Polpo is a Venetian baraco or wine bar, serving small plates of Italian food. I first heard about it on Twitter, and having heard some good things in the preview nights before it opened, I was looking forward to going. The menu is divided into cicchetti & crostini, breads, meat, fish, vegetables and desserts. We picked a few of these along with a 1/4 litre bottle of a robust red, and settled back. On only its second day of being open, the place was pretty full and had a great buzz to it. Exposed brickwork made the place feel homely, while my friend admired the stressed effect the paintwork had one one wall. Soon our order of arancini (risotto balls), salt cod on polenta, and fig, mint and proscuitto crostini arrived.
The salt cod on polenta was surprisingly but not unpleasantly cold. Arancini, piping hot were gorgeous and creamy, without a hint of stodge. The fig's natural sweetness was perfectly balanced with the saltiness of the proscuitto. I was starting to fall in love with the place.
Next up, a dramatically dark dish of cuttlefish cooked in its own ink with gremolata arrived. This was rich and tasted of the sea, the tender meat was lifted by the gremolata. I fretted over the colour of my teeth.
Mussels and clams were garlicky and buttery. I'd have preferred a couple more clams, but the mussels were plump and meaty. At this point we realised some bread would be good to mop up all the juices. A pizzetta bianco turned up and it was crisp, flaky and utterly gorgeous. We didn't end up dipping the bread but scarfed it, unadulterated.
We had one last dish to come, slow roasted duck with green peppercorns and black olives. The barman told us the dishes come out as and when they're ready, but nevertheless we waited for some time. We were offered some complimentary bread, which was another delicious pizzetta bianco. Finally, our duck dish turned up.
The meat was cooked to tenderness, and the tomato sauce given a little kick from the heat of the green peppercorns. The cherry tomatoes were juicy and bursting with flavour. By the time we'd finished, we'd been there for a good hour and a half. I had well and truly fallen in love with the place. I sprinted back to work, full and happy, excited about the prospect of telling all my friends about it. I can't wait to return to try out more of the menu, perhaps in the evening when I can take my time over it.
Lunch for two with wine and service came to £50.
41 Beak Street,
London, W1F 9SB
Tel: 020 7734 4479