• Italian• Soho
Originally conceived by restaurateur Russell Norman, the Polpo group was one of the first to showcase Cicchetti – small plates inspired by the cuisine of Venice – to Londoners. Norman has since sold the group, which has locations in Soho and Chelsea, in 2019, but the quality is still high.
While Polpo is the Italian word for octopus, the homonymic polpette means meatball, and you’ll usually find that dish gracing the menu alongside simple and delicious sharing plates, pizzetti, grilled meat and fish dishes and charcuterie.
Polpo pioneered the date-friendly style of food and service that became so popular in London in the 2010s, and its small room and casual atmosphere are still a go-to for couples looking for a chilled date spot. If you don’t fancy jostling with the queues at prime time, go for a few aperitivi and small plates in the early evening, in true Italian style.
The little bites would all go well just with a drink, if you could confine yourself to that. Arancini, little fried riceballs, are great
Polpo, by contrast, is pure homage to Venice. Appropriate, really, as this was once home to another who painted vivid pictures of that languorous city beloved of we British: Canaletto.
Polpo is the dreamchild of Russell Norman, who cut his teeth at Caprice Holdings. Having worked at a number of restaurants in that group, he understands how to pitch a new restaurant.
The food is more of a mixed bag. Some of the sharing platters were decent. An impressively thin prosciutto and gorgonzola pizzette’s crust was mottled with wood ash, topped with thick-cut cured meat and flecked with parsley, while a spicy pork and fennel meatball came in a rich, parmesan-scattered tomato sauce.
The rustic interiors of the original branch replicate those of the traditional wine bars that can be found dotted around Venice; brick walls, unassuming furniture, and bare-bulb lighting match the simplicity of the menu.