Saturday 3 October 2009

Polpo, Soho

As I rushed hurriedly down Dean Street in Soho, I suddenly remembered that Beak Street, where Polpo is located, is off Carnaby Street, a good 5 minutes brisk pace away. I was in entirely the wrong area. I burst into the restaurant, late and slightly sweating, and took my seat next to my friend at the bar.

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


Edd said...

Very nice and timely review, im thinking of going here next week. It all looks really good and I quite like the small plate thing

tehbus said...

A turbo charged lunch but food that looks right up my street. Great amount of positive feedback, going to have to head to this place before it becomes too popular.

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

I like the look of the cuttlefish. Did you smile at your friend afterwards? Polpo's so close to my office too! I've already been invited twice there on the same night, but can't make either...

Mr Noodles said...

The clams and mussels look good. You should return in the evening - not only can you take your time but you can also order a proper bottle of wine - 1/4 litre of red wine just seems wrong even at lunch.

An American in London said...

Sounds delish - I see from your photo of the menu that Polpo offers fritto misto, which surely needs trying!

Helen T said...

Sounds really good, one to add to the list for my infrequent trips to London. Love the sounds of the duck in particular.

Hollow Legs said...

Edd - I hope you like it as much as I do.

Tehbus - I would definitely recommend getting yourself over there!

Helen YLP - Yep, did smile and it was quite shocking!

Mr Noodles - I definitely will return in the evening. I actually quite like the 1/4 litres, as you get to try several different wines if you like. I don't particularly like drinking too much at lunchtime anyway, as the mid-afternoon slump is too much!

AAIL - I saw dishes of the frito misto going past; they looked great.

Helen T - the duck was gorgeous.

Helen said...

Another one to add to the list! I really want to try that cuttlefish. Imagine if you had that cuttlefish with a glass of red wine?! You could scare small children.

Helen Brocklebank said...

I really love Polpo - such easy eating. It's so nice to have a restaurant on the doorstep that doesn't require you to book six months in advance or write a poem in praise of the food before eating it. Lovely review. x