Russell Norman has taken the London restaurant scene by storm, and Polpo is his biggest success story. Now with nine branches found in London, Brighton and even Leeds, his relaxed Venetian cuisine is becoming more familiar across the country.
This month Polpo launches the weekend brunch menu, available in all the venues from 10am-12.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays. I visited the Soho restaurant to try out the new Italian dishes. Soho was quiet, despite the big Pride celebrations commencing later that day. We were the first at Polpo and I relished the opportunity to photograph the restaurant empty in the dappled morning light.
I was tempted to indulge with a breakfast bellini, but was sensible and opted for a strong flat white and fresh orange juice to wake me up. The menu is brief but features unique morning dishes that I hadn’t seen elsewhere before. Brunch pizzetta with Italian salsiccia, wild mushroom, Parmesan and a soft egg is a must. Once you get over the fact that you are essentially eating pizza for breakfast, it will delight with a lovely combination of subtly seasoned thick salami with mushrooms and eggs on a flaky, freshly baked dough base. Wild garlic, mushrooms and ricotta on toasted sourdough was nice too, though the unsteady pile of mushrooms rather drowned the other flavours… I would have liked more toast and creamy ricotta.
Polpo also offer buttery pastries and granola, for a lighter continental breakfast. But if you fancy something sweet I recommend ordered the ricotta doughnuts and cinnamon sugar, the perfect sweet treat to finish your Venetian brunch.
More information on Polpo brunch menu and bookings here.
Polpo is a bàcaro, a Venetian word to describe a humble restaurant serving simple food and good, young local wines.
I’m a few years late visiting and reviewing Polpo, which has now become one of Soho’s most popular eateries. With new branches in Covent Garden and Smithfields, the concept is spreading across London. The group also count American inspired Mishkin’s and Spuntino as part of the family.
Polpo don’t do reservations. I have tried to eat at the Soho restaurant several times before, the response is always the same “hour and a half wait, and you’ll have to stand at the (cramped) bar in the meantime”… that’s the evening ruined then. However at 5.45 on a Friday evening before Christmas there were several tables free. We grabbed the opportunity and ordered two glasses of Prosecco to celebrate the triumph, we were finally eating there, just four years after opening!
The restaurant is cosy and atmospheric, couples sit huddled over wooden tables and friends chatter enthusiastically. To start we ate Arancini and Potato and Parmesan crocchettes which were impressively greaseless and tasty… crunchy shells with oozing creamy centres, although rather under-seasoned.
Of the meatballs we tried the classic (beef & pork) variety. They were wholesome and good, coarsely ground meat dunked in thin sweet tomato sauce. Pork belly with hazelnuts and radicchio has been on the menu since the beginning but I was disappointed. The meat was dry, and very fatty, and the radicchio leaves almost too bitter to eat. Duck and Green Peppercorn Ragu with Pappardelle was the top dish of the day, fresh pasta sheets with a rich meaty sauce, especially good topped with crumbled parmesan.
After four years of rave reviews and two new branch openings, I expected a little more from Polpo. The staff seemed unbothered and the kitchen rather slack: the food just isn’t as spectacular as some of the newer Soho eateries.
More information here: www.polpo.co.uk