Last night I took one of my oldest gal pals out to dinner to hear about a crazy trip to Ibiza over a lovely bottle of Montepulciano and cicheti (sharing plates of Italian tapas) at Polpo.
Polpo has just opened on Beak Street, and is the brainchild of Russell Norman, who used to work as operations director for Caprice Holdings, looking after top London restaurants like The Ivy, J Sheekey and Scott's.
Head chef Tom Oldroyd worked at Bocca di Lupo previously, another acclaimed Italian restaurant in Piccadilly, which opened last year.
The mid-18th century townhouse restaurant was heaving when we arrived with people seated at every table, eating at the zinc-topped bar and standing around at the entrance. This all helped to conjure up the rustic Venetian tavern style dining these guys are hoping to create.
We were seated at a row of tables for two running down the left hand side of the restaurant. Trying to get out to nip to the loo if you were on the inside banquette was no easy task and it was all a little too close to your neighbours for my liking.
On the plus side though, it was busy, bustling, and the food was reasonably priced. Our best starters included a delicious Gorgonzola and walnut wrapped in Mortadella (£1.90) and fig, prosciutto and mint served on grilled bread (£1.80) – sweet fruit, with meat and some fresh herb – one of my all time favourite flavour combinations.
Moving on to meats, we chose a dish of tender pork belly which came with a generous amount of crackling alongside radicchio and hazelnuts (£5.50); roast pumpkin, prosciutto and ricotta (£6) was interesting although I would have preferred a little more spice and flavour in the pumpkin; and Bigoli (buckwheat pasta) with anchovies although not to my liking (cold fishy noodles, eugh) was authentically Venetian and the pasta was homemade on site.
Polpo is no fine dining restaurant but nor is it trying to be. It's perfect for a lively dinner with a bunch of mates after interesting tasting and honestly priced food and wine and an easygoing dining experience.
I'm looking forward to returning to sample the other half of the menu!
We skipped dessert and instead jumped into a black cab to get to the official launch of Eight Club in Moorgate. Four floors up in a glass elevator, this private members bar and restaurant has floor to ceiling glass walls all over and 360 degree views of the city from the large outside terrace. The pomegranate cocktails were good but it ain't a patch on the nearby Shoreditch House.