Saturday, 21 August 2010

Polpetti, Polpette, Polpetto

It's no secret that Polpo is one of my favourite restaurants in London. I've been to this Venetian-style baraco four times since it opened in October 2009, and there really are only a handful of places that I can say I return to regularly; there are so many restaurants to be tried, after all. Polpo always promises me good wine, excellent food and an atmosphere parallel to none, hence my repeat visits. I was more than a little bit excited when they announced the opening of their second branch, Polpetto. I was positively beside myself when I managed to get a booking at the soft opening. (Remember? I LOVE a bargain.)

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.

Polpetto

Upstairs at The French House

49 Dean Street
Soho
London, W1D 5BG

Tel: 020 7734 1969

18 comments:

shayma said...

beautiful photos, Lizzie. what a feast. those prawns look gorgeous. x shayma

Sasha @ The Happiness Project London said...

Looks just wonderful - tasty and imaginative... I've tried to eat at Polpo twice but both times got put off by the 2 hour wait for tables. I think I'm going to book in for Sunday lunch soon just so I can try it though.

You didn't mention the best thing though - its in the pub the French House, best pub in London!

Sasha

Helen said...

It looks absolutely bloody brilliant. I want to eat everything. The first thing I thought when I saw that plate was "WANT!" and obviously you thought the same. Well, perhaps they wouldn't miss one...

Emyr Thomas, Bon Vivant said...

If the photos are anything to go by, I need to make a visit ASAP!

gourmet traveller said...

everything looks awesome! bummed that I was too lazy to book for the soft opening, but your post has just made me pick up the phone to get a lunch table there in coupla weeks time. can't wait.

BeccaRothwell said...

Having never managed to make it in to eat at Polpo I couldn't fully jump on the Polpetto opening fever and didn't bother trying to book for the soft opening. Damn is all I can say.

I want to eat EVERYTHING you did, and probably more, although I'm not sure that would be possible. I'm going to have to brave the crowds after work one evening or attempt what will likely be impossible for at least a month and book for a weekend lunch.

Kavey said...

I was very late to Polpo, my first visit was only a few months ago, but have been three times since and will definitely be visiting Polpetto too!

I'm in AWE of the number of dishes you managed, I truly am not worthy!

Dom at Belleau Kitchen said...

oh Lizzie, please contact me next time you plan to go... The Big V doesn't eat meat (natch) and so I need a partner to eat with and Polpo's been on the list for so long x

gastrogeek said...

Wow. Well it sounds like it's worth a visit, for that swordfish dish alone....

Gourmet Chick said...

I loved the crockery as well! So cool. Agree it was a great meal and good that you enjoyed it despite your hungover state...

Unmarked Door said...

OH God.
The Hunger.

Pavel said...

That is some of the prettiest looking food I've seen in a while. This will definitely be tried soon!

Joshua Armstrong said...

That's a fine looking spread. I had set myself a reminder to attempt a booking but then come 10am I was away from my desk.

Graphic Foodie said...

Oh my. This is my idea of food heaven.

Greedy Diva said...

Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did. Loved the crockery and the teeny glasses too!

Laura Nickoll said...

What a feast! I really miss Polpo. I thought Polpetto was going to have a slightly different concept, but having the same delicious food on two Soho sites can't be a bad thing...
The portions do look more generous than Polpo's small plates - a soft opening treat?
Lovely pics.

Dan said...

Nice write up Lizzie, I'll have to visit next time I'm back in London.

Tim 31.75 said...

Wish I'd tried the raddichio, judging by that pic