Da Polpo

29th October 2012

My life as a food blogger is only beginning, so I am a little late in coming to the Polpo party. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because the hype for the Polpo group of restaurants has been such that it is almost impossible to get a table without a lengthy wait. Cue Da Polpo in Covent Garden. The latest restaurant in the Russell Norman empire and the only one of the three to take reservations at dinner time.

I was meeting some friends for a catch up and this just seemed an obvious choice. Pretty central for us all to get to but more importantly from what I’ve heard, great food too. I love sharing food – tapas, dim sum and now the Venetian cichetti. I often experience plate-envy and this type of eating solves that particular problem for me.
It was a pretty cold and rainy Friday night last week but as soon as we walked in, the place just enveloped you in warmth. Literally and figuratively. Russell Norman knows how to do atmosphere!  We had an early table, which I was miffed about at first – I mean who wants to eat dinner at 6pm? But an hour later when the bar was heaving, I was grateful for our cosy little table at the back of the restaurant.
We ordered the house red wine, which was a very reasonable £18 while we perused the menu. We decided to go for 1 dish from each section of the menu, because we’re greedy like that!  
First up – Arancini (£3) Little risotto rice balls, filled with mozzarella and thyme, breadcrumbed and then deep fried.  Delicious ooziness, but we only got 2 and that’s a little difficult to share between 3 hungry girls.
We also ordered the Spinach, Parmesan and soft egg pizzette (£7) We were told by the waiter that this is their signature dish. For me, it was just ok. It lacked seasoning in the spinach, but I loved the soft egg in the middle.
Next came the Fritto Misto (£9.50) A really generous portion and the calamari, prawns, and whitebait were all cooked to absolute perfection.
Meatballs are another speciality of theirs, so we ordered the classic beef and pork (£7) Why mess with a classic? They were so packed full of flavour, I thought the meatballs I made at home were pretty good until I tried these babies!  Just thinking about it, is making me salivate.
Mussels and clams (£7) came in a huge bowl and so much garlic that I was still tasting it a day later! Not in an unpleasant way though. We got 2 slices of ciabatta to mop up the sauce with, which was not nearly enough considering the size of the bowl.
Our last dish was a special they were running – Piri piri prawns. This was on the specials board, so I don’t know how much they cost. They were so good that we ordered it another 3 times! Every flavour was balanced perfectly – just enough garlic not to over-power, just enough heat to warm you through but not set your mouth on fire and just enough lemon to make the whole dish sing. Loved it!
We did order a Roast potato and rosemary dish that I think had been forgotten by the waiting staff. By the time it came to our table it was cold and didn’t taste very good, so we sent it back. I don’t think this was a bad thing though looking back on how much we ate before the potatoes arrived!
The girls and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Da Polpo. The waiting staff are cool and really knowledgeable. I loved the 80’s soundtrack they had playing –I don’t think I have ever heard The Smiths played in a restaurant! And I loved how, even though they had people queuing and had told us at the time of booking that they would need the table back after 2 hours, they didn’t rush us out the door when those 2 hours were up!
We left utterly satisfied with the whole experience. We paid £120 between 3 people, including 2 bottles of wine and service.
Until we eat again!

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