I eschewed breakfast in favour of the splurge that was inevitable. I arrived ravenous, and my companion and I got to work on the dishes. We joked with the waitress that it might have been easier to tell her what we didn't want off the menu, and this turned out to be true.
There will be a lot of words written about Polpetto in coming weeks, that much I am sure. I'm also sure that this tiny 28-seater room will be packed out to the rafters, and deservedly so. I'll try not to waffle on too much.
Of the cicheti, duck and porcini polpette (that's meatball) was light yet rich and flavoursome. Melanzane Parmigiana had to be ordered - I've never passed up on an aubergine - but we were completely, utterly blown away by the smoked swordfish and dill ricotta. It was such a stunning combination. Polpetti (baby octopus) we've had before at Polpo. Expertly cooked and in beautiful olive oil flavoured with garlic, sage and shallots. "I like eating things that actually look like the beast", said my friend. He echoed my thoughts.
Chickpea and anchovy crostini was flavoured with tahini, fishy little bites of creamy chickpea on crunchy wafer-thin bread.
Piedmontese pepper with marinated white anchovies were a gift from Russell Norman, the brains behind Polpo and Polpetto. He exudes excitement about his restaurants and he told us that barely anyone had ordered this dish, possibly due to a uncompelling menu description. On first taste it seemed just a sum of its parts - anchovies tick, pepper tick. After a couple of mouthfuls though, the appeal shone through. Fresh, juicy and complementary flavours.
Cochetino and pickled raddichio on grilled bruschetta was visually dazzling. The sharp, bitter bite of the raddichio balanced the rich, fatty velvety pork.
I couldn't detect the parmesan in the batter of the soft-shell crab, but it was light and greaseless. The body was split in half between us and orange goo oozed seductively from it. Fennel salad with a creamy lemon dressing lifted the flavours skyward.
Zucchini fries were exactly what the said they were. Although delicious when dipped in the leftover oil from the polpetti, they could be seen as a little boring.
When the pigeon saltimbocca was set before us, I wanted to steal the crockery immediately - it's gorgeous. Cooked till rare on the inside, I managed a bite before the gaminess of the bird got too much for my hungover self. The white polenta was comforting though, and my friend informs me the pigeon was excellent and I had no one to blame but myself for not being able to eat it all.
One of my favourite dishes of the meal turned up, Osso Bucco. Look at that risotto! A full whack of saffron, tender, slightly gelantinous veal on top. We greedily scooped out the marrow.
Chilli and garlic prawns were properly spicy and nicely garlicky. Fingers got messy and we were starting to get full.
Ham terrine was the dish that broke us. It was the only one we physically could not finish. Mustardy egg mayonnaise was with a gorgeously dense, parsley flecked terrine and I am still kicking myself that I didn't ask for the half we left to take away.
There's always room for dessert though. Oddly I never tried any desserts at Polpo, but we decided to go for the lightest, fruitiest-sounding desserts on the menu. Blackberry pannacotta with almond biscotti stole my heart. No face-puckering tartness I often get with blackberries, the pannacotta was wibbly and smooth. Biscotti was standout and we littered the table with crumbs. Lemon and strawberry sgroppino was a boozy milkshake; made of lemon and strawberry sorbets all mixed up with a bit of milk and Prosecco. Sounds a bit rank, but it tasted lovely.
We ate a gluttonly15 items on the menu between us, and our bill would have been about £55 a head including a couple carafes of wine and the spritzes had it not been for the 50% soft opening discount. Outstanding value, and we really did eat double than what is decent and seemly.
So there you are. Go. They don't take bookings at dinner (they do at lunch) - still, I can't think of a better Friday night, after a long week slogging away, than to prop up the nearest bar until a table becomes free. I predict half of London will be doing this and I don't blame them.
Upstairs at The French House
49 Dean Street
London, W1D 5BG
Tel: 020 7734 1969