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What was da Polpo is now nominally aligned with its siblings in Soho and Smithfield; otherwise, little else has changed in this Covent Garden eatery. Beyond the bright-green facade, the studied
couldn't-care-less interior of chipped tiles, murky lighting and scuffed walls remains – as do the rustic small plates, heavy-duty cocktails and no-nonsense carafes of decent wine. Everything
tempts on the menu, but polite staff often seem preoccupied and the food can disappoint: underdone arancini balls, over-spiced meatballs and lukewarm cotechino sausage with mealy borlotti beans
suggest a kitchen too busy to care. Best to stick to ‘simple but delicious' fail-safes including fritto misto or spinach and parmesan pizzette topped with a poached egg. For dessert, avoid the
measly baked peaches with over-whipped cream in favour of boozy tiramisu. Note: this branch takes bookings from 12N-6pm.
Polpo is one of the first restaurants to popularise the concept of Italian tapas. Instead of being traumatised with unending volumes of carb and deep fried meat, Polpo instead takes inspiration from the bacaro of Venice. These relaxed bars serve rounds of tapas with glasses of liquor, a concept which is wholly agreeable. The authenticity of Polpo is buoyed by its insistence to use the correct terminology, and so these tapas are elevated with the frilly titles of ‘cicchetti’, ‘crostini’ and ‘crocchette’.Having never been to Venice I could not speak to the legitimacy of the food, but provenance aside, there is much to be delighted by...
More from Wrap Your Lips Around This »
As you can imagine, I know Mediterranean food very well, and I like the philosophy of small, simple and tasty dishes that this Venetian bàcaro in Covent Garden offers. Everything looks fantastic: the place, the menu, the atmosphere… but although everything was good, I have to be honest, it didn’t blow me away. And it’s not just that I was expecting something more, it’s that I found some of the food a bit irregular. We ordered several small dishes to share, as they suggested. Just to name a few, the pesto and goat cheese bread and the salami calzone were excellent, as well as the light and tender gnocchis...
More from The Hungry Beard »
Covent Garden’s Polpo is the latest addition to the Polpo, Polpetto and Spuntino family of dark and moody no reservations restaurants by Mr Russell Norman. The concept is the same as its predecessors – bustling atmosphere, small sharing plates, great music and tumblers of very reasonable wine. All three are exclusively staffed by hipsters whose arms double as works of inky art. There’s absolutely no bookings, ever. And London absolutely loves them...
More from The Celeriac »
I'm a huge fan of 'sharing' meals across all cultures and cuisines: tapas, dim sum, mezze, I love them all. Not only do you get to try a bigger selection of what the menu has to offer in a generally very affordable way but you avoid the awful spectre of Meal Envy - when, having dithered over the menu for an age, your food arrives and you immediately and desperately wish you had ordered whatever has just been put in front of your neighbour.In case you've been living on a culinary desert island for the past few years, Polpo is one of Russell Norman's group of restaurants across London based on the Venetian bacaro - a small, homely restaurant more like an Italian tapas bar, based around small sharing dishes and wine by the glass or carafe. Slightly confusingly, as the family has grown they have been rechristened: the original Polpo on Beak Street is now called Polpo Soho, whereas this one used to be Da Polpo and is now Polpo Covent Garden. A new addition has just opened in Smithfield. There are other non-identical siblings - Polpetto, Mishkin's, Spuntino (and apparently at least one more on the way) but I had set my heart on a Polpo, so Covent Garden it was. http://polpo.co.uk/The Polpo restaurants have been criticised for their reservations policy, or rather, their lack of one. Lunchtime tables can be booked, to cater for business dining, but in the evening it's first come, first served - although you can order wine and snacks whilst you wait. Norman himself is unapologetic, reasoning that his regular repeat customers are likely to live, work or play locally so will be happy to just pitch up and hope. In a recent interview with the Observer's Rachel Cooke, he says 'It does confuse me that people rant and rave about this. If you want to book, choose a restaurant where they take reservations. It's that fucking simple!' Read the interview in full here:http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/17/polpo-russell-norman-interview Or of course, if you particularly want to eat at Polpo (which we did), just get there early. We arrived just before 6pm on a Friday night and were seated immediately, so it is possible. There have also been murmurings about the appropriateness of such stripped-back decor, bare filament light bulbs and cosy-to-crowded seating in a restaurant that reached number 25 in the National Restaurant Awards last year. To these people I would say just be happy that there is an affordable, unpretentious, top-class restaurant in Central London where people who don't necessarily want starched tablecloths, starched waiters and the muted tinkle of crystal glasses can eat really great food and enjoy themselves. You're more likely to dine along to The Verve than to Vivaldi at Polpo and it fits the relaxed, companionable vibe perfectly.Greeted and seated by a friendly member of staff, we started with a Caprese Stack and a Summer Pea and Speck Crostino, priced at Â£3 each. The crostino was pretty much what I had expected for cicchetti, or snacks; a couple of mouthfuls of crisp base, nice fresh pea topping and a decent-sized curl of meat. However, what I had thought might be a garnish actually turned out to be the Caprese stack. One cherry tomato, a single basil leaf and a small piece of mozzarella barely visible beneath said tomato, on a cocktail stick. I'm sorry guys, but seriously? In what possible world can that be Â£3? We also ordered a cocktail each - a Limona for me (gin, white vermouth and Limoncello) and an Americano for my companion. These were okay, but not wonderful; having said that, the emphasis is very much on wine here (and they did seem to be training up a new member of bar staff) so perhaps I would just go for wine next time - refreshingly all available in 25cl, 50cl and 75cl carafes for maximum choice. Somewhat deflated, I awaited the arrival (and size) of the Classic Pork and Beef Meatballs with trepidation. I needn't have worried. Three generously plump and juicy meatballs smothered in an excellently-balanced fresh tomato sauce arrived at the table and I have to say they were superb. Great texture, perfectly seasoned, these were as good as I've had anywhere else - Italy and Spain included - and excellent value at Â£6. If they hadn't been so filling, I might have immediately ordered the Spicy Pork and Fennel meatballs, which sound divine. The Linguine Vongole was about the size you would expect for a starter portion in a standard upmarket Italian restaurant, tasty and with plenty of clams. Perking up again, we decided to try the Spinach, Parmesan and Soft Egg Pizzette, a side plate-sized dish more like a topped flatbread than a standard pizza. This arrived generously piled with delicious fresh cheesy spinach and a wobbly just-poached egg; utterly delicious. Wanting to try one of the desserts, and starting to feel quite full, we opted for the Baked Peach with Amaretti Cream; a halved roasted peach served with a respectable dollop of flavoured cream and sprinkled with amaretti crumbs, a perfect end to the meal. I wholeheartedly recommend Polpo Covent Garden and will be back myself soon for sure. Portion sizes can vary wildly within the same price range but with some judicious choices this is still great value for money, considering the quality of the food in what can be a tourist trap of a location. Definitely worth an early dinner - oh, and I now covet the cookbook badly. Yours, sharing nicely,Girl About Town xx
More from London - Girl About Town »
London is littered with Italian tapas restaurants and some are exceptionally good (e.g., Zucca and Bocca di Lupo). One of the more popular chains of Italian tapas restaurants is the Polpo range. We decided to try out Polpo Covent Garden...
More from FoodiesOnTheProwl FoodiesOnTheProwl »
Da Poplo is one of Russell Norman group of restaurants. I also went to his Mishkin deli over in Covent garden another post coming soon. Tucked away behind the London’s hip district in Soho. Poplo is described, as a Venetian bàcaro, in other words Cicchetti, is similar to Spanish tapas. You order small plates to share amongst your party...
More from The Food Connoisseur »
decent modern tapas in covent garden. I’ve finally made it to one of the vaunted tapas restaurants in soho – and only because now they take reservations on the weekends for lunch. I still don’t understand the no-booking policy with most restaurants – it makes planning to go out very difficult, especially in a group, and a group always spends more than a couple or a single diner would. also, how often do you go out as a couple and decide that it would be fun standing in line for half an hour or more for food?
More from andmorefood »
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