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Monday, 30 May 2011

Polpo buzz

Polpo on Urbanspoon

Please enjoy the 'buzz' of Polpo while reading:

Polpo, and the other restaurants in the family of Russel Norman (Spuntino, Polpetto and the now newly opened da Polpo) have long been the talk of the town, and finally came the day for me to delve into this buzz.

The funky 'diner' style of the long restaurant, with its wooden floors and tables, exposed brickwork and a low, green terracotta tiled ceiling gives this "Venetian wine bar" a cozy feel.

The menu, which doubles as a rustic place mat, is split into sections of Cicheti (small dishes), breads, fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and desserts.

Being quite hungry, and knowing that dishes are made for sharing, we went for a selection from each section (we were told that Cicheti were literally bite size, and that they definitely were, each ranging from £1-3)
Arancini, Artichoke & Prrosciutto, Potato & Parmesan crocchetta
I could definitely have gone with more Arancini balls, they were divine. Perfectly crunchy coating, well seasoned, and cheesy risotto goodness was spot on. Equally good was the potato and parmesan crocchetta. The artichoke and prosciutto was understated. Good quality meat, but definitely no surprises with the flavours.
Broad beans, mint & ricotta bruschetta (£5.60)
From the Bread section, came the ricotta bruschetta. I would have never thought to put these flavours together, but it really worked. The bread, slightly drizzled with olive oil was fresh and crunchy, the ricotta had a pleasant texture, while the mint gave the dish a Spring bite.

Braised lamb, farro & basil (£7.40)
I would say the braised lamb was slightly overcooked, and possibly too watery. I enjoyed the farro, and the overall flavour of the dish. Although lamb, it was not too hearty.

Prawn & Monk's beard risotto (£7.10)
The risotto was possibly more like a paella, as the rice was not as 'stodgy' as a risotto should be. The prawns were cooked perfectly (therefore there could have been more of them!). The dish was well seasoned.
Scallops, pancetta & peas (£7)
Possibly another slightly watery dish was the Scallops. Although the scallops were well cooked (soft and creamy), the rest of the dish may have been a little off balance. The pancetta and peas closely resembled "pea and ham" soup, especially due to the extra liquid. Again, there could have been more scallops in order to enjoy the intentional pairing of the peas, pancetta and peas every time.

Cuttlefish & Ink gnocchi, gremolata (£7)
The"midnight" cuttlefish dish was a delight. Fresh, cooked to perfection the cuttlefish melted in the mouth. The gremolata was a complimenting seasoning, though subtle, counteracted the stronger bite of the inky flavour. I did find however, the dish had an element of "stab in the dark", as it was hard to distinguish the pieces from each other (the gnocchi etc). This fact, slightly reduced my enjoyment as I couldn't see what I was eating, but in no way did that diminish the amazing flavour. 

Having shared all the above dishes between three, we then ordered one more serving of the Cicheti each. I could have eaten more, but we decided to start on the desserts. 
Flourless orange & almond cake, mascarpone (£5.70)
The flourless orange cake was a highlight. Most importantly it was moist! Each mouthful of the cake and mascarpone was like a joyful orange wonderland. 

The service was good, and our waiter was helpful and knew the menu well. Having participated in the two of the three restaurant openings within the family, he was experienced. The couple on the table next to us (tables are quite close together adding to the buzzy, relaxed atmosphere) found the service to be disorganised, as their empty plates were not cleared on a timely basis to allow space for new dishes. Without being prompted, our waiter apologised for the service as we were paying the bill, as he informed us they were slightly understaffed this lunch time.

Overall I enjoyed Polpo and would like to come back to sample the rest of the menu. There appeared to be an element of "smart ordering" going on around us, where diners ordered dishes which visibly complimented each other (i.e. not scallops and lamb in one sitting like we did). Something to keep in mind.

I did expect more of the dishes to be 'spot on' given the hype around Polpo, but in general this was the perfect Sunday afternoon.

Russel Norman now has a book!


  1. I've always been a fan of Polpo and the others. They're definitely not the most organised places, but for me that's part of the charm... there do seem to be a few bits that didn't quite hit the spot though which is a little worrying given the attention to the food I've always experienced. Hopefully a bit of an off day?


  2. Rich, it seems that, from reading some of the other reviews they are having good and bad days in general, which you are right, is worrying considering the hype. I still liked it htough, and would go back, but maybe to the other family members first. Do you have a fav?