Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Polpetto - London

Good Morning to all of you.
The beautiful, intelligent and amazing people who no doubt make up the readership of my blog.

First, an apology.
I know that lately, it seems that all my spare time has been taken up with ‘The Basement’ supper club and as such; I just haven’t had the chance to write about the restaurants I’ve been eating at. I want to share, I really do – but I just seem to spend my time running around like a headless chicken.
*Sad puppy-dog face*.

But suddenly, what’s this? A free day to fall out of bed, lazily scratch my generously proportioned genitalia*, yawn, and then slouch around in my pants like the slovenly bum I am, drinking tea and generally doing whatever the hell takes my fancy?
Hell yes....YES.

Today is that day friends. And I’m going to write about Polpetto, (Baby octopus) the newish (Opened end of August) tiny offshoot of the extremely successful and significantly larger Soho restaurant Polpo (Octopus). Ahhhh see what they did there? Clever.

Polpetto follows the same format as its older, more established parent, in that it’s modelled on a Venetian ‘Bacaro’ a type of working mans pub, specific to Venice where small plates of snacks, known as Cicheti are served.
It also shares the same rather fantastic interior design, which is a kind of semi industrial, shabby, 1930’s New York chic. It’s very nicely done, and creates just the right kind of furtive atmosphere I like when I’m dining. Mark me down as a fan.

So that’s the similarities covered, what about the differences?
Polpo isn’t a massive space but compared to its baby offshoot, it feels cavernous. Unusually for a restaurant, Polpetto inhabits a single room above The French House pub in Soho. It probably seats no more than 20 – 25 diners. Access is by a side door, with a brief glimpse of the busy pub bar, as you climb up a few flights of stairs, through a doorway to the dining room. All of this adds something to the almost speakeasy atmosphere, a hidden back room restaurant only frequented by those in the know, rather than the Soho media darlings, movers and shakers who were in evidence on the lunchtime ‘E’ and I visited. (OK, if you simply MUST know we were sitting between the celebrated author Sebastian Faulks on one side and the finance director of Hakkasan on the other. It goes without saying that ‘E’ and I had no idea who they were until it was pointed out to us later).

Another major difference is that, unlike Polpo at lunchtime the dining room is flooded with light from the large windows running one whole length of the room. With the lively hustle and bustle of Dean Street just outside, on a nice sunny day this gives the room an extremely airy and open feel, which goes some way to detract from the diminutive proportions of the restaurant.

Enough about the interior design and the atmosphere lets get on and talk about the food!

First, and most importantly some alcohol – we both ordered a spritz with Aperol to sip on whilst we perused the menu. This is a sophisticated drink for sophisticated people. I was of course, in my element.

‘E’ and I decided to mostly bypass the Cicheti, not wanting to be detracted from the main dishes. But, we just couldn’t resist a nibble of smoked swordfish with lemon and dill ricotta. I found it pleasant enough, the contrasting flavours of the smoked fish against the light, herby lemony tang of the filling worked well, but I think the ricotta filling was perhaps too cold dulling the taste somewhat.

Moving on, we ordered a selection of side dishes to share.
A portion of really superb crispy based Pizzeta Bianca with a delcious, slightly gooey, onion and cheese topping.

A bowl of some rather nice shoestring zucchini fries.

And, a standout dish of warm lentils with basil, topped with a mound of Burrata (A soft Italian speciality cheese similar to mozzarella, but much more creamy and delicate). This was bloody delicious, both ‘E’ and I liked it a lot.

As a main, I’d ordered Osso Buco with saffron risotto and despite being unlucky enough to get a veal shank that was solid bone with no marrow to speak of, it was frigging superb, The rich velvety meaty texture of veal against the creamy perfectly cooked saffron risotto was just out of this world.

‘E’ had chosen the soft shell crab in Parmesan batter with celeriac slaw, and despite it being perhaps a less aesthetically pleasing plate to look at than some of the previous dishes we’d ordered, what little I got to nibble on tasted impressive. ‘E’ devoured it greedily and gave it the thumbs up.

By this stage we were absolutely stuffed silly, but still managed to fit in a nice little glass of tiramisu to share.

I absolutely love Polpetto. It has a wonderful buzzing atmosphere with an artfully decrepit yet secretive vibe and outstanding rustic food. What more could you want?
As with Polpo there’s a no booking policy for dinner, but you can book for lunch. Go!!!


Upstairs at The French House
49 Dean Street

Telephone: 020 7734 1969


I just HAVE to say that - them's the rules, I don't make em.


Graphic Foodie said...

Fab review. I really, REALLY want to go here and seeing as my latest Italian / London excursion to Franco Manca / Gelupo went so well with my crowd of friends, I think a spot of lunch here may be good for The Graphic Foodie Tour #2.

Loving the vintage plates.

Hollow Legs said...

God I love Polpetto. Interesting to see they've changed the fennel salad to celeriac for the soft-shell crab.

OH now I have to go again don't i? Yes.

Dan said...

Graphic Foodie - Thanks Fran. I reckon it'd be a superb place to visit for The Graphic Foodie Tour #2. Oh, and I love the plates as well :)

Lizzie - If I still lived in London or thereabouts, I'd visit often too. I'm v.jealous.

Sasha @ The Happiness Project London said...

Oh nice review and lovely photos. I loved it there, very arty cool looking place for post work dinner. I mis-ordered (cuttle fish in its ink, turned entire mouth and lips black, felt like I'd chewed on a fountain pen) so I'll have to go back to try the Osso bucco and the lentils look fab too! x

gastrogeek said...

love Polpetto! Can't believe I went for the first time last week. We were really impressed with everything - their truffled steak is stunning...

Eliza said...

I LOVE those lentils.

Dan said...

Sasha - A lot of people really rate the the cuttle fish dish. I haven't had it personally. I agree that it's a very cool place.

Gastrogeek - Heya Rej, truffled steak sounds frigging amazing, I've just seen it on the menu...why the hell didn't I order that? I'll have to go back.

Eliza - You have superb taste :) Agree completely, the lentils were lovely.

Unknown said...

Lovely review. There's such a buzz about this place, and it seems deserved. Despite AA Gill's lukewarm write-up (what does he know), I'll be joining the rush and heading to Polpetto asap. Polpo is a favourite of mine, and as it appears to mimic it on food quality and atmosphere, I'll definitely be a happy customer!

abby jenkins said...

We have a wonderful restaurant here in Greenwich, CT USA Polpo that I adore! Looks like that is the closest I'll get to your version of the octopus until I make it across the pond. Thanks for a great post, and it's obvious you have one *big* thing to be thankful for this year...hahaha

Jonathan said...

Awesome stuff. The world needs more Polpos and Polpettos... just wish they would open a Polpavia in Gothenburg.

Dan said...

Laura Nickoll - Thanks very much. AA Gill? Pah - he's lost the plot, his reviews are a load of fluff with a paragraph about the restaurant at the end. I get the impression he doesn't actually like his job. Polpetto is exactly like Polpo except smaller and cuter, you'll love it ;)

Abby Jenkins - Wow, another Polpo in the US, you'll have to visit it's London namesake sometime. Thanks :) Hahahaha you said it!!!! No complaints so far. (Although come to think of it, not much praise either!).

Jonathan - Thanks mate. I think you should suggest a Polpavia to the owner of Polpo on Twitter, you never know, he might be receptive to the idea.

PDH said...

I do not understand why I've not been here yet... It looks amazing!