With the news of Polpetto opening on Monday, and Spuntino later in October, I’ve been thinking about revisiting Polpo for a few weeks now.
I adore the food at Polpo. I adore the by-the-carafe wine list and I adore the quirky staff. But just the thought of the long, long wait completely stresses me out.
Knowing that heading there on a Saturday was committing waiting suicide, I called ahead to ask the restaurant when we should arrive by for an early dinner. The manager kindly suggested arriving before 7pm for a decent stab at a table, so we arranged to meet at 6:30 expecting a wait at the bar.
Surprisingly we were shown to a table straight away and wasted no time ordering a 1/4L of Barbera. One of the greatest things about Polpo is that they don’t penalise you for ordering wine in smaller carafes. Their carafes are available in either 1/4L or 1/2L allowing you to try a few wines over the course of your meal.
The menu is composed of a series of Venetian cicheti (£1-2 ea) as well as small sharing plates (£5-8). The portions are designed for sharing, but a the same time are fairly generous in size.
We started off with some cicheti – chopped chicken liver crostino (£1.5 ea), smoked salmon with horseradish crostino (£2 ea) and potato and parmesan crocchetta (£1.5 ea). The crostino’s are actually fairly generous in size (2 bites worth as opposed to one), and had I know these were ‘sharable’ portions, we probably would have ordered just 1 of each instead of 2. But then that’s the greedy in me wanting to try more.
The chopped chicken liver was tasty, creamy and chunky all at the same time but the crostino was a little hard to bite through. The crostino on the salmon was a bit softer but perhaps I was distracted by deliciously creamy, bitey horseradish it was served with. The crocchetta was a bit bland and potato heavy and we probably could have done without these.
Next up came a portion of fritto misto (£7) – lightly fried pieces of calamari, squid, and prawns. We got a little caught up in conversation whilst eating this dish and we probably should have eaten it a bit quicker as it was unfortunately a little cold when we eventually got to it. But the prawns were still particularly delicious, crispy head and all.
Our calves liver with onion and sage (£6) was without a doubt the standout dish of the night. Delicately cooked, the liver was tender, still slightly pink and almost melted in your mouth. A few weeks ago, I raved about the calves liver we ate at Trullo in Islington and I must say, Polpo’s was far superior.
Cotechino sausage (£6.50) served with borlotti beans (?) arrived as three slices of trotter rich sausage served on top of firm braised beans. The sausage was rich in flavour and had an amazing melt in your mouth texture. My dining companion compared it to a very high-class version of spam – but I think she meant it as a compliment!
Our last main, Cuttlefish risotto cooked in ink (£7) was probably the blackest squid ink dish I’ve eaten. Being careful to take a sip of water after each bite (in fear that I would smile black teeth to my eating companion) the risotto was firm, and ink not too salty or overpowering as it sometimes can be. There was quite a decent amount of cuttlefish in the dish, but as the restaurant is fairly dark, and the dish so black it was very difficult to see.
We were quite full, but pondered desserts anyway. I’m not sure why we eventually decided against it but it may have been out of guilt as being seated close to the bar we felt the stare of many hungry waiting faces. Unlike mid-week it seems like Polpo line doesn’t start to get really crazy until just before 7pm. Don’t chance arriving too late though as by 7:30 we overhead the manager tell a couple that the wait for 2 was around 1.5hrs. .
The restaurant seems a lot more relaxed now that the early hype has died and it’s good to see that the food quality is still there. Hopefully the opening of Polpetto and Spuntino will tame the lines down a little as at £60 for two including wine and service, it’s a well priced restaurant that I wish I could pop into more often, even if just for that calves liver.
41 Beak Street
London W1F 9SB
You may also be interested in my post on Trullo in Islington.