This month we were invited, along with other bloggers and food enthusiasts to sample the newly opened Polpo restaurant on Whiteladies. Situated where Entelia used to be, Polpo describes itself as a bacaro, a Venetian word for a humble restaurant serving simple food and young Italian wines. Basically I think it is quite hard to describe yourself as humble it's for other people to decide really, and to be honest I am not sure whether this fits the brief of the description, for reasons I shall explain shortly.
Polpo opened its first branch in Soho in 2009 and has expanded over the years to eight restaurants, mostly in London but now also one each in Brighton and Bristol. Polpo is the Italian word for octopus and you can get a few dishes of the eight armed creature to sample. The menu is one of small plates to share or keep to yourself depending on how territorial you are about your food choices. I still don't really like small plates but if the food is good I can warm to them, it is a case by case basis for me. Rich and I were welcomed by owner Russell Norman, which was a nice touch. We chose an Aperol spritz to start which is a favourite after honeymooning in Venice in April. We were brought some of their stuffed fried olives to munch on whilst we perused the menu.
The menu is set out in sections such as pizzette, meat, fish, vegetables and also cicheti. Cicheti bars can be found all over Venice serving bite sized snacks to accompany an after work drink or quick lunch. We chose a few more cicheti, more olives, arancini, potato and parmesan crocchette and coppa and peperonata crostini. Polpo have a section for just meatballs so seeing this as a sign we opted for the pork and fennel ones with spaghetti. We also went for a gorgonzola & prosciutto pizzette, some fried gnocchi with rainbow chard pesto and peccorino.
With more dishes than arms arriving in front of us we started off with the cicheti. For me the most enjoyable elements of the whole meal were in some of the little snacks we started with. The deep fried olives are something I've never seen before. They are stuffed with anchovy, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, and they are incredible. Easily the best thing Polpo do. I also really enjoyed the arancini - creamy, crunchy and light. The crostini were crisp and topped with roasted pepper, prosciutto, capers and I think ricotta, very tasty indeed. I wasn't totally sold on the crocchette it was a bit like a hash brown with more finely grated potato.
On the the 'main' dishes. For £9 you can have three fairly large meatballs of your choice with spaghetti, not exactly a bargain. But I thought for a place that has five varieties of meatballs these have got to be worth it. They weren't. Fennel overpowered the meat I could barely taste any meat flavour at all and the tomato sauce was fairly bland as well. The pizzette had some tasty toppings but the base lacked salt.
I think despite this Polpo will be quite popular. It is a fairly well known brand and the location will catch some great after work traffic. Our meal was free of charge but did not impact my opinion. To find out more about Polpo check out their website.