Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Polpo Fiction - A true story

This emergent group of restaurants has been catching my eye over the last few months, first with Polpo then Polpetto and most recently Spuntino. All catering to slightly different styles, I'd been to Spuntino a couple of weeks ago and come out very impressed, so on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend, the girlfriend and I headed to Polpo to see how it started.

First thing to notice is that it's a beautiful space, a bit like an urban cave, carved out of the street
The perfect place to sit with a bottle of wine and work your way through the menu (I would if I could, but I got disapproving looks when I suggested it to the lady)

The style of Polpo is sharing small plates, so you end up with waves of food arriving that kind of make courses, in our case a cold set of starters and a warm main set.

Our first set of dishes were the Grape, walnut and goats cheese bruschetta, arancini, smoked salmon with horseradish, pork shoulder terrine and artichoke and prosciutto

The goats cheese, grape and walnut bruschetta were a fantastic start, with the light goats cheese mixing with the sweet and sticky grapes.

After this, we started dipping into the terrine, which I thought came off like a steak tartare, but made with pig. This, by the way, is in no way a bad thing, especially with the crisp bread hiding an egg mayonnaise.

The only issue was that of all 'bread and spread' dishes, where pacing the use of the topping is a important to avoid running out of topping or bread before the end. In this case we misjudged so ended up wrapping the terrine in the cucumber with our hands, like the classy animals we are.

Up next, the Smoked Salmon with horseradish and dill. A good smoked salmon bite, although quite overshadowed by everything else on the plate.

The artichoke hearts wrapped in prosciutto however I could have for every meal. Personal preference, but anything wrapped in prosciutto is a good idea, and if it's something as tasty as an artichoke heart it's a doubly good idea.

The arancini made for some good money shots (see below), however, I found myself thinking that it was missing some extra hit of either parmesan or ragu, to offset the creaminess. That's not to say it was bad. Nothing that cheesy and fried could ever be bad, especially when the risotto was so good.

Once we polished off this first set of dishes (and half a bottle of wine), it was time for more plates with more food.

The most striking of these was the Gnocchi with cuttlefish and ink, arriving steaming at the table. Personally, I have an issue with eating food that absorbs all light, but due to the fact the plate was licked clean, I think it was probably the favourite dish for my companion, who mumbled something about the lemony inky deliciousness before heading back to the plate to hunt for more.
At the same time, we received something that would have looked as at home in a Chinatown dim sum restaurant; Pork rolled with pancetta (I forget the full name of this). Although this was a bit tough to get into, the salty pancetta mixed with the sweet balsamic vinegar made this a definite winner for me.
To provide a semblance of health with this course, we got some English Asparagus with Parmesan and Anchovy butter. There's very little better than a good Asparagus, and this was no exception.
By the time we worked our way round to the Fritto Misto, our eyes had slightly glazed over with a combination of wine, food and sunshine. However, as something to pick at while we worked our way through the rest, this was as good as anything. The batter was a bit dry, but the quality of the fish made up for it
It's also worth mentioning the awe inspiring origami produced by the staff for a baby at one of the tables. Among the display were sharks, fish and horses. In fact, all the service was charming and added to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere in the dining room.

Overall, Polpo made a fantastic destination for a sunny Sunday lunchtime and I'm eagerly looking forward to an excuse to head to Polpetto (if I ever find it...) and their new location in Covent Garden when it opens.

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