• Restaurants
  • Italian
2 Love It
© Carol Sachs
© Carol Sachs
© Carol Sachs
© Carol Sachs
© Carol Sachs

In the days when exotic dancers still gyrated their way around the Raymond Revuebar in Walker’s Court, it would have been inconceivable that a restaurateur could become the ‘King of Soho’. But today the area is a hotspot for culinary rather than carnal pleasures. From the latest small-plates places to rock ‘n’ roll ramen joints, Soho has become a magnet for diners aiming to improve their cultural capital. And when it comes to successful ventures in the area, restaurateur Russell Norman takes the crown.

There’s no denying Norman’s credentials as a trendsetting restaurateur. After he and business partner Richard Beatty opened Polpo on Beak Street in 2009, there was a ripple of me-too establishments and there’s no shortage of pared-down New York-style diners in the ilk of their Rupert Street establishment Spuntino either. There are also two other branches of Polpo now - one in Covent Garden, the other in Smithfield. These days Norman also presents a BBC TV series (‘The Restaurant Man’) in which he shares his wisdom. And true to form, the latest incarnation of Polpetto (previously on a different site, a dining room above the French House on Dean Street) looks set to be a winner.      

The new Berwick Street premises are more upscale. The long, low-lit dining room bubbles with attentive staff serving Italian-inspired small plates to the appreciative crowd who don’t seem to mind being seated on tightly packed tables. In the basement dining room, there’s the bonus of a view of chef Florence Knight and her skilled team in a glass-fronted kitchen.

As well as more familiar assemblies such as fork-tender veal cheeks in an earthy fennel, white wine and bean stew, or sweet baby beetroots coated in poppy seeds and served with tangy gorgonzola cheese, there are many options on the menu which will have you reaching for your encyclopaedia. Small, green ‘cuckoo flower’ leaves added a fiery horseradish-like hit to a plate of boiled pink fir potatoes, while raw, pickled parsley-root discs tasted similar to parsnip. Each dish struck an impressive balance between simplicity and satisfying flavours. Cocktails too were cleverly mixed with Italian liqueurs such as Cynar adding complex bitter notes to the likes of a gin fizz.

With this Soho comeback Polpetto’s acquired a bolder, more mature feel – and we think it’s better than ever.

Venue name: Polpetto
Address: 11 Berwick St
Opening hours: noon-11pm Mon-Sat; noon-4pm Sun.
Transport: Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Price: Meal for two with drinks and service: around £90.
1 person listening
keith m
2 of 2 found helpful

I visited on 1/3/14 and have to say I couldn't have been more disappointed. Following Russel on The Restaurant Man' I had high expectations but was left wondering if his TV commitments had led to him taking his eye off the ball. Warm bottled beer,wine not chilled enough,three wrong courses brought on three separate occasions,one course forgotten about and service so slow we didn't have time to have sweet.

Christine Fitzgerald
1 of 1 found helpful

The decor reminds me of those wonderful old photos of Paris in the 30's and 40s and the ambience is tangible. The menu is new and exciting and I have to try it all.


I’ve never eaten a starter or main course in this Soho restaurant, but I have returned several times to enjoy dessert because their chocolate flan is possibly one of the best desserts in London!

It’s a bold claim, I know, but the richness of the chocolate combined with the almost sharp tanginess of the accompanying quenelle of creme fresh is just heaven on a spoon! The lovely chap behind the bar (the bar seating is lovely - you get a great view of the restaurant without the formality of restaurant seating!) now knows my boyfriend and me as the two who just come in for pudding, and he rarely has to ask us what it is we want to order. He’s very friendly, and always good for a natter.

Staff Writer

I had a very different experience to Keith below. Wonderful and attentive service, perfect drinks to start the meal and every course was exicuted perfectly.

The beef ragu is so rich and delicious you almost move in slow-mo to try and make it last as long as possible. 

I thought the prices were really reasonable as the high quality of meat and veg was noticeable in every dish but expect to spend £50-70 for two.

Christina R

I ate there with a friend in March 2014 and thought that the food (Venetian Italian sharing plates) was good, though the portion sizes were a bit small. The staff was very friendly.