Where the hype goes, discerning foodies often follow begrudgingly. Some don't want to miss the boat, some simply want to know what the fuss is about. Me? I just want a good feed.
Polpo is one of "those" places. A decent PR push saw the name get out there, and with a good concept and aggressive pricing, the place started to fill. Initially, lastminute reservations were hard to come by so I stayed away, preferring to fly by the seat of my pants and eat when hungry. However, the policy has changed to a first come first served policy and I made my way there tout de suite.
The concept certain appeals. Based on Venetian bacaro's (don't worry, I don't really know what one is either), Polpo serves small plates of Italian food, designed to be shared. I'm a big guy, but I don't mind sharing. In fact, to me, it's simply an invitation to over order.
With this said, we managed to nail the ordering, with us eating pretty much what we ordered. First up where plates of "cichetti", small mouth sized bites. The prosciutto and mozzarella was pleasant, as was the mortadella, walnut and gorgonzola. Tasty inoffensive food.
Next came a swathe of dishes, including an unctuous pumpkin risotto, a light and greaseless fritto misto and duck with peppercorns, amongst other things. The stand out dish for me was the pork belly with radicchio and hazelnuts, which was delicious and tender without feeling that "fatty" which the belly, mainly constituting of fat, can often be. The bitterness from the radicchio and the crunchy hazelnuts all added pleasing contrasts in flavours and textures. Rounded off with an Affogato al caffè, I was full, satisfied and rather happy.
As you can see from the inauspicious absence of photo's from this post, I struggled to take any pictures with clarity. Its dark, and I mean seriously dark. Had I been wielding my new Canon S90, I may have made a better attempt at it, but my poor Casio P&S just couldn't cope. Although crap for photography, the semi-darkness certainly lends itself to an intimate atmosphere, coupled with the proximity of your fellow diners. It is slightly cramped and very noisy because of it, but it gives the restaurant a really good atmosphere, something that many places would pay big bucks for.
Polpo is already doing a roaring trade, and seems to be bustling with business every night. It's early days for this venture but if our meal is anything to go by, it should do well. It's affordable, enjoyable, and now that they have dropped their reservation policy, convenient.
Polpo (Website) - 41 Beak Street, London W1F 9SB