Cafe Bellini is an Italian restaurant that’s part of the Seoul Arts Centre. Many years ago, I’d visited Cafe Bellini, but I honestly cannot remember my experience there. All I know is that I remember it being pricey and whatever food I had there wasn’t great. Over time, I developed a negative image of the place, and I avoided the place every time I came to Seoul Arts Centre for a concert or an event. That is until recently. My friend and I came to see an Itzhak Perlman recital, and after the recital, she and I were hungry, but we weren’t particularly in the mood to travel somewhere else for food. So after much hemming and hawing, we decided to give Cafe Bellini a try.
Located in the front of the Seoul Arts Centre, Cafe Bellini has a nice window view, along with some pretty lights for their window display. From the outside we could see that there were a lot of people eating inside. When we walked in, we were led to a vacant seat near the back, closer to the kitchen. The interior was tastefully decorated, but with so many people in the restaurant, the ambience was a bit off-putting. It wasn’t super noisy, but it was loud enough to feel slightly uncomfortable. Ambience aside, the servers who worked there were very polite and professional.
My friend ordered a risotto ai funghi (18,000 won) and I ordered a spaghetti aglio e olio (16,000 won). While we waited for our main course, we were given a complimentary bread. That tasted super good — so warm and chewy, and it tasted better when dipped in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip. I devoured the bread quickly. Then our main meal came out, and it was accompanied by this humongous pickled cucumber with bell peppers in the middle. The pickled cucumber is a new and welcome twist to the typical sweet pickles most Italian restaurants and pizza joints serve in Korea. It was sweet and tangy, quite crunchy, and the bell peppers (aka paprika or capsicum) gave it a nice flavour to the whole thing.
Our main meal turned out to be okay. I tried one bite of my friend’s risotto, but I wasn’t enamoured by its creamy flavour, nor did I want to try more because I am, quite unfortunately, somewhat lactose-intolerant. Instead, I dug into my pasta, which came with spaghetti noodles drenched in olive oil, with whole garlics, and topped with arugula. The pasta was surprisingly al dente, which pleased me since I can’t stand overcooked noodles. The addition of arugula gave it a unique taste, and being a fan of arugula, I liked it a lot. However, this pasta had way too much garlic! I managed to eat all the noodles and the arugula, but I couldn’t eat the rest of the garlic. I love garlic, but it was far too much. The portion was a decent amount, though, and I felt full when I finished.
In the end, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being great, my friend and I rated this restaurant about a 2.5 or a 3. The food wasn’t particularly bad, but it wasn’t a very memorable place. Much like my first visit to Cafe Bellini years ago, where I couldn’t really recall much of my experience, this visit will be exactly like that. I also feel like it was pricey, and it didn’t quite match up with the quality of the food. Plus, the ambience of the place wasn’t top notch. Cafe Bellini is not going on my awesome restaurant list, but if I were ever super hungry and needed a quick place to eat at the Seoul Arts Centre, then I’d go there.
Seoul Arts Centre, 2406, Nambusunhwan-Ro, Seocho-Gu, Seoul, Korea
서울특별시 서초구 남부순환로 2406 예술의전당
Outside of Nambu Terminal Station’s exit 5, there is a shuttle bus to the Seoul Arts Centre. For walking, go out exit 4-2, and head all the way down until you reach the T-intersection. Cross the street in front of you, and then hang a right and go down for about 600 metres. You will see Cafe Bellini’s window on your left.
7,000 ~ 30,000+ won budget per person