Polpo Soho 1

41 Beak Street , London, W1F 9SB

10 reviews

31 Italian Soho

  • Polpo
  • Polpo

SquareMeal Review of Polpo Soho

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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6.0

Food & Drink: 7.2

Service: 5.4

Atmosphere: 6.5

Value: 6.5

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Dorothea A. 15 February 2013

Reading reviews of Polpo and their menu it looked like exactly the kind of place I would love and I was very excited about the prospect of our meal there. However, the service turned the experience into somewhat of a disaster. I met a friend for a catch up an hour before our reservation when the rest of our party were due to arrive. We asked Polpo if we could sit at the bar and were sharply told 'no, it's for food only' when I said we were eating in an hour the front of house pointed to the corner and said we could stand there if we really wanted. We went to Vinoteca for a lovely glass of prosecco instead. We returned to Polpo, were shown to our table, the restaurant was nice and buzzy and the menu looked great. We ordered a variety of dishes some of which were great (cuttlefish risotto) and some of which didn't live up to expectations (steak and white truffle cream – a large plate of rocket with a few slices of tough steak). The service throughout was pretty poor, we struggled to get attention and the staff were pretty brusque. The main problem was with the bill. When we eventually got hold of someone to ask we were brought the wrong bill, after another wait we were brought the right bill but with things on it we hadn't had. There was another wait as this was corrected (now 30 minutes from when we first asked). When we got the right bill I commented that we'd waited for half an hour for it, our waited then picked the bill and walked off with it. After another few minutes we asked what was going on and were told he'd taken it to his manager to remove the service. At this stage we would have paid service rather than having to wait further. 45 minutes after we requested our bill we were allowed to pay it with no apology for the issues that had arisen.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

BoatLady platinum reviewer 10 September 2012

Polpo is one of my favourite places to eat in London so I'm sad at the service bashing it's taken in some reviews. I don't know what others expect but on our recent visit we got menus given, questions answered, orders taken, drinks and food delivered and when I smiled they all smiled back. Yes, you have to wait for a table, but you know that already, and yes, food is sometimes plonked down, but they are delivering multiple plates to multiple tables so if they stopped for a chat at every opportunity you'd probably have cause to complain about slow service. I think the slightly rough edges are in keeping with the generally authentic, rustic, Venetian food and atmosphere. No danger of falling in a canal at the end of this meal though, which is lucky, because by the time you've drunk 2 hours worth of cocktails in the cosy downstairs bar waiting for a table and then tucked into the wine list you will probably be a bit wobbly on your feet. I have been for several dinners with friends (including a quiet one up at the bar), once on a second date (highly successful, we are now engaged) and most recently for Saturday lunch, at which my friend and I were seated immediately, hurrah! Being greedy we worked our way through a couple of dishes from most sections and whilst the meatballs were indeed good, it was trumped by the fried fish mix and, a meat-free unexpected highlight, the artichoke and tomato bruschetta. My only disappointment was the cuttlefish in black ink risotto because normally I'd give this 10 out of 10, travel miles for it, wait hours for it and trumpet it as simply the best dish in all of London but it lacked the usual al dente bite and saltiness so gets just 9 out of 10 this time. It all adds up and lunch for 2 (with couple of glasses of prosecco and coffees) came in at £66, not bad value for this quality of food but you could easily spend more in the evening. I'm not sure whether it is called Polpo after the signature octopus dish or because “polpoxo” ("fleshy") is what you'll become if you can't resist return visits.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Elizabeth P. 26 April 2012

Not quite sure I understand all the negative comments on service here. It's loud and it's brash – but it's meant to be. Why come here if you want ‘smart service’? And surely everyone must see what incredible value it is. Where else in central London can you eat truly delicious food with a glass of wine for less than £40 for 2. The meatballs are always divine, the pizzetta perfect. My only complaint are the tumblers for the wine – but at least that encourages me to stick to house white and so keeps the cost down.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 0.0

Value: 0.0

Elizabeth B. 22 February 2012

If it hadn't been for the company it would have been an appalling night out. I have never been moved to write a review online before but I am so sorry that our group spent our hard-earned money here. Having been to Da Polpo I'd raved to my friends about the place and thought Polpo would be more of the same. The food was delicious, credit to the chefs but I wish the chefs had served us. Standard of cooking doesn't matter one bit if the service makes you so unhappy that you feel actually robbed of your money when you come to pay (and it's not cheap). The poor chefs should understand what a disservice is being done to them by at best complacent and at worst downright rude front of house staff. The general atmosphere created was that the waiting staff looked at us as pieces of dirt on the floor who they had to waste their valuable time serving. I understand that a front of house job is tough with tiring, antisocial hours when you would prefer to be the customer rather than the waiter, however, it is a job. I have been a waitress before and would never think to not treat my customers the way we were treated. In fact even when they were rude to me I would maintain a helpful, happy demeanour. Usually the customer was shamed into apologising as a result. The front of house team (if you can call them a team) so ruined our Friday night that we certainly won't be going back and are on a mission to tell as many people as possible to vote with their feet. The final straw was them getting our coffee order wrong and when we mentioned it to the maitre d she glared at us and said, 'well, I didn't take your order.' I should have said, ‘Wrong answer!’ I concur with one of the other reviewers below in the opinion that the one redeeming feature was the cheery barman downstairs who was the antithesis of the restaurant staff and made the 3 hour wait for a table bearable. There are so many better restaurants in London. Don't go here.

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 1.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Junglefresh. gold reviewer 03 February 2012

I try to see good in every situation: so here's the good bit. I went to Polpo very recently and ate at the bar as it was lunchtime and I was alone. The lady who answers the telephone and seats diners was helpful, friendly, bubbly and cute. The atmosphere was humming and, as I had blundered in not really having looked at the name, I was heartened and expected to exit a satisfied customer. The food was undoubtedly cheap – but though it tasted good there was almost none of it to taste. The apple and prosciuto with tallegio was exactly that – but one tiny slivver of apple, one tiny piece of cheese and possible less than one slice of prosciutto to wrap them in. An “amuse guelle” not a starter. The soft sausage on cabbage was fine, though mean. Tasty and rustic. Now the bad: I asked for a glass of still water, and found myself confronted by a large bottle – I think I should have been told first. The servers behind the bar gave absolutely no impression of wanting to do more than transact, no looking directly at the customers, no engagement. The food was more or less litterally plonked on the bar by someone who walked by without stopping or looking or smiling. At least it arrived quickly. Lastly, I would have had a coffee, but saw the barrista preparing coffees for tables, sticking his fingers inside the little glasses they use – and they (fingers) looked like they needed a good wash. I was too embarrased to dock the 12.5% “discretionary” service charge. Is it me ?

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

David J. gold reviewer 01 June 2011

There’s a fun little place in Soho that fuses European bacaro and tapas influences to create exciting small plates of Venetian history. Polpo takes its inspiration from the osterie and dintorni of Venice and there’s a warm ambience when I arrive for lunch. The restaurant has a small and unassuming entrance which leads deep inside to reveal the serving counter at the rear where there are shelves holding oils, wines and jars of olives and crunchy biscotti. The dining room stretches back like a bowling alley and at the front there’s a small bar you can sit at which curls away from the redbrick wall and looks perfect for luncheons, sipping espressos and picking cold meats. The first thing I noticed upon entering is that Polpo smells of toast. Not burnt toast but nose-tingling doughy bread from the ovens. We sit down at our table to find the menu is our tablemat, this could be messy I thought. And was. All the dishes are ingredient led and this plays a vital part, as the majority of the portions are small, therefore easier to pick through and highlight faults. Rather than tackle a main course and feel yourself being sick in the mouth with greed or having chosen a wrong dish, here you can indulge yourself with four, six, eight small dishes and sample a wider variety, dipping in-and-out at your convenience. Most dishes are under a fiver, which means you can stuff your face for around a tenner. Asparagus, taleggio and prosciutto were a tasty beginning with fine slithers of soft cured-ham and tall, fresh asparagus, and at £2.00 was a steal. A crunchy crostino with zingy walnut pesto and rocket hit the mark and was only £1.00 – seriously good pricing. Two small dishes in a Soho restaurant for £3.00 is just absurd. This is freshly prepared sunny European grub in Soho, and cheaper then a Happy Meal. The chopped chicken liver crostino was rather general but cost a nominal, £1.50. We ordered a good refreshing broad bean, ricotta and mint bruschetta for £4.50 and a tasty calf’s liver with onions and sage for £6.00. Some more asparagus, this time served with an anchovy butter and mature Parmesan, was £5.50. Cuttlefish in a moody black ink risotto stained the tongue, and was a little too runny and muddy, but held some beefy cuttlefish to pick out, and for £6.50 was well priced and far off brummagem. A hot and creamy chocolate pot was served with doughy, spiral esse (Italian biscuits) for only £3.50 and was small but perfectly formed, and the warm, runny chocolate down the throat was oh! so dreamy. It’s a clever way of fusing Spanish tapas influence with authentic Venetian dishes and projects a rather sophisticated dining experience, perhaps the best introduction you can have to this rustic trattoria-style in London. The emphasis is on style and the customer rather than on haute cuisine and rinsing Londoner’s of cash, and this can only be a good thing. Situated in the heart of Soho its always going to attract an eclectic mix of gobblers, from the media-based workers to the evening couples, weekend tourists and those lucky Soho inhabitants who’ll find it a great neighbourhood restaurant.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Dawn P. 08 January 2011

Had dinner here on a Saturday evening. No bookings taken so the expected wait of 30-40 minutes was not a surprise but it wasn't a problem, we had a drink at the bar. It's small but not uncomfortable. The maitre d' was a perfect combination of being in command of a packed bar and restaurant while still being warm and friendly – very impressive in such a busy venue on a Saturday night. The food is imaginative and well-cooked but was served way too cold – I understand the chichetti concept but the style of dishes on the menu deserve to be served at a decent temperature to allow one to enjoy them to their fullest. Having a decent wine list and then forcing customers to drink out of tumblers is not cute or trendy, just ill-judged. Yes, by all means serve basic vino this way but if one is paying decent money for a bottle (and there are bottles up to 70 quid each) then I'd like to enjoy it in a decent glass please. The music is rock and it is loud. My companion and I noticed that we were a lot older than most diners (we're late 40's, most others were in their 30's) so we had a wry smile about it but it's a shame that the management can't see that a little less volume would not harm its ambition to be edgy, urban and cool whilst making the experience much more pleasant. The staff were, without exception, brilliant. Charming, efficient, friendly and professional. I'd go back if in Soho but wouldn't necessarily make a special trip to Polpo. Maybe I'm just too old!!!

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Sheikh I. 27 November 2010

excellent

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 2.0

Maggie P. bronze reviewer 18 November 2010

Having heard so much about Polpo, we were really pleased to get a table. Early evening and the place was buzzing – it looked like it would be great fun. Oh dear here is another example of a restaurant that is now too popular and struggling to keep up with its reputation. The service was poor – too few staff, not enough room for them to move and their stress was obvious in their faces and behaviour. The food was really average – nothing wrong but not memorable. The noise levels meant it was impossible to hear the person opposite me! Tables too small and the plates too big! Maybe lunchtime would be better…

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Laypy bronze reviewer 23 August 2010

Hearing all the buzz and hype about this restaurant made a couple of friends and myself a little more than desperate to have a taste for ourselves. So there we found ourselves, on a Friday night in the capital of impossible to get reservations without a reservation. It seemed like the perfect time to sample Polpo with its no reservations policy. We hot footed it over to Beak St and walked through the welcoming doors. The wait, we were told, could be up to 40 mins, but since we were in no rush and needed an excuse to prolong our catch up we were more than happy to wait at the,(albeit crowded) bar. The bar space is small and busy but if you expect this then you won’t mind the odd treading of feet on your own toes! Prosecco (on tap) is served in small tumblers which is authentic but don’t expect to feel chic drinking out of one! Immediately you feel a since of friendliness with fellow diners. We shared pre dining banter (which resulted in pre dining drinks and nibbles) with 3 friendly city types. Had it have not been more difficult to get a table to seat all 7 of us we would have joined each other for dinner, but tables are small at Polpo and it was much easier to seat in our small groups. Dishes are designed small (including cicheti), for the table to order lots and share between yourselves. We were so excited by the variety on offer that we ordered far too much, in the end having to balance water bottles, wine, plates of small Venetian delights and the rest on the small table. It would have been nice for the waitress to inform us that dishes would be brought out at the same time when ready so that we could have staggered our ordering. This was my major fault with Polpo. From our choices the ones which stood out were the White anchovy, tapenade and egg cicheti, the broad bean, ricotta and mint bruschetta and the calfs liver, onions and sage (delicious!) but all were delicious. Just beware of ordering too many dishes! Overall Polpo is a good choice for a buzzy casual meal with friends. Not one for a romantic date as it’s far too noisy and I don’t think your date would appreciate waiting at the bar for a seat before. If you appreciate good food then I would recommend going to Polpo.

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