Bellinis Italiano, Cardiff Bay - Drop Those Service Charges!
If you are in Cardiff this autumn, then I would thoroughly recommend a trip to 'The Bay', as it is called. This recent development on the outskirts of the Welsh capital, houses a host of restaurants and bars, as well as the being the home of the Welsh parliament, its building an outstanding piece of modern architecture. There are boat trips around Cardiff Bay, the Norse church of Roald Dahl and The Dr Who exhibition adjacent to BBC Wales.
After an exhausting morning taking in the sites of The Bay, we came upon Bellinis Italiano on Mermaid Quay, tucked away amongst all the other restaurant chains. We had a great outdoor table overlooking Cardiff Bay and on a sunny day Bellinis is a fabulous place for the alfresco meal. To celebrate one of our kids getting a new job we splashed out on a bottle of Prosecco at £29.95 and the cold refreshing drink was a splendid appetiser to our lunchtime meal. The waitresses were efficient and polite and after delivering our sparking wine took our order for four starters and four main dishes.
Starters arrived promptly - my Polpette (meatballs in tomato sauce with Parmesan shavings) was tasty, firm and meaty and the sauce outstanding. My wife and the girl went for the Cozze (mussels in a tomato sauce) and although the mussels were very small, they soon finished their dishes with delight. The boy selected the Calamari Fritti, which were okay but a little tough.
On to main dishes and we went with one Pizza Pescatore (seafood pizza), one Spaghetti Bolognese, one Spaghetti Mairnara (seafood pasta) and I went for the Penne Salciccia (Italian Sausage and chilli pasta). We all found the dishes very good. The pasta was firm and not overcooked and the sauces complimented the dishes completely. Beautifully presented, some may say that for the prices charged, the portions were small, but for us they were just right. We all devoured our dishes without much discussion, other than the girl's new job, and soon it was time to look at the dessert menu and order glasses of wine and a beer for the son.
The food at Bellinis is good, but it is expensive. Our main dishes were around £13 each, our starters around £6 each and desserts on average £5. In addition a 175cl glass of house wine is £4.20. Our final bill came to £153.45 and this included a 10% service charge. There was no way I would pay a service charge of £13.95! The service was good but not that good - the waitresses only served our food and were polite - nothing more and nothing less. I asked for the service charge to be removed and paid £139.50 and gave a tip of £5.
This restaurant needs to drop its 10% service charge! It might be optional, but many guests are to embarrassed to ask for it to be removed and pay the whole bill to save any confrontation with the waiting staff. Trading standards organisations should stop this kind of exploitation of the public by restaurants like Bellinis.
Footnote: The manager of Bellinis contacted me as a follow-up and said,
''We have taken your comments on board regarding the service charge and we appreciate you for bringing this to our attention, I can ensure you that our team strives to exceed all of our customers’ expectations and will always understand if the customer does not want to continue with the gratuity and by no means are we looking to exploit our guests . I hope that this has not diminished any future visits and we look forward to welcome you again soon.''