Last week, Tasty Ribbons and I pooled £40 of our pocket money to embark on part 1 of a tour of Soho’s small plates/slider joints. I love eating small dishes, perfect on their own but better in a group, packed full of their own fresh flavours and perfect for sharing. The relaxed nature of tapas style dining is that you can always justify indulging on that bit of extra bread, those irresistible juicy olives and in this case, that extra glass of campari.
Polpo was our first stop. Well actually, Spuntino was, a member of the same Russell Norman restaurant family, but they couldn’t take us for 45 mins so on we strolled on to Polpo. Polpo is a Venetian style bar that is rustic in decor,but bustly and busy in atmosphere. We sampled a selection of ‘Cichetti’ (small plates) and the winner of them all was the Arancini. £2.50 for 2 balls and I was hooked, each one had an extra crispy crunchy coating that gave way to warm, salty and lightly herbed risotto and stringy mozzarella. The Mortadella & Gorgonzola (£2.50) was as difficult to decifer in taste as it is to find on the above plate, the cheese totally overpowering the delicate meat causing the tiny nibble to lose all appeal. The Anchovy & Chick Pea Crostini (£1) was ok. I liked the texture of the chick-peas, but they were in that phase of humous before you add any of the wet ingredients, chunky and a bit dry. The campari was an absolute bitter or ‘pokey’ (as Tasty Ribbons lovingly refers to it as) treat and at £5.50 a glass, totally reasonble. A bill of £17 and it was time for Copita for 3 more small plates.
We ate Lightly Cured Mackerel, Rhubarb & Rosemary (£3.95), Venison with Hazelnut & Apple on toast (£5.50) and Payoyo Cheese with Mebrillo (£4.50). On reflection, the Mackerel was one of the best dishes we ate. Light, refreshing, zingy rhubarb, and soft, melt in the mouth fish. It was really good and only fell short of brilliant because it was just a little too tart and acidic. The Venison was a forgettable dish, the meat washed out by the sweet apple which was not only cubed and sprinkled all over the meat but also pureed and spread thickly on the bread. The cheese was totally delicious, soft and creamy, served with a pert quince membrillo.
The food at Copita was good, small portions but complex big flavours that although required a bit of thought in balancing, were totally enjoyable. The atmosphere was slightly lacking but Tasty Ribbons assured me it’s much buzzier on a Friday night. Polpo is a delight to hang out in and if those Arancini are anything to go by,it has a hell of a lot to offer. One or the other? Maybe just a bit at both.