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|Address:||6 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7NA|
|Tel:||020 7836 8448|
|Price: £45.00||Wine: £18.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-12M (Sun -10.30pm)|
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I love Venice. So much so, I have an apartment on the Giudecca near the world's greatest place for puddings, Harry's Dolci.
Alas, Square Meal doesn't include restaurants in Venice so instead of reviewing the most orgiasatic puds ever devised, I am reviewing a Venice inspired London restaurant called Polpo.
Polpo, Octopus in Italian, is the brainchild of Russell Norman who's “inspiration for the restaurants and his culinary journey to Venice's back-street wine bars and bacari in search of the authentic flavours of the city and region” inspired him to set up a Disney like copy in London. Inspiration all round then.
There are currently three branches to choose from and late last week I walked in off the street to the Covent Garden “Bacaro”. Apparently this is a rarity as the friendly front of house woman told me they are booked out for weeks ahead. Consequently my “off the street” table was in the middle but at least not by the loo's. It was cramped and I elbowed one of the waiters in the groin whilst turning on my Blackberry. One way of grabbing his attention I suppose and was presented with a recycled menu of tapas style dishes that appeared inexpensive but when added up together took my bill to over £50 (and included a carafe of Veneto best red) which is very expensive for some tiny nibbles.
The few real local Bacaro left in Venice are hidden by dark windows in dark streets. Tourists are not welcome and you need to be introduced before you get to sample small plates of olives, squid and zucchini. Then you will experience something really special – home made Italian food. Although Polpo has been cleverly designed inside to feel like the walls are thick with Italian cigarette smoke, with faded photos of Mafiosa next to football pendants, the authenticity stops about there. The food is not quite right. It tastes ok, looks good and for a brief moment in time you almost feel there are mosquito bites on your ankles and you can hear the horn of a large MSC cruise liner trying to navigate the lagoon but this doesn't last long and you end up wanting to leave as soon as you have sat down. Which is a shame.
There is certainly a buzz about the place but its reminiscent of a newly opened New York restaurant that is trying too hard and will be closed within a couple of years. A great try but I wouldn't bother. Wait until someone does it properly. If they ever do. There are plenty of much better Spanish tapas bars around the corner. Go there instead. Or nip to Waterstones and buy the Polpo book because this worth having on your bookshelf. If only the food was as good as the pictures.
Ah well. Onto the next restaurant.