Polpo is one of those places that I’d seen mentioned by bloggers millions of times and of course had seen their ubiquitous octopus cookbooks everywhere, but every time I was in London I somehow ended up miles away from their restaurants. But then as luck would have it the last time I ended up wandering down the backstreets of Covent Garden I found there had been one on my doorstep all this time! So I enlisted my only friends who’s love of food is as great as mine and off we went to gorge ourselves on as much Italian food as our stomachs could muster.
The inside has a rustic, minimalist informal atmosphere which allows the focus to be placed where it should be; great food and great company. Fully settled we set ourselves the mammoth task of trying to whittle down the fantastic menu to just a few dishes (which we didn’t really succeed at). As it’s a tapas style of menu where you are encouraged to order a selection of dishes we decided it was only fair to order almost one from every section!
While we waiting for our food we received our drinks which only made us more excited for what was to come. My friend ordered a cocktail made with their freshly brewed homemade Limoncello which blew us both away, so much so that it was gone before I even had time to take a photo( bad blogger I know). I chose to go for one of their non-alcoholic concoctions called a Green Ice Tea which was a combination of green tea, mint, apple and eldeflower and even came in it’s own little teapot! Needless to say a lot of instagram photos were taken and the blend of ingredients was so perfectly cool and refreshing it’s something I’ll definitely be having a go at recreating at home.
(You can tell I take this pouring business very seriously.)
As we were oohing and aahing over our drinks the main events started arriving. The service is similar to Wagamamas in that the dishes come at different times, but this was perfect for us as it meant we got to fully enjoy each individual dish.
We started with the salted cod crocchette which are a mix of fried potato and egg kind of like an Italian version of a fish cake, which were fluffy and delicious with just a hint of saltiness coming through from the cod. We also got two arancini which are little balls of deep fried risotto, and trust me they taste as good as they sound. Did I mention they had melted cheese in them? Yep food heaven right there.
We also opted for one of their specials of steak with freshly dressed parmesan salad, as we thought we had probably get some greens in somewhere! It was a perfect contrast to the starters as the steak was lean but tender, and the dressing was light and citrusy providing a perfect balance to the rich dry parmesan.
From the meat section of the menu we’d opted for the chicken cotoletta with aioli as we’re both suckers for anything with garlic in. Cotoletta is the chicken version of schnitzel which is beaten to flatten and tenderise it, then coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It was perfectly cooked and beautifully crispy, not to mention that the aioli which was so good I was tempted to order a side of it on its own just to take home!
Then came the one of the headliners in the form of a gorgonzola and prosciutto pizza. Although this isn’t one for those who don’t like their cheese a bit pongy, it was perfect for us and provided a deliciously creamy, melty sharp contrast to the beautiful salty prosciutto all atop of a perfectly thin, crispy base. For me it is up there as one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had and a flavour combination I’ll definitely be stealing!
(Can you tell I was impressed?)
But we’d saved the best till last, the famous Polpo meatballs. For our first time we opted for the classic and I can honestly say that after this it’ll be hard to enjoy any other meatball ever again. I don’t know what they do to those delicious meaty balls (trust me I’m giggling while I type this), but I have never tasted a meatball like it. They are so moist and flavour-some it would almost be a crime to serve them with anything else. The rich, garlicky sauce is almost as much of a show stopper as the meatballs themselves as we both found ourselves dunking anything and everything in it to ensure none of it was wasted.
Needless to say nothing was wasted, although we did need to take a leisurely walk over Waterloo Bridge to work it off afterwards! I have never experienced a meal that was not only a representation of a culture but one that seemed to take you there. I genuinely felt that once I stepped out its doors I would walk onto a secluded Venetian side street it was such an authentic experience. For the two of us with cocktails came to about £40 with tip, which for the amount of food we had I think is extraordinarily good value, and the staff were so friendly and welcoming it’s somewhere I’ll definitely be coming to again. Until then it looks like I’ll just have to keep dreaming of those meatballs…