Tucked away off the back streets of Covent Garden's crowded marketplace lies a rustic Venetian hideaway, Polpo. Dreaming of a scorching Italian holiday while in the grips of the soggiest August ever, I made my way through the bustle of Central London to see if this humble restaurant lives up to the wonder of my dream Venice retreat.
Venue & Atmosphere
On the little streets of Venice this charming restaurant serving simple food and good wine would be known as a Bácaro, hidden as it is from the tourist-heavy roads surrounding it. Spotting the restaurant's white octopus logo from the top of Maiden Lane, I'm led to a small blue shop front with big inviting windows peeping through to the array of guests already wining and dining inside. The restaurant has a rustic warmth, with off-white walls and octopus-shaped white linen lamp shades, contrasting with the dark wooden flooring and exposed brickwork. The long restaurant is balanced with tall walls and the ceiling-to-floor windows that flood the place with natural light, inducing a more open, airy feel to the space. We're given a table at the back of the venue, hidden away from the rest of the buzzing eatery in a calmer corner.
Food & Drink
To toast mine and my friend's long-awaited catch up, we ordered the house Polpo Prosecco (£6 a glass, £32 a bottle), cheers to that! It's lovely and light, making it very easy to drink, with strong citrusy flavours - let's just say that went down far too easily. But with tasty prosecco should come tasty food, and the small Venetian plates made it very tempting to order over the recommended 2 or 3 plates per person. So, in making sure I tried as much as I could eat, we chose the Cichèti plate (for two, £10) - a taster plate of all the Venetian snacks. The stuffed fried olives and Mozzarella, tomato & basil skewers are perfectly seasoned tasters, fuelling my appetite for the remaining plates on the menu.
I'd heard much praise for the meatballs, so spotting the Spicy Pork and Fennel meatballs (£6.50) was a no brainer. Luckily, the rumours were true: with such finely ground meat, the consistency was close to stuffing that it nearly dissolved in my mouth whilst still punching me with the rich, thick tomato sauce and fennel running through each bite. Absolutely delicious.
Naturally, to pair with the prosecco, we had to order the Fritto Misto (£9.50) - a selection of lightly golden battered calamari, prawns and zucchini. But if you were thinking about the greasy kind you find in some chain restaurants, you are mistaken. A squeeze of lemon brings out the freshness and works well dipped in the tasty garlic mayo too.
Drinks wise, they offer a refined selection of cocktails, which in true Venetian fashion feature Aperol Spritz (£7.50) and the love of my cocktail life, the Negroni (£8) - a strong and zesty classic. Finally, for dessert, we opted for an Aperol Sorbet (£4.50) and the true Italian Affogato al Caffe (£4): a strong shot of espresso served to pour over creamy vanilla ice cream, I always like to eat mine slowly so that it's essentially an iced vanilla latte by my last sip.
With reasonable prices, great wine and countless delicious dishes to try, it's easy to see why Polpo is so popular. So if you find that you need to whisk yourself away from the smoky streets of London into the rustic warmth of Italy, make sure you head into Polpo for tasty treats and, of course, prosecco.