Polpetto, Soho

Once I had flights booked and accommodation organised for my trip to Venice, I knew I needed to enlist the help of one man for food and drink suggestions. Russell Norman, is a restauranteur who knows the streets of Venice better than most. His enormously popular eateries in London showcase his knowledge and experience, and the recently reopened Polpetto is my favourite.

The Venetian culinary traditions are different to that of most Italian cities: they eat early, graze frequently on snacks, and have a tendency to avoid pizza and pasta. Norman translates these traditions perfectly in his Soho venues, and the constant queues illustrate his success with the British public.

Polpetto opened in 2010 and originally occupied the first floor of the French House pub on Dean Street. It attracted critical acclaim and gained a massive following. But the venue proved too small and the restaurant’s 24 seats were always oversubscribed. It closed in May 2012.

After a year of searching for the right location, Russell Norman and Richard Beatty have relocated the restaurant to Berwick Street. The venue boasts 60 seats, an aperitivo bar, an open kitchen and a chef’s table. In addition, Florence Knight returns to the London dining scene as executive head chef. Florence continues to show off her meticulous seasonality and creative simplicity.

It is easy to relax and unwind in the comfortable eatery. Small crooked wooden tables and chairs are humbly arranged, with paper menus and stylishly plain cutlery, plates and glasses. It is the simplest dishes that really excel here. The food tastes so fresh you could be eating in the Rialto food market in Venice. I loved the vibrant ruby red tomato salad, the gooey creamy and burrata with agretti (a small and thin succulent green shrub) and chilli, speckled with exemplary olive oil. Everything here is for sharing, a practice some foodies may find difficult particularly when it comes to the addictively good main courses, like hare pappardelle, a bowl of ultimate comfort food. The wine list focusses on young wines of the Veneto, reasonably priced and very drinkable, you can order by the glass or opt for a bottle.

After visiting Venice and partaking in their glorious traditions, I can look at my experience at Polpetto with a new appreciation. Tremendously tasty food and an inspiring concept.

More information here: polpetto.co.uk

Generator Hostel, Venice

I am ashamed to admit that until last month I had never stayed in a hostel before. Student friends who have backpacked round the world recount horror stories of bug-infested hellholes, places to rest your head but certainly not fall into a deep, carefree sleep. Walking into one of Venice’s few hostels, Generator, late at night, my opinion of hostels was instantly reformed – a happy stylish home for cultured and creative travellers… my kind of place. Located on Giudecca Island (a few minutes boat ride from the main island of Venice) you can only reach this idyllic strip of land by boat.

Travelling towards the historic property, moving slowly through the shimmering water, I felt like a character in a continental film; despite the surrounding darkness I felt the magical structure of this city, beautiful basilicas rising majestically in the distance. Gen Venice is an immaculately designed converted grain house, with traditional Fantini mosaic tiling, an elegant Murano glass chandelier and grand Rubelli textile curtains. For the tech-savvy visitors, modern quirks are placed throughout the bedrooms and common areas, a photo machine for memory making, free wifi throughout and even hair straighteners in the private rooms!

Downstairs at Gen Venice, there is always something exciting going on, from live music and DJ nights to art installations and sport watching. In the dining area rugged wooden tables with stools accommodate the hungry travellers. Food is fresh and flavoursome, all priced very competitively.

We stayed in a lovely private room, slightly removed from the corridor of dorms. It was the ultimate in simple luxury, blissfully easy and relaxed. The rooms exude rustic charm, the original features of the building are kept intact while offering contemporary features for all your 21st century needs. The double bed was cleanly dressed in pristine white sheets, a small table with leather armchair and the wooden floorboards was covered in a decorative carpet on the floor. I appreciated the easy access plug sockets and bedside lamps. The spacious en-suite bathroom had all the necessities and more, a power shower, separate toilet, two sinks, complimentary towels, hairdryer and straighteners and even miniature toiletries. A welcome bottle of Prosecco and personalised travel notebook made me feel very special and well looked after.

I was so comfortable at Gen Venice that I soon forgot we were in a hostel and tried to find the phone to call the concierge! And although this is something you won’t find at a hostel, Generator caters for curious travellers and the staff are happy to help you out with directions and recommendations.

Opening the shutters in the morning let in the natural light and sea breeze, I gasped noticing the captivating scene in front of me. I doubt there is a hostel anywhere in the world with such an enchanting view. Generator Venice is a wonderful, characterful and cost efficient way of experiencing this magical city.

More information and book a stay at Generator Venice here.

Cip’s Club, Hotel Cipriani, Venice

When my best friend announced we were going to Venice for her 26th birthday, I knew we had to find the very best restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Three months later and we were soaking up the last of the afternoon sun, surrounded by rippling waters and eating delicious Italian delicacies, at the stunning Cip’s Club.

Cip’s is part of the glamorous Hotel Cipriani and has an exclusive but relaxed feel. The property is located on the less populated Giudecca Island parallel to the main part of Venice. Guests lucky enough to be staying or dining here can catch the complementary and very civilised private boat from Venice’s main ferry terminal, a charming way to reach your dinner destination!

After enjoying a Pretty in Pink Bellini at the outdoor bar, we were escorted round to the restaurant which is set on a wooden terrace overlooking Piazza San Marco. There was a warm glow from the setting sun as we sat down at our table, it felt incredibly special to be at such a luxurious yet unpretentious restaurant with tables covered in pristine white tablecloths with neat cutlery and napkins and handmade coloured glasses from the nearby island of Murano. We toasted with a glass of 2010 Marco Felluga Ribolla Gialla, a fine white wine from the little village of Oslavia, straw yellow in colour with a fresh, elegant taste and a touch of citrus exoticism.

Cip’s Club specialises in simple seasonal Italian dishes, everything is fresh and delicious. To start we had traditional pasta dishes: a tasty vibrant green pesto sauce with spelt pasta dusted in parmesan, and an exemplary spaghetti carbonara with broad beans presented with a raw egg yolk ready to be mixed in.

The meat and fish recipes were modest and classic without unnecessary frills. Grilled seabass on a bed of fresh vegetables was light and healthy, whilst the Beef fillet with spinach and potatoes was more of a masculine option. For something a little different I would recommend the Breaded veal with salad, a thin, crispy escalope accompanied by a garden-fresh salad of rocket and cherry tomatoes. We shared a couple of sweets between us, and if I had to choose a winner the tiramisu would get my vote, an airy, creamy delight served with strawberries.

Wandering back in the evening darkness, I felt a rush of adrenalin recalling our filmic evening. Boasting the best views in Venice, Cip’s Club’s location alone makes it the most desirable dinner reservation in Europe’s most desirable city… the exquisite food and exemplary service is an added bonus.

More information and book a table here.