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Polpo Covent Garden

Bronze Award

SquareMeal Review of Polpo Covent Garden

Bronze Award

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.

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £30 - £49
Cosy, Lively


6 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7NA

020 7836 8448


Opening Times

Mon-Sat 12N-12M (Sun -10.30pm)


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12 Reviews 

Christie J

26 July 2019  
I absolutely love how down to earth this restaurant is. There is no other like it in London. Amazing quality and the costs are really reasonable and the service has always been fantastic.

Nicola L

15 June 2017  
Always authentic cicchetti, great flavours.

Silvina K

05 June 2017  
Food & Drink 2
Service 1.5
Atmosphere 2.5
Value 1.5
Terrible disappointment
Went on a Saturday at 4pm with my partner as he likes his seafood. The service: A waitress took half of our drinks order and rushed away, then came back 5 minutes later to take our drinks order again. We ordered the food at the same time. There was a confused waiter who kept on bringing us things we hadn't ordered. The food: We ordered the Earl grey lemonade, the baby octopuses, mozzarella and tomato skewers, garlic bread and spaghetti & meatballs. My earl grey lemonade had no hints of earl grey, the baby octopuses we like chewing on hard rubber with absolutely no flavour, the skewers were nice. The garlic bread took ages after everything else was on the table although we kept on seeing pizzas passing by. The meatballs were crunchy on the outside but decent. The sauce on the pasta wasn't more than passata with a bit of salt. I always supported the idea that to screw up Italian food you have to be either a really bad cook or use sub-par ingredients. Because of it's simplicity it's not so easily ruined. Polpo has managed to do this. The prices expensive for the quality served and it was an overall huge disappointment.

Anna G

04 May 2017  
Great vibe with really tasty food.


04 January 2016  
Food & Drink 4
Service 4
Atmosphere 4
Value 4
Smaller menu than before?
We brought some friends from the US here whilst on a tour of London, and had a great meal. As it was busy we were seated on the two high stool tables of 6 each, which was fine. The food was, as always good, with a nice variety of small plates to share, but the menu seemed smaller than I remembered (a bit less choice?). That said, with pizette, crab linguine, the wonderful meat and vegetarian meatballs, arancini, potato and parmesan croquettes and focaccia and olive oil, I am a pretty happy customer. Service is always good, staff are happy to chat and have some fun, bill came to around £22 a head with plenty of wine consumed.

David H

31 October 2014  
Food & Drink 3.5
Service 2.5
Atmosphere 2.5
Value 3
I thought I'd enjoy this, but I didn't
I've eaten at this Polpo before, though not as often as I've dined at Polpetto which I prefer and was pleased when it re-emerged. Lets deal with the place and the style first. Its small plates , and supposedly about sharing. But how you can share with someone who likes different food to you I'm not terribly sure. What it means is that dishes come seemingly randomly and there isn't sufficient space on the tiny tables to put everything down comfortably. And the random aspect is weird too. Mt daughter ordered a veg. , and a meat plate.. The veg came first and she was looking at a plate of cabbage , getting cold as she watched, for several minutes whilst her meatballs turned up. And this is supposed to be good? Fashionable? The place itself consists of small rooms , each with one or two too many tables. The whole concept of a meal as a relaxed, comfortable, maybe a little private experience seems to have passed them by, and in particular the fact that if you're going to serve small plates randomly, you need to give people more space whereas they give you less. All told we had three plates and two veg and we were finished in twenty eight minutes. Difficult to avoid a conclusion that they place table turnover ahead of customer enjoyment. We'd planned to order more, but after this our hearts just weren't in it I'm afraid. The food was OK- not outstanding but certainly decent. If there's anyone who wants to see what this broad type of food can taste like then I'd suggest Zucca, in Bermondsey, where they squeeze a lot more flavour from pulses and meats . They seem very proud of their meatballs- well they're OK, fine even, but they aren't a gastromomic experience any more than meatloaf would be. Certainly the food we ate and the wine we drank (left some of that, just wasn't time to drink it) was all satisfactory but would have been better eaten somewhere else. Our meal wasn't expensive, but the thought does occur about how much you'd spend if you ordered enough food to occupy the table for say the 75 minutes that a 2 course lunch with coffee would take on average, and if there were two wine drinkers not just one. My guess would be maybe £100 for two, and that with e the speed of arrivals here you'd be very stuffed. Fact is that I can eat pretty well at lunch by spending that. Sorry, could be my sort of food, but this isn't my sort of place or my sort of style. Can't see me going back.

Ellen F

09 April 2014  
Food & Drink 4
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 4
Value 4
Like recent reviewer Finbar T, I am in love with Venice, having spent a year or two in the Veneto area in my yoof. Reading his review though I am worried my memories are rose-tinted and inaccurate because unlike him I LOVE the Polpo mini-chain! Maybe that's because I'm not thinking of the restaurants as wannabe replicas of the Venetian bacaro, as I agree they don't transport me back to those foggy canals, but rather as purveyors of simply tasty grub. This Covent Garden version sticks to the Polpo formula with paper menus, exposed brickwork and a long metal-topped bar which is where I sat with my friend for a recent casual catch up lunch. I am still mourning the disappearance of the inky risotto from the menu but I enjoyed our pick'n'mix meal, in particular the arancini rice balls, the mixed fried fish (although more calamari, less whitebait would be welcome in my world) and the rabbit in ragu sauce. For me it was still great tasting food at a reasonable price in an unpretentious easy-come easy-go atmosphere at a very convenient location. I'm pleased, but surprised, it wasn't busier on a weekend in consumer paradise. Perhaps shoppers don't make it down these little off-the-beaten-track side streets; so is this Polpo at least authentic in its inaccessibility?! I am going back to Venice for our first wedding anniversary in a few weeks time; fingers crossed it will be as good as I remember and better than Polpo. Thanks for the Harry's Dolci recommendation and in exchange let me tell you mine: Paradiso Perduto tucked away in Cannaregio on Fondamenta della Misericordia, still going strong 20 years after I first visited apparently!

Finbar T

28 April 2013  
Food & Drink 3
Service 4
Atmosphere 3
Value 1.5
Not quite Venice, not quite anything really
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.

Emma B

28 February 2013  
Food & Drink 4
Service 4.5
Atmosphere 4
Value 4.5
Good value in covent garden
Good choice of sharing plates, reasonably priced wine list, great service, great value, very good for a group meal.

Rich M

14 October 2011  
Food & Drink 4
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 3.5
Value 3.5
Da Polpo is the fourth outpost from restaurateur Russell Norman and closer to the Beak Street original in size and atmosphere than the middle, smaller two. The bare walls, industrially salvaged furniture and fittings and dim lighting remain a common theme. I'm beginnning to think that Norman has shares in one of the reclaimation companies, or alternatively is manufacturing former industrial shabby chic from scratch, extruding it out by the roomful in a dark pit of indentured workers somewhere in a former Soviet state. The service is bright, funky and considerably more tattooed than yours truly, the sparse and snacky drinks and food menus appears on clipboards and as artfully recycled placemats and even at 9:30 on a wet and windy Wednesday they still having trouble seating you. So far, so fair for another Norman conquest. We arrived and grabbed a seat at the downstairs bar which meant we got to eat sooner, though did leave us feeling like we were in an East German factory canteen. The lighting is low, the murmur was loud but the smell from the kitchen was divine… Perched at the battered zinc bar (another division in the owner's manufacturing empire no doubt) we kicked back with an Aperol spritz and perused the familiar menu. We went on recommendation in the end, a selection from the different sharing plates littering the list, happy enough to chat and take the suggestions of the cool but knowledgable staff. Starting and finishing with rounds of arrancia, little hot shotputts of risotto rice round a molten mozzarella core, fried with a crisp toothsome breadcrumb crust. Textbook examples of a relatively simple bar snack, you'd be slightly pissed if you queued an hour for one, but better than a rather plain chicken liver crostini, too much pate with that drying sensation of the meat left it a little cloying in the mouth, less would have been more here. The nearest to a main in size was a shared plate of Frito Misto, seafood selection (in reality 95% of it was prawns, calamari and whitebait) competently deep fried, maintaining the integrity of the fish without being doused in oil, though oddly served without an aoili to cut through the crumb. It may be authentic, but the lemon wedge didn't do enough to lift it from dryness. Better still was the pork shoulder pizzette, one of 6 or 7 baby pizzas, a smear of rich pasata covering the small, crisp base with thin slices of smoky marbled shoulder, all cut through with piquant peppers. Having eaten similar recently, cooked by a local Italian mama from a pizza oven facing the open air, I can attest to the authenticity of these little plate shaped platters of goodness. Like the other branches, the meatballs are excellent. Not afraid to bring up the accompanying herbs, fennel in the case of the ones we went for, they're punchy cannonballs of well seasoned meat. the seasoned tomato sauce a great accompaniment and, after another round of those arrancia (OK, maybe they are worth waiting for when served hot and fresh, dripping with mozz) we stumbled off into the night. So is anything really different to the other branches of the ‘chain’? And does it matter when the quality is high enough? While there's an element of Norman by Numbers about Da Polpo, for the neighbourhood (deepest, darkest touristic Covent Garden) it's nice to have another option in the area, though by the time you've waited for a table, there'll be another one along to take the crowd.

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