Tuesday 15 January 2013

What the Katys did...lunch at Polpo

Polpo Arancini
Having already grazed on tasty tapas at Copita with Selina from Yummychooeats, and tucked in to a fig-filled feast at 10 Greek Street with Guilia from Mondomulia and Laura from Digest magazine, I've been keen to continue my tour of Soho's finest dining experiences.
So when BBC Good Food Show's Katy Truss suggested we finally put human faces to our Twitter icons and meet up in person, I hoped this would be a chance to see whether the positive rumours about Polpo's Italian offerings were true. Plus, it's always a bit of a novelty to find someone who spells their name the same way as me (I wonder whether Miss Truss also feigns nonchalance through gritted teeth when someone mistakenly refers to her as "Katie"...?)!

Polpo's website states that it is a bacaro, a Venetian term for "a humble restaurant serving simple food". Admittedly its setting is modest, with rustic wood panelling, soft lighting and thin paper menus that are scrunched up after your meal. But there is clearly a high level of skilful cooking behind every intensely flavoured dish, so in my view this description undersells the impressive dining experience here.

The restaurant was still packed when we arrived late on a Sunday lunchtime, but luckily we didnt have to wait long to grab a couple of seats at the bar. Choosing what to order was proving difficult however, as the entire menu sounded so tempting! We decided that the best solution would be to sample one dish from each of their fish and meat sections, plus one of their signature meatballs, then see whether we had stomach space for anything else...!

As a huge risotto fan I'm also obsessed with arancini (see day #85 of #Project366), so I twisted Katy's arm into starting our lunch with a couple of their crunchy breadcrumb-coated balls filled with gooey nutty cheese and tender rice.

Normally I avoid ordering squid because it's so difficult to cook correctly, meaning you often end up chewing the seafood equivalent of an elastic band. But my first foray into fristo misto was a refreshing surprise - delicate rings of squid, soft mussels, salty whitebait and sweet prawns all given an added crispy finish from a fine coating of light batter.

Next came a bowl of bitesized spicy pork and fennel meatballs in a tomato sauce. They had a great depth of flavour from the mixture of rich meat and aniseed, but the sauce was slightly more watery than I expected. This was the only dish that failed to wow me, perhaps because I've spent a lot of time experimenting with my own meatball recipe and had assumed Polpo's expert version would teach me some more tips.

Duck is probably my favourite meat for a classic roast, so I was intrigued to find out whether it would work with Italian cuisine's classic tones of tomato and herbs. Thankfully the bird had been slowcooked until it melted in the mouth and its powerful gamey flavour had blended into the hearty ragu. Green peppercorns gave a satisfying spicy accent to the sauce compared to salty olives, and the toothsome pappardelle reminded me that fresh pasta would be one of my requests if I were ever sent to a desert island!

For me, the only way to end a good meal is with dessert. I find it impossible to resist a traditional tiramisu, with its perfect combination of sweet cream, strong coffee and bitter cocoa, and Polpo's potted pudding didn't disappoint me. Indeed, my only problem was that it was very tricky to stretch my tongue far enough to lick the glass clean...!

Last, but certainly not least, came the "Nutella" pizzetta. A clever twist on the standard savoury main, I really enjoyed this chewy dough drizzled with a large helping of luxurious dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with crunchy caramelised hazelnuts.

If Polpo's descripton of itself is true and these superb dishes really are examples of "simple" food, then I for one wish to live the simple life from now on...!


  1. Aah, two Katys for the price of one! ;-)
    I like Polpo's simple but tasty cooking, and their fritto misto is one of my favourites. Not had the Nutella pizza though, looks good.

    1. Yes, it was a bargain deal on Katys that day ;-) We should have invited you as well for a full house of Ks! Glad to hear you're a Polpo fan too, I found the fritto misto such a delightful surprise that I would definitely order it again! The nutella pizzetta was very clever, I might make my own light version at home with a wholemeal wrap...!

    2. Ha, I used to work in an American owned company here in the UK, so a fair few American staff. But I sat next to two Katies and when any of the Americans called across the office for them, pronouncing their Ts as Ds, instead of Kady I always heard Kavey and responded. Because they all knew me by my full name, Kavita, you could see them looking at me like I was some kind of thicky mc thicky!

  2. Ahhh what a lovely write up of our meal! Couldn't have put it better myself... think I need to get back there for more of that fritto misto goodness!

    1. Glad to hear that you think this as a fair assessment of our lunch! I definitely want some more fritto misto soon, and to try some of those other meat dishes!