Situated in the Hop Farm Village in the Kent countryside, Bella Oliva offers relaxed and informal all-day dining, serving up classic Italian dishes and kitted out like a classic countryside restaurant. Burim Ahmeti tells us more about some of the dishes on the menu and live events coming up this summer
TELL US ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF BELLA OLIVA
Bella Oliva originated from having a passion and love for Italian cuisine, and from previous experiences of running Italian restaurants in the north of England. After ten years, we decided to travel south and open our own restaurant in Kent. Our chef is Sardinian, and to that end we have a strong leaning to the food from that lovely region of Italy. He’s worked as a head chef in five-star hotels all over continental Europe, including Germany, Italy and Holland.
AND WHAT CAN PATRONS EXPECT FROM YOUR MENU?
We provide a wide variety of dishes, starting from traditional English breakfasts, served from 8am onwards, to authentic Italian and Mediterranean chef’s special dishes, which are served right through to 10pm. We love to support the local economy and believe that local is best. We buy our vegetables from Maidstone, our meat from Paddock Wood, and our seafood is freshly caught every morning from Hastings.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT SELECTING NEW DISHES?
We pride ourselves on having interesting ingredients and cooking techniques, along with inspiring presentations. We have different specials available on our blackboard each day, including dishes such as grilled sardines, oven-baked sea bass and our own homemade pasta. One of our most popular dishes is panciotti filled with scallops and king prawns.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR CHEF PUT HIS OWN STAMP ON THE MENU?
Our chef enjoys cooking authentic, original, old recipes such as octopus casserole, or arancini, which is Sicilian rice balls filled with mincemeat, cheese and garden peas, served on a bed of tomato sauce and topped with wild rocket.
He also makes all his own sauces and stocks from scratch, and loves to carve artistic shapes into his watermelons, which make for a fabulous centrepiece. All our desserts are homemade and include classics such as white chocolate Bailey’s cheesecake, tiramisu, chocolate brownies, banoffee pie and delicious Italian ice cream.
WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM OTHER ITALIAN RESTAURANTS?
We are in the heart of Kent, only ten minutes from Tonbridge and 15 minutes from Tunbridge Wells. This makes us an ideal destination if you’re looking for a wedding or a birthday party venue. We can cater for up to 180 guests, and the cost to hire the entire venue starts from £400. We’re aiming to have three evenings of entertainment each week: Wednesday night is Mediterranean grill night, Friday is fish night and we’ll have live performances on Saturday nights from well-known acts such as the lovely Charley Blue, who was a finalist in The Voice 2016. We’re a family-friendly restaurant and love to see the children enjoying themselves.
WHY IS BELLA OLIVA PERFECT FOR BIG EVENTS?
Bella Oliva offers the venue for any occasion as well as buffets, two or three-course meals and a bar with a very good choice of wines and spirits that also mixes wonderful cocktails. Our wine selection is second to none, and you can enjoy wines from all around the world, including Italian, French, Spanish, South American, New Zealand and Australian. We pride ourselves on our cocktails and are experts at strawberry and kiwi daiquiris.
DO YOU HAVE EXCITING PLANS FOR THE SUMMER?
We do a two-course special happy hour for £9.95, which runs from 5pm to 7pm and includes any starter or dessert from the menu with any pasta, pizza or risotto. We hold many events here at Bella Oliva, and have had a high demand on bookings for these events, so we’re looking to hold many more during the summer, where we’ll have many different types of performances.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE BELLA OLIVA GOING FORWARD?
Bella Oliva is looking forward to working with the local community and bringing in a few more charity events, like we’ve previously held. Our guests give us regular feedback and tell us that they love not only our food and drink but also the lively, convivial atmosphere created by our fun-loving entertainers. We are looking to build on this feedback and hope to become THE destination restaurant for those that enjoy live music, food and drink. We look forward to seeing you at The Hop Farm Village very soon!