Polpo at Ape & Bird - CLOSED

Restaurants, Contemporary European Covent Garden
4 out of 5 stars
(32user reviews)

Please note, Ape & Bird is now closed. Time Out Food editors, January 2018.

Polpo at Ape & Bird offers the Polpo sharing plates menu with a Forno Bravo pizza oven, a basement cocktail bar, ground floor spritz bar and dining space.

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Polpo at Ape & Bird - CLOSED says
Polpo at Ape & Bird offers the Polpo tasty sharing plates menu with a Forno Bravo pizza oven, prosecco, spritz and cocktails. You will find a basement cocktail bar, ground floor spritz bar and dining space upstairs overlooking Soho.
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By: Time Out London Food & Drink


Venue name: Polpo at Ape & Bird - CLOSED
Address: 142 Shaftesbury Avenue
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road
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Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:13
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:4
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I was invited out for supper with a nice chap a few weeks ago and he brought me here, which was a lovely treat as I had been hoping to try this place out for a very long time but had never had the opportunity. It's well decorated, with a cosy, rustic feel about the place. Dining is available on two floors, and there is quite a nice area bar at the back of the venue and a bar downstairs.

Food wise, there are a lot of bold and exciting flavours on offer. The menu is a little confusing - you can't quite tell if you're meant to order mains or multiple small dishes. We went with both - rather try loads than miss out. I really liked the sweet and sour sardines (which my dinner date avoided) and the courgette salad was fresh. The spicy pork and fennel meatballs are filled with flavour and the sliced rump steak with lentils was juicy and tender.


Total. Hidden. Gem. Three words that sum up Polpo at Ape & Bird. Considering its location on Cambridge Circus within walking distance of theatres, pubs and tourist meccas galore, I was not expecting to find such a little oasis of calm from the noisy, dirty, rammed pavements outside.

I can only comment on the bar at the back of the restaurant (although the front facing dining room was spacious, light and full of beaming staff as we ambled through) as we popped in for post-cinema drinks but I was honestly amazed by the spacious layout, the lovely décor and the chilled atmosphere.

Drinks were a tad hit and miss – a whiskey sour was good but an amaretto sour was definitely disappointingly flatter than it should have been – but prices were average for central London and I’d absolutely head back there should the need for a frosty bottle of beer hit me. 

Service was quite slow and measured but very pleasant and as we weren’t in a rush or fighting to get through a jam-packed bar, it didn’t bother us. If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a quiet night-cap (I honestly can’t believe I just used the word ‘quiet’ about a bar located where this one is!) or a selection of what looked like pretty tasty pre-theatre small plates, I’d urge you to stop by and give this place a chance.


Slightly different take on the ever popular Polpo chain. More of a gastro pub with the familiar elegant Italian touches. The menu is extremely similar to that of Polpo, if not the same. Lovely small dishes to share alongside classic Italian drinks. Decent price and great atmosphere. Service is okay although manager very abrupt verging on rude. 


My friend and I had an absolutely lovely  dinner at Polpo last night before watching a musical. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful, the food was delightful and the ambiance of the restaurant was perfect!

Although it is possible to have individual dishes, we decided to share a couple so we could try different items (as they all looked good!). Between the two of us, we shared the following four dishes:

  1. Spicy Pork & Fennel Meatballs – A serving of this came with three meatballs, which was actually just nice to share between the two of us. It wasn’t too filling and each meatball was sized nicely. It was served with freshly grated parmesan on top and the tomato sauce it was cooked in was absolutely delicious!
  2. Zucchini, Parmesan & Basil Salad – This was a really light and fresh side of salad. The zucchini must’ve been either raw or blanched, but they tasted great! It was served with rocket leaves, fresh basil leaves, and freshly grated parmesan on top. This paired really well with the meatballs to start our meal off with.
  3. Bianca Pizza – This was favourite pizza flavour of the two that we ordered. It was a pizza with no tomato base, as the name suggests, and came topped with mozzarella cheese, caramelised red onions and fresh basil leaves. It was such a simple combination of ingredients but the freshness of the mozzarella really made a difference in the overall flavour of this pizza. I also liked that the crush was thin but still crispy on the edges.
  4. Spinach, Parmesan & Soft Egg – I liked the combination of ingredients in this pizza too because it was kept simple and not typically found elsewhere. The egg was cooked just the way I like it, with a runny yolk and bits of the white still runny too. However, it wasn’t as nice as the Bianca Pizza because the middle of the pizza dough was soggy from the egg and from the spinach. The pizza crust worked well to soak up the additional tomato sauce from the meatballs though!

As I mentioned before, the service was impeccable! Our waitress was very nice and knew how to recommend dishes to us, as well as checking in on us throughout our dinner. I quite liked the ambiance because the restaurant resembles a pub from the exterior but has a much nicer rustic feeling on the interior than a pub would. The lighting was kept dim but at the right level to be able to see our food and each other. The restaurant also had a few fairy lights hung around, which added to the interior decor. 

Definitely a restaurant I would recommend and visit again! It's perfect for a pre-theatre meal, as it is located near several theatres and the food comes out rather quickly after ordering. 


A surprisingly sprawling space that houses both a buzzing bar and and lively, informal eatery. If, like me, you are a total sucker for a small plates menu (the best excuse to try practically everything, no?) then you'll love trying a bit of everything Polpo has to offer. The meatballs are a must, as is a pizzetta here where the oven is roaring but as for the rest I would suggest leaving it to the staff to surprise you - it would be hard to be disappointed! 

Staff Writer

Love this casual and trendy bar in the hear of London's West End. Great place for Italian nibbles, pizza and drinks. Five start to their Aperol Spritz cocktail!

Great small plates menu and wine list in a lively informal atmosphere.

moderatorStaff Writer

This is a great spot for post-work cocktails – a nicer environment than most other drinking holes in the area. It's also opposite Gelupo, so you can follow up with a tasty tub of ice cream.


If, like me, you've been trying in vain to secure a table at Polpo get yourself down to the Ape & Bird. 

Think Polpo meets Jackson and Rye and that's basically what you have at the Ape & Bird. Plus it's perfectly located on Shaftesbury Avenue yet there's none of the usual wrestling match to get to the bar that you usually find in this area. 

The restaurant upstairs serves Polpo's signature Venetian Tapas. Be warned it is expensive and the portions are small - get the pizzettas to fill you up - however it is absolutely delicious. 

Downstairs there's a bar that does excellent cocktails and has the feel of a prohibition style speak easy which is a refreshing change from the pubs and bars it shares the avenue with. 

I've drunk here a good few times and had dinner here once for a friends engagement party. We had a slight issue involving a 'surprise bottle of champagne' one of our absent friends had ordered not turning up however the staff handled it brilliantly, very apologetic and even brought us another bottle on the house. Something that was not needed or requested but was a very nice touch all the same. 

Would recommend!

Staff Writer

Ideal place for afterwork drinks in a more upmarket place than the local boozer. Good beer and cocktails and tasty small plates make it a winning combo. Factor in the more intimate downstairs bar if you want to stay longer and you've got a good option that isn't full of tourists.

The definitive place for meatballs!! Cool atmosphere, reasonable prices and good food

I love this place - there are lots of different options depending on your mood. There's the bar within the Ape & Bird which has a kind of French (or maybe NYC?) brasserie style about it, then there's Polpo through the front (nearer Cambridge Circus) for delicious sharing plates etc and finally the dive bar downstairs which is a bit more laid back and grungy and usually a bit quieter. Great all-rounder and have never been disappointed. 

Staff WriterStaff Comp

Great spot if you run there straight after work! It definitely hits a point in the evening where you want to vacate as they suddenly turn the lights down way lower and bump the music up to a point where you can't hear the person sitting one person away, but before that happens - it's a lovely spot!

Staff Writer

It's usually difficult to get a seat downstairs unless you're early or late, but the restaurant upstairs mostly caters for the overspill. The bar at the back plays great music and the service is always friendly. Polpo's small plates are brilliant for pre-theatre suppers or last-minute post-work drinks that turn into something longer. The menu has a great selection of fish, meat and vegetable dishes so there's always something to please everyone. 

Staff Writer

Good for a drink and the downstairs is always a bit quieter if you are looking to get away from the crush at the bar. Another bar adapting the craft beer options, but more than those beers that may sound independent, but now owned by the big businesses. With Polpo restaurant at the front, an easy drift to get some food. If you want a 'pub' that's not the traditional 'British' boozer, the Ape & Bird can tick the box. C

My friends probably think I suffer from a repetitive form of tourettes, as my suggestion for any after work drinks/lunch drinks/anything in general - Polpo (ok Ape & Bird but my tourettes sticks with Polpo). What I like most is that you can always get a seat as if the upstairs ones are taken up you can head on downstairs to the 'boudoir', good selection of beers, my favourite named beer being 'Neck Oil' although I'd suggest admiring the name while pondering whose neck exactly and then going for Camden Hells Pale Ale instead. Oh and they serve you wine in a Gummy Bears flask! If you have even a vague inkling of what I mean by that, go and order a glass of red wine and delight in memories of a childhood past

Walk through the curtain into a low lit cavern that goes on and on. Cosy and inviting, a great place to catch up with friends over small plates of delicious Venitian food. Staff were a little miserable the day I visited. But there's lots of potential here for a great night out.

moderatorStaff WriterTastemaker

Good place to grab a drink if you're near Cambridge Circus. The basement usually has space in the early evening.


I am not really sure what the bad reviewers below were hoping for but this is truly a haven in an over crowded tourist area of London.  Not the cheapest place but also not the most expensive. You can usually get a seat and it isnt so noisy that you can't chat to friends or hear yourself think! The wine list is good, the food selection is great and you can always pop to Polpo if you want something more. 

Staff Writer

Great food from Polpo and a great atmosphere. The staff are really friendly and there's so much space that you don't feel like you're listening to 12 conversations at once.

Staff Writer

Avoid this if you're looking for a pub, the prices for drinks are the size of the measures just don't stack up. Distinct lack of atmosphere too despite its central location. However, the pizzas are great and so is the food at Polpo next door. They should just extend the restaurant into the "pub" space.

No really happy about the food and prices.

I paid 9 £ but onestly the portion was really small.

I had Spaghetti with meatball too, the pasta was overcooked, full of water in the bottom and the sauce was really unseasoned.

Onestly with the same money I paid there I can get better food in other restaurants

I really struggle to understand the less-than-convincing reviews, below. I thought that the food was well cooked, flavoursome, and just the right portion sizes to fit in with the whole Italian Tapas theme. Polpo at Ape and Bird is maybe a little expensive, all things considered, but considering it's in the heart of Soho and Covent Garden, what do you really expect? Drop in after work for a light Italian Tapas dinner over a few drinks, and you really wouldn't regret it, in my (clearly different to everybody else's) opinion.

Staff Writertastemaker

A great spot if you're looking for an place to sit and chat outside Soho/Covent Garden as it's much quieter than a lot of the locals. The downstairs speakeasy-style bar serves great range of sours cocktails (expensive £8 for small tumbler, but good!) and big comfy booths make it a really relaxing place for a date/or just the kind of evening you want a good old chat.

The pizza had so much potential, let down for me by the toppings... just slightly left field the flavors don't seem to quite work together so if you're ordering I'd edge towards the plainer on offer.

Not a spot on the other Polpo venues, but worth knowing about if you're in the area.

On visiting the refreshed Ape & Bird last month I was immediately hit, as I always am in a Russell Norman establishment, by the effortless quality and comfort in which he furnishes his restaurants. Yes this was definitely louder and more lively than it's sisters but it's Cambridge Circus - entirely expected in this part of town.

We had drinks and substantial nibbles at one of least two different bars (the house red wine is always excellent and tremendous value) and were then seated in the main front room with plenty of space even though it was really quite busy. Staff were attentive and on the ball with the exception of one main course which was confused with another whilst ordering - no big issue in the grand scheme.

Tapas type sharing plates are in vogue. No point trying to pretend otherwise and this like the others in the Polpo group focuses on seasonal, Italian inspired dishes. Let's get the P word out the way. Polpetto. No number of superlatives can do it justice. It is simply the finest food I have eaten. Light, flavourful and beautifully executed over such a range of dishes the mind boggles and then aches at the memory from a desire for more. This is not Polpetto. I'm glad it's not. This instead uses Polpetto as inspiration and carries the seasonality and Italian inspiration on to more mainstream favourites. I don't think it's snobbish to say this is more accessible than it's sisters, it's the reality of successfully catering to many audiences and pockets. 

We had all sorts of different dishes, too many to mention individually as we were a larger group but stand out dishes included an excellent, crispy Fritto Misto, a deeply unctuous Pork belly (yes it's everywhere, but this was a very good rendering of it), sharp salty wonderfully savoury ham hock with hazelnuts and radicchio. Some dishes missed slightly: notably a duck ragu that was too wet, salty (okay, I'm fickle!) and whose components were almost indistinct. The stuffed olives were and remain epic. 

Honestly, it's not the cheapest West End eatery but it's head and shoulders above most tourist establishment's in the area and whilst it's not as exciting as Polpetto, it's definitely worth a look in if you're nearby and interested in seasonal sharing plates.

Time Out says "it’s much improved on the faux ‘British pub’ that it was before." Dead wrong. More fake than ever. It seems to be aping (see what I did there) the fake vintage cliche so beloved of every one of East London's least cost effective drinking venues. This is something that goes right down to the fake vintage photography on the website - you have to give them credit for attention to detail in that particularly tedious piece of mimicry. I expected to overhear comments to the effect of 'Yah, it's so like, retro', and (in that regard) I wasn't disappointed. Here one can gorge on the obligatory gourmet burgers, pizza and a range of bar snacks - sausage rolls, scotch eggs and other formerly working class foodstuffs, reinvented as something you pretty much have to take out a pay day loan in order to afford. A £5 sausage roll? How quaint. This wouldn't be so galling if they didn't get rid of a perfectly good pub and replace it with what is essentially another mid-range, faux-fancy, overpriced restaurant for the theatre crowd. Ape and Bird, what a stupid name, bring back the Marquis of Granby.

Much preferred last years menu, rather disappointed when there were no meat pies just bloody pizza

Went to the back bar recently, but it was made pretty clear we weren't welcome any more unless eating. It was lunchtime, and the place was empty. This was quite a nice bar until recently with a good selection of craft beers, something this area lacks. Oh and they don't do pints any more, only half pints.

I really liked the Ape and Bird. Wasn't sure at first - the Marquis used to be a favourite footie pub - but the makeover works and its now massive with two extra bars and another floor. Food is pub classics with some nice retro touches (scotch egg, welsh rarebit, mince and dumplings) and an already epic burger. Good wine list, unusual for the Polpo team, and HALLELUJAH they serve it in wine glasses rather than tumblers. It was rammed on my Monday night visit but the service (from Georgina?) was lovely and attentive. The pub part looks popular already and beautifully designed - stunning copper bar - but my main gripe is only 2 cask ales. It's certainly a welcome addition to an area that's poorly served with restaurants and bars.

Awful - went there for Sunday lunch with friends. We let our waitress know we were disappointed with our food generally and were met with utter indifference. Will be successful I'm sure due to its location and sister venues, but you'd do well to avoid.

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