On my way home from work last week I thought I was pretty damned lucky when I saw some builders fitting the interior of a shiny new Burger & Lobster. I turned the corner feeling pretty smug and bumped into a massive queue outside a restaurant, the sort of queue that only can be associated with a no bookings, hot food joint of which there are a generous selection in Central London.
After seeing the tasteful venetian blinds, hints of cracked soft coral paints, dark wood features, filamemt lightbulbs and very happy looking guests (apart from those queueing, who still looked ok considering), I knew I’d found myself outside one of Russell Norman’s restaurants.
The shiny new Polpo opened its doors to the public that night with a soft 50% off everything opening. With the power of twitter I found out the soft opening was on for another night and rearranged plans with a friend to head there straight after work the following day. I got there as the doors opened and was welcomed by Russell’s too cool for school face, who put my name on the list for a table and told me it would be ready in a few minutes, whilst I sat to wait for my friend at the bar. I of course ordered a Negroni. My friend was less than 10 minutes behind me so I let a waitress know I was ready for my table, at which point she told me (apologetically) that I was practically on the bottom of the list with a 2 1/2 hour wait ahead of me for my table. Apparently I was just added to a waiting list and in the same time it took me to drink half of my negroni and my friend to turn up my available table was taken. Thanks to some lovely people at the bar, we managed to grab a stool and perch there.After my third campari based cocktail, of which my favourite was the Negroni Spagliato, the table fiasco was just a distant memory. We slowly but surely started ordering some of the tapas style sharing dishes, starting with pea and parmesan croquettes, which were deliciously gooey and cheesey in the middle, and arancini which I normally love at his restaurants, but here found a little dry.
We contentedly shared a tomato piadina, a tomato, mozzarella, basil and rocket filled pizza bread which would do wonderfully as a light lunch dish. Not so light was the meatball smash, a pizza base filled with pork and beef meatballs and fresh tomato sauce. So so tasty and moreish, especially when eaten with some of the crunchy cabbage coleslaw it was served with.Flank steak with rocket and white truffle cream was a wonderful combination of smooth soft meat, firey pepper and sweet truffle. Cotechina, soft sausage with bortolli beans and sweet radiccio was my friend’s least favourite, she thought the whole thing lacked bite as the texture of the sausage was so soft. I liked it and enjoyed the smokey flavour of the meat, but nothing stood out enough to make me order it again. Summer Greens were a welcome addition of freshness and simplicity simply steamed with a hint of garlic.Enough was enough. Me and my friend had managed 4 boozy drinks each and shared 2 cicheti (little snacks) 1 meatball, 1 bread, 2 meat dishes and 1 side. We were so full that we almost fell off our bar stools, not just due to our increased body mass but also at the amazing price of £46.25 plus service (normally £92.50). If I’d been paying full whack I might have been more fussed about some of the niggles with the food, but leaving here I felt assured that the next time I go they’ll be ironed out.