Russell Norman’s original take on a Venetian bácaro has spawned siblings and imitators across the capital, but Polpo’s queues still start early, whether you’re after a hit in the overflow Campari bar downstairs or a berth in the warmly lit dining room. The genre-defining mix of ‘rough edges’, brick walls and deliberately scuffed plaster, with brown-paper menus and glass tumblers atop worn tables feels too ‘cool’ for some, but great-value small plates win over most punters: try gooey arancini or anchovy-and-chickpea crostini, followed by rich meatballs on spaghettini or cuttlefish in a silky black-ink risotto – a dish that enjoys an evangelical following. Carafes of house wine(served in three different sizes) keep the bill from climbing, as do competitively priced all-Italian bottles. On the downside, ‘brusque’, scatty service can sometimes rub customers up the wrong way, however.
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