Review by Tom O'Riordan
The Bell has just re-opened, following refurbishment of the bar downstairs, and the creation of a new 50-seat restaurant upstairs.
As you ascend the stairs, an impressive modern take on a chandelier lights your path at the stylish eaterie.
The menu is as all good restaurants should be, very brief with only five starters, seven main courses and four desserts - but no specials I noticed. My partner and I had the Mediterranean salad and the mushroom gratin to start, for main the salmon fillet and fillet of beef. All well presented, all very pallatable, as was the Chilean red we chose to go with it. All for £50, including a tip.
So far so good I hear you cry... With restaurants it is not just the food, they need to have a vibe, an ambience that makes you want to tell your friends, to go back again and again and again. The Bell, unfortunately, has neither vibe nor ambience.
The lighting is so intense that you feel like you are in an airport cafe anxiously toying with your food, while checking for the departure time, while the view of the Thames is aesthetically pleasing, the view of a fellow guest going to the toilet is not - I jest not!!!
If you are unlucky enough to sit at the table opposite the toilet, avert your gaze, as the large glass panel allows you to check the handwashing technique of others, in the one tiny communal sink. If the doors are not properly shut on the one men's and one ladies' toilets, then one can look down at your food and look up to see the white ceramic beauty of a cistern.
Try to hide your embarrassment as you decided to go in the ladies, and when you emerge a lady is waiting to go next; a man in a ladies domain, frankly shocking! As the lady who was seated with her friends at this table informed me, she would be looking for 10% off her bill for this Bell faux pas.
I think The Bell are in dire need of Zane, The Zen Master from the Fosters lager adverts, to come in and sort these feng shui problems out.
My advice is to get a few bottles of plonk at the off-licence and get down
to Ethas Kitchen, only a five minute drive
away - a place that oozes ambience and offers quality dishes in a very unpretentious
The Bell, 8 Thames Street, Hampton. Tel:0208 941 9799