26 May 2015

Polpo

A couple of weeks ago I took my dad to see The Book of Mormon. It was actually my anniversary present to S but we're sadly no longer together so I roped in the other man in my life to join me for some seriously brilliant satire. But, first came food and when Dad suggested Italian for lunch, I knew we had to head to Polpo in Beak Street. Part of Russell Norman's Spuntino, Mishkin's, Ape & Bird family, the Polpo and Polpetto restaurants dotted around town are Italian/Venetian dining at their best and I have been dying to try them since forever.

It was a beautiful day and we managed to grab the last two lunch seats on one of the high benches they have by the window with perfect people-watching opportunities and an excellent view of the bar. I started with an Aperol Spritz (channelling last year's holiday and my upcoming trip to Italy in the next couple of weeks) which was deliciously bitter and sweet, with juicy brined olives adding that extra bit of bite. Dad had a carafe (250ml) of house red which at £11 was a little pricy for lunch but pouring it in to small water tumblers made it last longer in the end, so no love lost there.
Eating Venetian at lunch is simple with the cicchetti approach - small tapas like plates that arrive whenever they're ready and you can dip into and share. We started with the warm, salty anchovy-stuffed fried olives that I fell in love with in Venice and quickly converted Dad to before the octopus and fennel carpaccio arrived. This completely turned Dad off but I wolfed this down with hunger as the meaty cephalopod was lifted by the sweeter, fresher fennel. A distinctive tasting dish, this was a nice twist on an old favourite of mine but I would have liked a little bit of lemon or seasoning on the top.
Next came the coppa, pepperonata and goats cheese bruschetta - lightly toasted but thickly loaded with toppings, this was a simple and effortless dish that instantly transported me to Italy. A classic, the combination of the salty meat, tangy cheese and sweet pepperonata is much-loved for a reason and although basic, definitely effective. 
We also had the bresaola and rocket pizzette - a thin and crispy bread base that shattered into scoopable pieces when attacked with the knife - and the meatballs 'alla Vedova'. Having visited the Ca D'Oro alla Vedova bacaro in Venice when I went a few years ago, I urged Dad to try the famous polpette that gondoliers and tourists alike come flocking for (and which were originally recommended to me by a former flame of the restaurant owner). Three large pork meatballs, breaded and fried, arrived at the table and were quickly devoured. First bites are deceiving as you almost feel you need a sauce but the seasoned meat itself is enough on second, third and fourth bite, and you can see why these are so popular. (Fun fact: when I first had these, I filled up on two of them and my previous ex had to eat both his dishes and mine of the ensuing three course meal. Well done, Becks.)

At this point we declared no more and rolled ourselves out on to the street, having been perfectly accommodated in our short window of an hour, despite a full restaurant. I'm so glad I finally made it to Polpo as it lived up to its huge reputation and I can't wait to go back during the evening for a lazy, lengthy languish. Four and a half out of five.
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