I wasn’t even bothered starting a fight with the food around the RDS, that big concert and event venue on Dublin’s leafy southside. Ah, the RDS. Hulking, anonymous, and cold, home of the UCD exams back in my student days, and a trigger for grey, pallid memories of long-forgotten and tiring lunches in between tests. Fancy options consisted of Bella Cuba (one of those curious spots people must try some day) and some Chinese restaurant above a pub. Cheap options included the miserable Horse Show House pub, and Spar, whose rolls won by default.
Despite its upper class affluence, the presence of the RDS means that Ballsbridge is best suited to a decent and affordable casual dining option. A Real Gourmet Burger outlet opened up a few years back, and it served the area well. Recently, this outlet closed and the premises was taken over by a new Italian restaurant, Bel and Bellucci. Their PR firm sent me a voucher for two mains and a bottle of house wine, so I took a friend along to try it out.
Bel and Bellucci is a very slick, sleek, and contemporary space, designed in a manner beloved of new Italian restaurants (Olivetti in Dun Laoghaire springs to mind): a wood-fired pizza oven in the centre which is surrounded by barstools, a few Italian food items available for sale, big tables, and blackboards advertising daily specials. It serves pizzas, pastas, and Italian mains.
For starters, we opted for the Cestion di Pane, a selection of breads with marinated olives and pesto (€5). The breads were good, and the olives were fine, but the tiny amount of pesto was quite bitter.
I advised my friend to go for the Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu (€14). I’d had this in Pisa and immediately wanted to make it myself: finely shredded boar served in a sweet and juicy ragu sauce, sticking perfectly to the large, broad pasta strips. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, but Bel and Bellucci’s version fell far short. The pasta was very good, but the boar was served in big meaty chunks that couldn’t possibly be gobbled up around a tube of pasta. Think spaghetti with big pieces of steak. It just didn’t work.
My own main, a whole roasted seabass with lemon, garlic, rosemary, spaghetti squash, roast potatoes and salsa verde (€22), was much better: a substantial and delicious feast.
The service was friendly but incredibly slow. We were waiting about 40 minutes for our mains to arrive, and it wasn’t anywhere near busy. This far too long for any restaurant, but especially one whose clientele consists largely of people grabbing a bite before an event or concert.
In fairness, like all restaurants in Dublin over Christmas, they were dealing with severe water restrictions. We had a further delay in waiting for coffees, which then couldn’t be served as we wanted due to the water restrictions. Even though we didn’t complain, the manager apologised, and when I left the restaurant, I noticed he’d simply taken the coffees off the bill without a song and dance.
I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to Ballsbridge for Bel and Bellucci, but it’s a very welcome addition to Ballsbridge and it’s easily the best option for anyone heading to the RDS. I regretted not getting a chance to try the pizzas. As well as being reasonably priced( €8-€12), they looked delicious. I’ll definitely give them a shot if I’m looking for cheap eats around the RDS again.
- Happy Hour, Monday-Friday 5pm to 7pm, includes free antipasti boards