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