Bella Cosa, or beautiful thing, if we take the translation, lives up to its name. Promising an Italian menu reimagined through the prisim of the Japanese aesthetic approach to dining, its beauty is not only found on the plate.
We visit on a quiet Saturday night. Hang on another five years or so and it’ll be right in the middle of one of the most densely populated strips of land anywhere in the world.
Right now, despite the vanguard of Dollar Bay and the emerging concrete cores of Canary Wharf phase two, it’s tucked away amid dated low-rise offices towards the far end of South Quay.
But while its surroundings are drab, Bella Cosa is a shock of cosiness with windows that reveal the best of its neighbouring financial estate, twinkling through the double glazing of the restaurant’s wintergarden.
The prospect of a new footbridge to Canary Wharf must be tantalising. At present it’s a 15-minute stroll (according to Citymapper ) from One Canada Square.
But those intrepid enough to weave their way round the dock will be rewarded. Even when mostly empty this restaurant manages to exude a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Staff are well-drilled, knowledgeable and clearly enjoying themselves.
I begin to wonder whether the very air has been impregnated with atomised Vitamin D to match the bright lighting. It lends the various polished textures of stone and glass an unreal, but certainly not unpleasant quality.
The designer clearly didn’t wish to leave the builders any place to hide and the finish is, necessarily, flawless.
Against this backdrop we’re treated to a succession of potent, pungent dishes that, without exception, are presented with the same precision.
An amuse bouche is rich with the saltiness of lardy pork, as is my grown-up starter of seared scallops, bean puree and black truffle (£19).
It reveals that Italian-trained Japanese chef Kentaro Torii enjoys playing with texture, counterbalancing any lack of robust structure with intense bursts of flavour.
This is high-risk, high-price food that deserves its premium when it succeeds but can trip over itself as a wealth of flavours compete for attention. While exquisitely cooked, my scallops struggle to emerge from their prison of accompaniments.
The most successful dish of the evening is my pasta. I’d imagined venison tortellini with a taleggio fondue (£12) might involve dipping the tightly sculpted curls into a bowl of molten cheese.
As it turns out, I’m grateful the richness is confined to a sauce, which manages to blend astonishingly well with more shavings of black truffle, blue berry and the powerful, gamey meat within.
The flesh in my pork belly main (£20) is, alas, so delicious everything else drops away, which is a shame on a plate festooned with vegetables.
I’d selected it for the sausage faggotini but forgot all about them in thrall to the double cooked delicacy and its interplay with tart apple puree.
There was plenty of room for dessert so I braved a warm chestnut fondant with blackcurrant, meringue and grappa marron glace (£9).
This was another battle on the plate but, curiously, came together in the mouth; the black currant lozenge proving especially addictive.
Brave and bold are the words for Torii. Not everything on the plate was an unbridled success but his willingness to let flavours have their head is a refreshing change to the safe chains in Canary Wharf.
It also offers Canary Wharf workers the chance to dine outside the estate looking in. So get some fresh air, or at the very least an Uber.
Bella Cosa can be found at Drewry House, 213 Marsh Wall on the Isle of Dogs, London, E14 9FJ.
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