Ten years since it opened, Polpo’s forte remains its ambience. The vibe at this Venetian small plates restaurant is cosy, with low ceilings, rustic Italian cartography on the walls and light bulbs rendered atmospheric by hanging sheets over them.
The food is more of a mixed bag. Some of the sharing platters were decent. An impressively thin prosciutto and gorgonzola pizzette’s crust was mottled with wood ash, topped with thick-cut cured meat and flecked with parsley, while a spicy pork and fennel meatball came in a rich, parmesan-scattered tomato sauce. For dessert, a portion of tiramisu was creamy and delicate.
But plenty of dishes underwhelmed. A zucchini, basil and parmesan salad was so ludicrously dosed with the salty cheese that it looked like an avalanche and tasted like a swig at a bottle of table salt. One solitary leaf of basil broke up the flavour. An artichoke and leek risotto lacked richness while a sliced rump steak was so over-seasoned that it felt like the chef must have been sponsored by Maldon.
The hipster crowd that once frequented this, the original branch, has long gone: on a midweek visit, it was impossible to locate a single diner under 35 amid swathes of blazers, v-neck jumpers and couples who looked like their eating speed was being dictated by their babysitter’s price tag. But the hubbub of low chatter teamed with smiley, super-friendly service, makes for a very pleasant evening.