Manfredi at Bells, Killcare

A romantic getaway isn’t a perfect romantic getaway without a fine dining experience and when you stay at Bells at Killcare, you will have that fine dining experience at Manfredi at Bells.

Manfredi at Bells

Manfredi at Bells

Stefano Manfredi has now enjoyed three decades of service to the Australian hospitality industry and as part of that celebration, Manfredi at Bells is offering a degustation menu that showcases a few of his best and most popular dishes from his restaurants, The Restaurant Manfredi, Bel Mondo, Balla and Manfredi at Bells.

A large fireplace for the cooler months

A large fireplace for the cooler months

We felt very honoured to be a part of the celebrations and had a 7pm booking at the restaurant on a Saturday night.  When we arrived the restaurant was fully booked with the tables filling up fast and there was a wedding in full swing in the function room so the kitchen certainly had a busy night ahead.  We were shown to an outdoor table on the timber verandah which is definitely the pick of the places to enjoy your meal as the setting is beautiful and you look out across the lawn to a water feature and landscaped grounds covered in mature trees.

Cape Grim sparkling water

Cape Grim sparkling water

It’s a very tranquil and serene setting and there was gentle and soothing instrumental piano music playing in the background.  As soon as I sat down I started to feel relaxed.  The tables are set far enough apart for you not to have to shout over the top of anyone’s conversation but not so far apart that you feel you’re in a chasm.

The expansive lawn with water feature

The expansive lawn with water feature

The tables are all set with white linen and I noticed the boutique resort’s starfish logo is etched onto the wine glasses.  We sat down on cane chairs that are cushioned and place you at a good height to the table.  There’s a touch of blue on the tables too with pretty cobalt blue water glasses that can be filled with either sparkling or still water and we chose a bottle of sparkling water that’s sourced from a local business.  It appeared the restaurant is well staffed with plenty of waiters who are all neatly presented and full of smiles.  Our waitress suggested we begin the evening with a pre-dinner drink and I selected the Bellini Champagne cocktail while Carl chose a Little Creatures Pale Ale.  The Bellini was very refreshing and not too sweet with a pretty pink hue.  

Featured on the verandah

Featured on the verandah

The head-chef at Manfredi at Bells is Cameron Cansdell.  When Cameron was 17 he did work experience at Manfredi’s Bel Mondo Restaurant.  When he finished school at 18, Manfredi offered him an apprenticeship and he has worked with Manfredi ever since.  Karina Barry who owns Bells told me that before Manfredi became a chef he was a teacher and is therefore an excellent mentor to all the staff in his kitchens.  Karina said that since Manfredi took over the restaurant in 2008 there has not been a single outburst in the kitchen and no bad language.  How refreshing!

Starfish logo

Starfish logo

The philosophy of this one-hatted restaurant is to create modern Italian cuisine that is authentic while using mostly organic ingredients that are increasingly grown on the property.  Currently 20% of all produce in terms of eggs, fruits and vegetables are produced on-site and this is set to steeply increase with the recent establishment of a third, large vegetable garden.

A Bellini and an ale

A Bellini and an ale

The amuse-bouche arrived soon after our drinks and it was house-made parmesan crackers with a selection of olives of different sizes and varieties.  The parmesan cracker was crisp yet it melted in the mouth and the parmesan flavour wasn’t overly powerful.

Parmesan crackers with mixed olives

Parmesan crackers with mixed olives

House-made sourdough arrived and we dipped it into an extra virgin olive oil from Sicily that had a very gentle flavour.

House-made sourdough with olive oil from Sicily.  The oils and vinegars can be purchased at the resort.

House-made sourdough with olive oil from Sicily. The oils and vinegars can be purchased at the resort.

The degustation menu consisted of five courses made up of antipasto, pasta, primo, secondo and dolci.

The celebratory menu

The celebratory menu

The antipasto dish arrived as a trio and was served with a glass of Prosecco.  The deep-fried zucchini flowers were filled with four cheeses; taleggio, parmesan, la tur and gorgonzola.  It was one of my most favourite dishes of the evening and I could easily have eaten a plate of them.

Zuchini flowers, wood-grilled octopus, oxtail agrodolce

Zuchini flowers, wood-grilled octopus, oxtail agrodolce

The wood-grilled octopus with kipfler ptoato and olive salsa definitely had a wood flavour to it.  The octopus was dense without being chewy.

The oxtail was cooked with an Italian sauce, agrodolce which is a sweet and sour sauce traditionally made with sugar and vinegar.  This was another favourite dish of mine with the tenderness of the oxtail and the rich, sweet and sticky sauce.

The pasta dish was served at room temperature and was a cured ocean trout lasagne, something I’ve never seen before.  It looked very pretty with all the layers of colours and the glossy caviar beads on the top.  For a pasta dish the lasagne was surprisingly refreshing rather than comforting which is the word I normally associate with lasagne.  It was served with a crisp Pinot Grigio from Italy.

Cured ocean trout lasagna from The Restaurant, 1989

Cured ocean trout lasagna from The Restaurant, 1989

The primo was grilled cuttlefish with eggplant and salsa piccante served with a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.  The cuttlefish certainly had robust flavours and was tender and cut with ease.  Carl doesn’t normally warm towards cuttlefish but this dish pleasantly surprised him.  He said the spice made the dish ‘magical’.

Grilled cuttlefish with eggplant and salsa piccante from Bel Mondo, 1988

Grilled cuttlefish with eggplant and salsa piccante from Bel Mondo, 1988

The Secondo was grilled lamb shoulder with anchovie, olive and herbs.  It was served with a full-bodied Barossa Valley Cabernet Shiraz.  The lamb dish was glorious and another favourite of the evening.  The lamb was so tender you didn’t need to cut it, all that was required was an effortless gentle nudge.

Grilled lamb shoulder with anchovie, olives and herbs from Balla 2011

Grilled lamb shoulder with anchovie, olives and herbs from Balla 2011

By now the twilight had turned to nightfall and the resort’s gardens were lit up with twinkling lights.  However, it was a fairly cool evening and with my bare legs I was starting to feel a little chilled, out there on the verandah.  I mentioned this to a waitress and she was quick to turn on an overhead heater and bring me a blanket.

We had also had more than enough to eat but one can’t leave without dessert and so we welcomed the dolci that was strawberry mascarpone cream puffs served with a moscato from Italy.  The cream puffs were more dense than I was expecting but I loved the mascapone with the strawberries.  After a filling meal it was lovely to end it with something refreshing.

Strawberry mascarpone cream puffs from Bel Mondo 2002

Strawberry mascarpone cream puffs from Bel Mondo 2002

The degustation menu at Manfredi at Bells is priced at $120 per person or $180 per person with matching wines.  The a la carte menu is also available.  It is definitely advisable to book, especially for weekends as the restaurant is extremely popular and was filled to capacity the night we were there.

This is not the sort of meal that most people can afford to eat once or twice a week however if you have a special occasion to celebrate, this is definitely a place to consider.  We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience at Bells.  The setting is gorgeous, it’s peaceful and relaxing, the staff are pleasant without being familiar and the food interesting and exciting.

Verdict:  We’ll definitely be back.

Bells Killcare

Bells Killcare

Hotly Spiced and Crew dined as guests of Manfredi at Bells.

Manfredi at Bells:  107 The Scenic Road, Killcare Heights NSW 2257

Ph:  61 2 4349 7000

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Comments

  1. I have always been a fan of Manfredo’s cuisine. I now have a reason to travel north.

  2. I’m a big Stefano Manfredi fan! Great review, Charlie!

    • Thanks so much Celia. It was an incredible weekend. I’m also a huge Manfredi fan – the food is just outstanding and he’s a terrific ambassador for the food scene in Oz.

  3. What a beautiful setting, and how nice to know that the staff share such respectful camaraderie.

  4. Looks perfect – nothing too stodgy or heavy so you can eat the whole menu without being left bloated. Beautiful photos!

  5. A restaurant that provides blankets and quickly arranged heaters is one that endears itself to me! It’s lovely when somewhere manages to pull off being busy too – having enough staff and enough organisation to make it all work. I’m glad you enjoyed your night!

  6. The ocean trout lasagne looks absolutely amazing!

  7. What a beautiful backdrop against which to eat such a great meal!! It’s always so nice when you actually get your money’s worth in terms of quality of food!

  8. That was quite a feast and you obviously had a grand time.

  9. And the lovely experience continues. Sounds like this is one fabulous place all the way around.

  10. What an awesome place – your review makes me wanna come to Australia and visit!

  11. Both the meal and locale are beautiful. You take me (us) to the nicest places. :)

  12. Stunning! And the weather. Sigh.

  13. This really is a very exquisite place. There are so many elegant details that would make me feel very special just sitting in the garden with a bellini! I love the backstory on the chef! A gentleman chef…very nice!

  14. Wow…each dish presented so beautifully! What a wonderful, romantic dinner.

  15. That lasagne certainly does look yummy Charlie, what a nice elegant dish for a summer dinner party.
    I’m so glad you had such a great experience over the weekend, they certainly seem to have the whole package going- setting, service and sustenance! :) xox

  16. All the dishes look so fresh and beautiful, especially that lasagne!

  17. G’day! Always great taking time out to simple relax and enjoy Charlie, true!
    I agree about the fine dining that adds to the romantic get away and this surely looks to be the place for hubby and me! Cheers! Joanne

  18. I love a good splurge on a meal now and again! This looks wonderful – thanks for this.

  19. What an outstanding meal! The setting sounded lovely…and every dish sounded amazing!

  20. How gorgeous! Stefano was telling me about Manfredi at Bells when I interviewed him re his wonderful new book recently : )

  21. Am sending this to quite some foodie friends local/soon cominmg to visit! Worth a visit definitely!!!

  22. Glad to hear that you had en enjoyable experience! We loved our meal there too and it’s such a lovely setting too :)

  23. By looking at the cured ocean trout lasagna, I know I’d enjoy this place. That’s actually a brilliant seafood lasagna that I want to copy… :) Very lovely place to dine!

  24. What a delicious meal the two of you shared in a very romantic setting. I’d love to stay AND eat there.

  25. How absolutely gorgeous and romantic! I loved all the photos and comments about the dishes, there was not one that I wouldn’t love, particularly taken with the octopus and calamari, think I will have a little chat to the man of the house !

  26. How lovely – hope to get there one day…

  27. What a great evening Charlie, it looks like you scored once again! All of your dishes looked amazing and flavourful and the setting really made a gorgeous evening. How lovely that the wait staff turned on the heater and brought you a blanket, it’s that type of attention to detail that really makes a place.

  28. Well, you sold me on the resort, Charlie, then you tempt me with this fabulous meal! I really love evenings like this, you feel so pampered and every dish is an enticing surprise. I think the meal itself wasn’t too expensive given all of the food and wind that went with it. I’ll have to add this to my Bucket List!

  29. How fantastic to be a part of that. the food looked delicious and the wines divine. The Bellini in particular looked intriguing though I do love Prosecco. What a colourful lasagne!
    I am going to unsubscribe but don’t worry, I have added you on Bloglovin. I am trying to keep my emails clear but will read your posts through Bloglovin as I really, really love them. See you on Bloglovin!

  30. Wow the food looked amazing and you did such a wonderful job describing it all. And I feel that the pricing was very reasonable! What a lovely atmosphere, perfect for a romantic getaway. :)

  31. Your posts are always such a great resource :)

  32. Love the photos and glad you had another romantic getaway with Carl :) I’m always so worried that you don’t get enough time to rest having to look after your kiddies!

    Everything here looks wonderful but my eyes are FIXATED on the dessert :P

  33. This looks incredible! I am heading to the Central Coast over the Christmas break so will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing!

  34. I’ve had a few meals at Manfredis @Bells and they’ve all been wonderful. They do a fabulous Sunday roast lunch as well, which is very reasonably priced considering the amount of food that they bring you :) good to see that they’re upping their vege garden too!!

  35. This is beautiful food and beautiful place Charlie….I can feel the romance in the air. Love the blue pops in the restaurant setting. The clicks are amazing.

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