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This Venetian-inspired mini-chain of déshabillé bàcari doesn’t seem out of place on a street lined with food industry behemoths, though how long its carefully conceived decor (old Underground-style tiling, tongue-and-groove panelling, Anaglypta ceiling) can maintain the veneer of individuality will be interesting to see. We like Polpo on the whole – there are many reasons to do so. You don’t have to dress up, the menu of small plates is flexible, food is served all afternoon and until gone 11pm most days, and water is brought to the table without asking. The kitchen’s unfussy cooking doesn’t aim high and therefore often exceeds expectations. Fennel is a favourite ingredient, whether it’s the spice featured in salami and meatballs, or the bulb used in salads. Cicchetti of sweet grilled fennel with white anchovy was a lovely start to a meal that was hard to fault. Tender pillows of pink-middled grilled lamb came on a juicy basil- and caper-flavoured caponata that was more tomatoey than sweet-sour but delicious nonetheless. Staff were keen and chirpy, but had no clue about the specials board, from which we eventually chose a ricotta and cherry semifreddo with comforting biscuity texture. As with the other branches (Soho, Covent Garden), there’s also a bar in the basement.
2-3 Cowcross Street
|Transport:||Barbican tube or Farringdon tube/rail|
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