The décor may not look like much, but you won't find better Venetian food anywhere in W1.
Owned by Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, with the kitchen headed by Tom Oldroyd, Polpo and its newer siblings Polpetto (now closed) and Da Polpo fuse the Venetian bacaro (wine-bar-cum-café) with hip New York West Village eateries. The decor, with peeling paint and battered wooden panelling, looks like something from the ‘before’ clips on Homes Under the Hammer. Brown paper menus and chunky tumblers for wine glasses underline the sense of squatter chic, as does sharing small plates of unfussy food.
These stretch from simple olives and a crostino topped with chickpea and anchovy mash (rendered dull by a lack of anchovy flavour), to sirloin steak and calf’s liver with onions. A shallow plate of soupy beans – more like bean soup – highlighted that the vogue for sharing dishes is often impractical; neither would we want to spoon linguine vongole across the table. Best dishes were the cuttlefish in squid ink and the spinach and egg pizzette.
Service was hard-working and friendly enough. Sitting elbow-to-elbow with the Nathan Barleys who frequent this place could be reassuring or irritating, depending on your point of view; one thing for sure is that this little chain is a hit.