Why go here:
It is one of its kind in London- a Bacaro, which is supposed to be a ‘humble’ restaurant serving good Italian and Venetian plates and great wines, all for reasonable prices. Simply put, it is a tiny Italian tapas and wine bar that aims to serve affordable, delicious food.
What it looks like:
There are a few different branches of Polpo. The one I visited is situated in the heart of Soho. The restaurant has bare brick walls, minimal lighting and unpolished wooden furniture. There are two bars- one next to the dining room upstairs and a bigger one downstairs with cosy seating, where you’ll find the diners awaiting their tables and sitting, sipping on wines.
We did find the bars to be understaffed though and the only girl serving the downstairs bar was also getting calling to wait tables, which meant that I had to wait for more than a good half an hour for my drink and when I finally did get to place my order, I found that they had run out of the wine I wanted. The dining experience was thankfully much better.
For starters, we ordered the Chopped Liver Crostini and the Jerusalem Artichoke, Pecorino and Truffle Oil Bruschetta. The chopped liver was warm and smoky but the bruschetta is what stole my heart. Slabs of pecorino cheese and uniformly sliced artichoke slices with lashings of truffle oil make every mouthful of this dish heavenly.
For mains, I tried the Cod Cheeks with Lentils and Salsa Verde.The cod cheeks were well cooked yet not tough and the lentils added to the texture but the salsa verde was lacking from the dish. There was too little of the salsa to taste, which was a shame because it was very fragrant and spicy and would have complemented the otherwise, mild and simple lentils and cod dish quite well.
My friend ordered the pork belly which was crispy skinned and juicy inside and the combination with the hazelnuts really did add to the texture and the taste, although the dish did feel a little dry at times and could have done with some more sauce drizzled on the pork belly.
Dessert was a flourless chocolate and hazelnut cake. I wish I could find the recipe for it. It was like eating a massive Nutella-flavoured brownie. It was dense and luscious and packed with chopped hazelnuts.
One of the best valued eateries in Soho and with a regularly changing menu of Venetian dishes. I suggest ordering several dishes and sharing. Remember to order the Jerusalem Artichoke Bruschetta and the Flourless Hazelnut cake- you’re unlikely to find equivalent dishes anywhere else!