Another week, another London stalwart arrives in this fine city of ours. This time it’s the turn of Polpo, long famed for its top notch Venetian tapas and casual swanky vibe.
They’ve managed to recreate their London chic on Whiteladies Road, with a classic decor which reminded me more of a French bistro than what you’d expect from an Italian restaurant, but then this is a different take on Italian food than you may be used to.
We started our evening with a classic Aperol Spritz (£7) and some deep fried olives (£3), which we’d already heard several people rave about, and we weren’t disappointed. The olives arrived warm, breadcrumbed and stuffed with anchovy – these were salty little bundles of joy, and I could have eaten another plate of them to myself. They went perfectly with the crisp & bitter Aperol Spritz, and the only downside was that our other cicheti order of marinated baby octopuses (£3) wasn’t anywhere near as interesting.
Next up were up our small plates. Again this was a bit of a mixed bag, and all the dishes I was particularly excited about didn’t quite deliver, whereas those I was more on the fence with were bloody lovely.
The fritto misto (£9) came out looking fairly beige, which to be fair you’d expect from a plate of battered seafood, but the batter and shellfish in the dish were both very bland and unseasoned – a good squeeze of lemon and shaking of salt helped, but overall I was disappointed that this dish didn’t live up to expectation, when it could have been one of the stars of the menu.
We had better luck with our white anchovy & smoked mozarella pizzette (£7), which perfectly balanced the flavours of the slightly vinegary fish with the creamy, smoky cheese – the dough was also nice and light, and the whole thing managed to stay on the right side of full-flavoured without being too much.
We also really enjoyed the fish cakes (£8) – these were generous palm-sized balls of tightly rolled fish in a light crumb, and the caper & dill aioli dip which accompanied them was great too, although I could have done with more of it (I am quite greedy when it comes to condiments though).
On to more mixed joys – the octopus carpaccio (£8 – served with fennel, chilli and dill) was okay; the salads were very tasty. We went for the zucchini, parmesan and basil (£5 – and as you can see, was totally covered in parmesan, much to my excitement) and the pea, feta, radish and mint salad (£6), which was one of my favourites of the whole meal oddly enough, benefitting from a great mix of fresh ingredients, spot on seasoning and generally nice flavours & textures.
Last up from our mighty selection were the meatballs – we ordered two types just to be thorough (ever the professionals), and the lamb & pistachio ones (£7) were lush, but the spicy pork & fennel (£6) were a bit too heavy-handed with the fennel for our tastes, and not ballsy enough with the chilli.
We finished our feast with some digestifs and some reassuringly small desserts (although at £5, you might be expecting a little more from your tiramisu than for it to arrive in a small glass), the ricotta doughnuts (£3) being a particular hit.
Service was excellent throughout the evening, and despite a couple of let-downs we still left with the warm and fuzzies. Although at this sort of price point, I’d expect there to be more consistency, especially with the seafood elements, which for us were the least interesting part of our meal.
I’d definitely come back to Polpo, although I think I’m more likely to do it in the guise of a barfly, munching my way through more of those deep fried olives and trying out the rest of the cicheti and pizzette menus and knocking back a few of those damn fine Aperol Spritzs.
50 Whiteladies Road
Disclaimer doodle: We received this meal free of charge, but in no way did it impact on our opinion, and we did not have to show any review copy in advance.