My last memory of Venice was an interesting one. A city constantly bombarded with the constant influx of tourists, so much that it became almost impossible to have an enjoyable dining experience unless you have local friends to take you around. Otherwise, you risk losing a limb dining out a-la-chance, being charged from sitting down to drinking tap water.
So when I heard about Polpo in London, featuring little Venetian plates in a bacaro (cafe) style dining atmosphere, I didn’t really know such places existed in Venice. And most importantly where do I find them next time I’m back in that hauntingly beautiful city?
Off the side streets of Covent Garden, Polpo is the kind of little joint that of course had no reservation policy. So on a Saturday night, alongside other hungry diners, we were left up to chance to wait at the bar, which was surprisingly pleasant with a great list of wines.
Luckily, a very hip and laid-back hostess came to collect us to our table, which was tucked neatly behind the long bar with lots of natural light. “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Toploader was pumping out loud on the sound system. If I squint my eyes just a little, I felt as if I stepped back into the bars New York’s Soho. Not sure if I felt the Italian vibes just yet.
On first glance of the menu, everything was very affordable, with dishes no more than £9 (that is extremely rare in this part of central London). I especially liked the beefed up meatball section, and the lamb pistachio variation got my attention. It was moist with lots of crunch from the pistachio, which added different textures to the dish. Arancini was a first time affair for me; I have obviously missed out on this lovely creation, because the cheese gooey mixture of risotto rice was just divine.
The octopus and fennel carpaccio sounded great in concept. But in reality, it was lacking a bit of seasoning, although very refreshing on a Summer evening. Lastly, we selected a dish from the special board, flank steak served on a bed of rocket and parmesan. The steak was tender and flavourful, great steal for a tenner. We can definitely taste the quality of the ingredients being used in each dish, and they were all washed down nicely with a little bit Polpo Rosso, Corvina 2014 house red.
If you fancy a bit of laid-back night out place to eat with a few friends, Polpo would be great but the no-booking policy is not so great for those who like to plan ahead. For this part of London, it’s rare to find a restaurant serving food at this level at a price range normally associated with chains such as Prezzo or Zizzi. Go and make sure to get the meatballs.
Various locations around London (I was at the Covent Garden branch)
6 Maiden Lane
London WC2E 7NA