REVIEW: Vita Bella in East Hanningfield
PUBLISHED: 11:59 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:59 17 March 2020
Stephanie Mackentyre takes a trip out into the Essex countryside for an authentic Italian at Vita Bella
Inspired by the genious of William Shakespeare, poor lovelorn Orsino most famously said, ‘If music be the food of love, play on,’ and for centuries music and food have been linked with romance.
Vita Bella has some excellent reviews on TripAdvisor, rated five stars. The former pub opened in the heart of East Hanningfield in 2012 offering authentic Italian food within a friendly and inviting atmosphere.
My dining guest and I visited them on a Friday night and had to take a table at 6.15 as they were almost fully booked.
We were greeted by a white-gloved car park attendant, who expertly directed us to a free space.
Inside the beamed black and white interior, with parquet flooring, we met the owner and more friendly, smartly-dressed staff who whisked our coats away and showed us to the table.
There’s an extensive wine and spirits menu, from which we ordered a bottle of Prosecco and began to survey the menu. Already the place was humming with good humour and lively conversation.
My guest began his evening with homemade tomato and basil soup. Sprinkled with grated Parmesan and black pepper at the table, it was served simply with fluffy white, freshly-baked bread. Piping hot, he said it was a taste of Italy in a bowl.
I chose the funghi farciti, Portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and sweet peppers and topped with smooth, creamy, flavoursome goats cheese. It was a really good-sized portion too.
The owner made his way around the restaurant as we ate our starters and came over to us to enquire where we’d travelled from, thanking us for making the journey and for choosing to dine with them.
For our mains it was maiale al forno – rolled pork belly slowly cooked, served with wild mushrooms and fresh spinach in a cream sauce plus seasonal vegetables and new potatoes.
For me, after much deliberation due to the many delicious-sounding dishes on the menu, I finally settled on the linguini al aragosta – cooked with fresh lobster, white wine, garlic, tomato and chilli.
I am already planning a return visit just to enjoy this dish all over again. It was al dente pasta in a deliciously creamy sauce on top of a half lobster shell and topped with hunks of oh so succulent lobster meat.
I was asked how spicy I liked my dish, which was a nice touch as I was able to reduce the heat to suit my taste.
Desserts were too good to leave behind, so despite being satisfied with our first two courses we stayed on for a slice of white chocolate cheesecake served with Baileys and profiteroles filled with hazelnut cream and served with a chocolate sauce.
If you’re looking for a genuine Italian restaurant which is sure to impress the special one in your life, then this is the place for you.
Table Talk with Linda Pearmain, her husband Roger and their friends
Where do you live and what do you do? We live in Canewdon and we’re both retired.
What did you choose from the menu? Chicken livers, seafood risotto and then sorbet for dessert.
Why were you at Vita Bella? We meet up once a month with our friends and like to eat there. We like it so much my husband and I go there, just the two of us, at least every couple of weeks. We even had our Christmas dinner there.
Is there anything they could do better? I don’t think so, no.
Describe your dining experience in a phrase: It’s totally delightful. The staff are brilliant and from the minute you arrive in your car, they have white gloves and umbrellas if it’s raining. The food and service you cannot fault.
How would you rate their value for money? Absolutely excellent − you can’t fault it.
What was the best part of your visit? The staff. We have a rapport with them and the owner is so nice. They all make you feel happy and comfortable.
Useful to know
The total bill came to £82.20 for three courses plus a small bottle of Prosecco. This is an independent review, featuring a restaurant selected and experienced by our food and wine editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
Book a table
Vita Bella, The Tye, East Hanningfield, Chelmsford, CM3 8AF | 01245 400204