contemporary touches such as the framed Bristol photo collages on the walls,  the huge gleaming coffee machine at one end, and the less traditional table centrepieces.

 

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The room was pretty dark (too dark for me – and for decent photos – but just right for the other half), and after placing our drinks order (a £2.35 Diet Coke for me, a £3.80 33cl Peroni for him), he made a quick trip to the bathroom…and came back disgusted at the state of the gents’. I’m not going to elaborate, but he was pretty sure they hadn’t been cleaned for a while – not a great start to the evening.

We’re pleased to say it did get better, though, when it came to the food. There’s no starter menu at Bel Cibo: instead, they offer a “help-yourself deli farm bar” (£5 each) featuring plenty of local choices.

Diners can feast on breads from Bristol’s Herberts Bakery (there was a choice of olive bread, a seeded loaf, brown bread and a white baguette when we were there), along with a salad plate featuring heritage tomatoes, rocket and roasted vegetables; 2 different cheeses (a blue and a brie); salami and ham; olives; seeds; walnuts; pesto and various sauces and more.

The breads were amazing, although we’d have preferred them pre-sliced: while we held them with the towel provided while slicing, others didn’t, which made us worry about hygiene. The pesto was thick and cheesy and out of this world, the cheese was the perfect temperature (it had clearly been left out for a while, which was ideal) and we loved the variety – we were really impressed on the whole.

 

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The main courses (which can be seen on the Bel Cibo website) include pizza, fresh pasta, risotto and veal dishes, all very reasonably priced at between £9 and £16. Intrigued by the combinations of toppings, we both opted for a pizza – and Chris’ choice was the very seasonal Christmas Carbonara (£10.50): fresh, hand-stretched pizza dough topped with a cream and garlic base, pulled turkey, pancetta, brie and parmesan. The base was beautiful – the right combination of doughy and crispy – and perfectly sturdy enough to stand up to the toppings, which were certainly generous. The meat was cooked well, the saltiness of the pancetta balanced by the creamy brie and the flavourful sauce that made up the base. If we had one criticism, it would be that the whole thing was pretty rich, and could have done with an additional lighter topping to break up the flavour.

 

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This certainly wasn’t a problem with my pizza: The Square (£11). Piled onto the same fantastic base were thick slices of rich and spicy local Castellano’s pepperoni, juicy pieces of fresh tomato, a generous amount of tangy blue cheese and torn fresh basil leaves, with plenty of mozzerella and a fresh-flavoured tomato sauce. While the pepperoni and blue cheese were certainly rich in flavour, they were broken up by the tomato and basil – it really was a fantastic pizza.

 

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There’s no dessert menu at Bel Cibo, but we were offered a choice of chocolate brownie, lemon tart or ice cream (with honeycomb, chocolate and strawberry varieties all available), or a cheeseboard. We were a little uninspired by the dessert choices so decided to call it a night.

Would we head back? Well, the deli farm bar is a fantastic idea as a starter, and our pizzas were pretty good. It’s an odd atmosphere in there, though: it’s very much got an old-school hotel restaurant feel, of which I’m not a massive fan. They do their pizzas to take away, though, which is very, very tempting…

 

Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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