Circolo Popolare

Bronze Award
££££
Italian, Pizza

Circolo Popolare
Circolo Popolare
Circolo Popolare
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COVID-19 Update for Circolo Popolare

Updated on 02 Jul 2020

Reopening on 4 July

SquareMeal Review of Circolo Popolare

Bronze Award

Big Mamma has made a big splash in 2019. The French restaurant group has eight venues in Paris, one in Lille and has followed the Eurostar to London, where it took Shoreditch by storm in the early part of the year with the retro trattoria on everyone’s lips, Gloria.

This follow-up has pretty much doubled Gloria’s size but has minimised the hipness – a new-build office block off Oxford Street ain’t Old Street. Still, the lack of exclusivity is the key to Circolo’s charm: with most of the 280 seats given to walk-ins (once you’ve queued) and nothing on the pizza- and pasta-led menu over £20, Circolo Popolare combines cheesy coolness with the popular touch.

It’s a huge space, but something catches the eye at every turn, from the plants dangling from the ceiling and creeping around the big terrace to the walls lined with spirits bottles and religious knick-knacks, the cheeky view between the gents’ and ladies’ loos, and booths that look like they’ve been hewn from lava from Mount Etna. (Circolo is nominally Sicilian-themed, though this is not the place to come in search of authentic cucina siciliana).

Music that would not have disgraced a Wall’s Cornetto advert plays from the sound system while wipe-clean menus look like the title sequence of a Carry On film. You half expect a giant pepper pot to heave into view – until you see a cocktail mug shaped like a pair of breasts heading to the nearest hen party. We couldn’t escape the feeling that we were at a children’s party for adults.

Given the emphasis on spectacle (and the copious amounts of alcohol swilling around), the food is better than it needs to be, though prepare yourself for the mamma of carb come-downs afterwards. We kicked off with rotolo con 7 erbe – a doughy roll filled with cheese and herbs that suggested that pizzas with groan-inducing names (John Malkofish, I Wanna Nduja) would be a good bet. Empanadas had crisp pastry, but were light on the pork filling.

Spaghetti carbonara, brought to the table swirled out of a wheel of Pecorino cheese, is so deliriously rich you’ll be grateful for the small portion (though at £16 for two to share, it’s not bad value). A protein-dense skewer of sausages made from Tuscan cinta sensese pork provided a break from the carbs; a salad (chopped veg or caprese) would have made a lighter side order.  

Puddings deliver the sort of head-spinning sugar rush that will have you climbing the walls if the wine and cocktails haven’t dulled yours senses. The Circolo Sundae lives up to its XXL billing with cookie chunks, churros and brownies bound together with a mountain of whipped cream – as delicious as a gigantic McFlurry, but so massive that we preferred the marginally smaller portion of Dessert Island, a sweet toffee creation of beautifully whipped egg whites, caramel and custard.

The signature lemon meringue pie, sadly, had sold out by 8pm, as had the deep-fried courgette flowers and veal escalope skewers. But it’s hard to feel short-changed by somewhere that delivers cheapish thrills served up with so much fun – and the young Italian staff are lovely. 

About Circolo Popolare

This massive Italian trattoria in Fitzrovia comes from the Big Mamma Group, who are also the team behind the zany restaurant Gloria in Shoreditch.

Find Circolo Popolare just off Oxford Street and step inside this Mediterranean-inspired restaurant that is brimming with character. The interiors aim to bring Sicilian coast sunshine to dreary London, featuring plenty of plants, bright walls and flowing curtains, a ceiling adorned with thousands of festoon lights, and a mammoth 20,000 bottles of spirits lining the walls. With so much to look at, a meal out will never leave you bored. Circolo can seat over 200 diners inside at one of the booths running along the sides of the restaurant, vibrant wicker sofas or the homely vintage-esque chairs, while the restaurant also boasts an outdoor terrace with room for 60 to gaze upon the views and greenery. Encouraging group dining, the space features large sharing tables which can seat up to 12 guests. 

As at Gloria (Insta-famous for its massive lemon meringue pie which will also be coming to Circolo), the menu here is purposefully over the top. It comprises small cicchetti and larger plates designed to share. Expect to find metre-long pizzas topped with the likes of San Marzano tomato and creamy burrata from Puglia, while the Sicilian Grill turns out the likes of calamari e lemoni and pork skewers al arrabiata. Twirl pasta around your fork with stand-out Italian dishes including 'Crab me by the linguine', served with a whole crab shell. 

From the sweeter side of things, you’ll find a selection of homemade gelati, with flavours including pistachio and Amalfi lemon. If you’re feeling extra hungry, try Circolo’s ‘OTT 1L Sundae’, which is dusted with giant chunks of chocolate-chip cookies. When looking for something boozy, share a punch bowl or sip on one of the showy cocktails such as the 'Look Me in the Eyes' concoction made with rums, triple sec, almond hibiscus syrup, lime, and maracuja which is served in a mug that gives 'jugs' a whole new meaning. 

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Cuisines
Italian, Pizza
Ambience
Cool, Fun, Lively, Quirky, Unique
Other Awards
SquareMeal London Top 100
Food Occasions
Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Lunch
Alfresco And Views
Outside seating, Terrace
Special Features
Vegetarian options
People
Birthdays, Celebrations, Dates, Group dining [8+]
Food Hygiene Rating

FAQs

Can you book a table at Circolo Popolare?

Tables of 2-9 diners can be booked for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tables of 10-25 can be booked with the restaurant’s set menu.

Helpful? 0

Do Circolo Popolare take walk-ins?

Each seating allows space for walk-ins. To avoid queuing we suggest you arrive early.

Helpful? 0

What is the dress code at Circolo Popolare?

The dress code is smart-casual and the overall atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.

Helpful? 0

What type of food is served at Circolo Popolare?

Traditional Italian food with a quirky edge, think big plates and big flavours.

Helpful? 0

Who owns Circolo Popolare?

Part of the Big Mumma Group, Circolo Popolare’s sister restaurant in the UK is Gloria.

Helpful? 0

Location for Circolo Popolare

40-41 Rathbone Place, Rathbone Square, London, W1T 1PB

Website

Opening Times

Breakfast
Mon 08:00-11:00
Tue 08:00-11:00
Wed 08:00-11:00
Thu 08:00-11:00
Fri 08:00-11:00
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
Brunch
Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed Closed
Thu Closed
Fri Closed
Sat 09:00-16:00
Sun 09:00-16:00
Lunch
Mon 11:30-14:30
Tue 11:30-14:30
Wed 11:30-14:30
Thu 11:30-14:30
Fri 11:30-14:30
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
Afternoon Tea
Mon 14:30-17:30
Tue 14:30-17:30
Wed 14:30-17:30
Thu 14:30-17:30
Fri 14:30-17:30
Sat Closed
Sun Closed
Dinner
Mon 17:30-22:30
Tue 17:30-22:30
Wed 17:30-22:30
Thu 17:30-22:30
Fri 17:30-22:30
Sat 18:00-22:30
Sun 18:00-22:30

Reviews of Circolo Popolare

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1 Review 

Julia S

06 August 2019  
So romantic - get a little side booth. Perfect seats.

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