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BELLA MONTAGNA Address: The Westin, Bear Mountain Golf Resort, 1999 Country Club Way, Langford Tel: 250-391-5224 Hours: Open daily, 6: 30 a.m. 10: 30 p.m. Major credit cards and Interac accepted. Wheelchair accessible.
Bella Montagna restaurant inside the Bear Mountain Westin resort.


Address: The Westin, Bear Mountain Golf Resort, 1999 Country Club Way, Langford

Tel: 250-391-5224

Hours: Open daily, 6: 30 a.m. 10: 30 p.m.

Major credit cards and Interac accepted. Wheelchair accessible. Rating 2

Though the room is pleasant, it's the view from Bella Montagna that truly impresses. However, I expected more than great scenery when I visited for lunch with friends. But I can't say we truly found what we hoped for.

Terri and Suzanne arrived first, only to wait several minutes before the only person working there stopped sorting cutlery and noticed them.

Appetizers were deposited on our table without a word, until one of us remarked, "Well, what do we have here?" Our server turned back to provide a brief description, an opportunity that I would have been grateful for if I had only one table of customers.

Antipasti featured tapenade, grilled vegetables, roasted garlic, warm marinated olives, a few slices of a fairly boring salami, shreds of prosciutto and oddly, 1 1 ?2 tiny bocconcini. It was decent value, but it looked like it was put together by someone losing a battle with a hangover.

Arancini, however, were very good. Instead of the usual bite-sized balls, we enjoyed crisp lozengeshaped packages of rice stuffed with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, atypically presented with tomato sauce and astringent micro greens.

My friends continued with excellent paper-thin "pizze" with quality toppings, which Suzanne noted successfully walked the line between juicy and soggy. I ordered spaghetti and meatballs which turned out to be linguine with an overly reduced sauce, though the meatballs were excellent.

The rest of our meal was baffling. Tea arrived in two stages - first as teapots with hot water (one with a large chunk missing), followed several minutes later by tea bags. Suzanne and Terri each enjoyed what was described as a chocolate bar - a decadent slice of what tasted like ganache - paired with salted caramel ice cream and a bizarre garnish of what seemed to be stale graham cracker crumbs. I chose raspberry and pistachio mousse, something accurately re-described on the menu as layers of white chocolate and raspberry mousse with pistachio cake.

It would have been better had it not been served in a plastic dish with a dichotomous garnish of fresh raspberries and chunks of stale white cake. There were no refills of hot water and we left shortly after our server said, "Hi. They are kicking me out now," which is another way of saying, "Could you pay up so I can get my tip because I am leaving."

When I visited for dinner, the reception area was deserted again, though I was noticed by a busgirl who quickly led me to a table.

I'd hoped the dinner menu might offer appetizer sized pasta or risotto. It does not, but I enjoyed my selection, an excellent reinterpretation of the classic summer salad tonno e fagi-oli, with thick slices of albacore tuna on salad of navy beans tossed with cress and lemon vinaigrette.

I chose short ribs for my main course, but the plural turned out to be a misnomer. It arrived bizarrely enough, in a bowl with a smear of mashed potatoes instead of the advertised sweet potato frites. The "loose pine nut crust" was stale, and permeated the whole dish with a less than helpful flavour. Though it was cheerfully and quickly replaced, this shouldn't happen in the dining room of a four-diamond resort in the first place, let alone when the price tag is $26 for a single short rib. I skipped dessert.

Though most flavours and portions were above average, stale ingredients, sloppy presentation and changing elements of a dish without advising the customer first attenuates everything.

That said, I probably would go back because I can only assume that executive chef Ian Rennie, who has a well-deserved reputation, was simply not present during either of my visits - and I believe that when he reads this, things in the back will change immediately.

The problems in the front of house are such that I wonder if they even have a manager.

The menu has several spelling mistakes, specials are poorly described (pizza with Italian deli meat) and phone calls often go to voicemail.

I did reach a human being once, but his response to questions about the menu was that I should look at the website.

The visual approach to the restaurant was marred by discarded newspapers on both visits, and as noted, the reception area was redundant. Coats remained on the backs of chairs during both visits, though there is a wardrobe to accommodate them. The atmosphere at dinner was ruined by both the conversation of staff setting up in the adjacent dining room, Panache (the curtain used to separate the rooms has no effect as a sound barrier), and the incessant noise from the servery, filling buckets with ice, dumping cutlery into drawers - things that should happen behind the scenes or before service.

They can do better here. Price for two courses, exclusive of tax, tip and beverages: lunch around $25, dinner around $40.


Rating 1 Below bad

Rating 2 Below average

Rating 3 Average

Rating 4 Above average

Rating 5 Excellent