Jan 17 2012



Polpo means an octopus, and Russell Norman has opened 3 restaurants in London called “Polpo”, which he describes as a “bacaro” or a Venetian tavern that serves simple food. The original Polpo opened in Soho in September 2009 (it is a total coincidence that the building was once home to the Venetian painter Canaletto), but it has become so successful Mr Norman has opened 2 more (in Smithfield and in Covent Garden) as well as a few sister restaurants like Spuntino and Mishkin’s. Ever since opening, Polpo has received the Michelin Guide's Bib Gourmand and was awarded 2 Rosettes in the AA Guide for Culinary Excellence 2012-2013. Russell Norman has also published a cookbook called “Polpo” that I have at home and have attempted to make various dishes from it, although it really is not easy, hence I appreciate the food served there even more. My friend Petersons, to whom I gave the cookbook as a present, loves it.


My boyfriend took me to Polpo on one of our first dates and we had an amazing date here, so this place is perfect for that. Like so many other restaurants in Soho, it has a no reservations policy, so you go there and have to wait for a table (because most days it is so busy), but Polpo has a great bar downstairs in the basement (the restaurants is on the ground floor) where you can have delicious drinks and some cicchetti, which are small snacks or side dishes, typically served in traditional "bàcari" in Venice, Italy. This is exactly what we did, came to Polpo, were told we had to wait an hour for a table and headed straight to the bar for some cicchetti, like “arancini” or fried risotto balls (which are also in the cookbook), ricotta, squash & sage crostini and others. 


After less than an hour we were shown to our table on the ground floor, and the room was buzzing and everyone seemed to be having a great time, the room had a bit of a New York trendy and buzzy feel to it. The menu is divided into “pizzette” which are pizzas and in Polpo they mainly make them without the tomato base, “breads”, “meatballs” (these are absolutely delicious, I have made quite a few of these from the Polpo cookbook at home), “fish”, “meat” and “vegetables and salads”. The menu when you go there the first time seems really cool and interesting and creative, mainly because you would associate tapas and small sharing plates mainly with Spain and very few people before going to Russell Norman’s restaurants would have had Venetian food before, so the dishes seem unusual and great. 


During our visit we ordered " squid ink risotto”, “cauliflower cheese” and from the meat section both ”duck ragu with green peppercorns and gnocci” and “grilled sliced flank steak with porcini cream”, and you can see all these dishes in the picture below. I genuinely really enjoyed most of these dishes. Also the service (a nice young Swedish waiter) was very good, and the waiter was attentive and could recommend good things for us. 


I do think this is a wonderful destination for a meal if you want a vibrant and noisy environment. The food is delicious and to an average Londoner familiar but creative, and perfect for a date. 


Date: 17/ 01/ 2012

Location: Soho

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My boyfriend and I enjoyed Polpo so much, we decided to go and try the sister restaurant Da Polpo in Covent Garden (note these days this restaurant is just called Polpo and has the same menu as the Soho one that I review above, but when I went there, it had slight variations to the menu). The reason why I mention this visit is because the food at the time was so similar, and I took more pictures, so I thought I should upload these with a little comment. You can see pictures of the “Grilled flank steak & truffle cream”, the same dish that I had in Polpo during my previous visit. At the time when I visited Da Polpo, this restaurant had small pizzas (or pizzette how they call them there) on the menu, which Polpo at the time did not have, but now with the standardised menu across both restaurants you can see them in both. During this visit I had the Grilled mortadella, Gorgonzola & pickled radicchio pizzete (mortadella is pork) which was nice. I also had the "Market greens" which turned out to be steamed broccoli, and Lamb & mint meatballs, which were nice. From the cicchetti section we had the “Buffalo mozzarella, anchovy & oregano” which was quite cool. The food was nice, and just as good as in Polpo, but note the atmosphere when I went there was not as great as in Polpo.


Location: Covent Garden 

Date: 04/ 04/ 2012

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Maija rated: 




41 Beak Street, W1F 9SB ‎
United Kingdom
Polpo Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4