The original branch of Russell Norman’s Venetian small plates chain.
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.
|Venue name:||Polpo Soho|
41 Beak Street
|Transport:||Tube: Piccadilly Circus|
|Price:||Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £95.|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
2.9 / 5
- 5 star:7
- 4 star:17
- 3 star:7
- 2 star:9
- 1 star:14
I am glad that I am not the only one who thinks Polpo is really crap! My husband and I had been before and thought it was average – the meatballs especially where dry and tasteless. The other night, we were inspired to go there again to give it a second try after watching Russell Norman’s series ‘Restaurant Man.’ Once again we got a seat at the bar straight away, so the waiting time/service has never bothered us like some of the other reviews. Even if we had to wait over an hour I wouldn’t mind if the food was worth it.
But it’s not at all. We could not finish some dishes they were so bland. The Arancini was rock hard, dry and flavourless. It seems that they had been deep fried again to heat them up, we could hardly cut through them. And the roast potatoes tasted old and re-heated also.
The flank steak and the prosciutto, mozzarella bruschetta were ok, but these are simple dishes, as is a lot of the menu so we were very disappointed that our second experience was bad.
So many London eateries are rolling out these chains which are inspired from hip New York eateries but the food is still not up to standard. For such alarge, established city (which is a hop away from Europe) to still have an average quality of food in restaurants it is quite baffling. I do agree that it has evolved in the last 5 years but there is a long way to go.
The concept behind Polpo and Russell Norman’s eateries is good, but the food needs to be 20 times better.
Very very disappointing and will not go back again, nor try any other venue associated with this place. Service atrocious (despite numerous young staff whose hipness erred on the side of tatty and few customers at late lunch on a Monday.) Food bland, mean, tasteless, lukewarm or fridge-cold and, I suspect from the condition of it, some leftover from the weekend (fine for a sauce, not for a soggy bruschetta or some dried up crumbling liver.) I'm not one for covering up culinary mediocrity with flashy presentation, but no effort made here at all either to make the food look good or taste good. Does the chef not possess a bottle of olive oil and some salt and pepper? For example, how can you offer 5 types of meatballs, all with the same sauce, and then the sauce tastes of nothing but an unseasoned and uncooked carton of supermarket passata? Unable even to get the attention of anyone to complain to, we sighed, paid the bill and left. Perhaps this is their tactic. I would prefer, actually, to address my detailed comments and complaints privately to the owner or at least the manager, but as there is apparently no way to contact them except via twitter, public condemnation is my only option. What really bugs me is that increasingly the success of a restaurant in this country seems to depend on the PR merchants, TV personalities and who you know, and is nothing to do with good food and service. Damn you Polpo, you do not deserve your reputation and your staff do not deserve their jobs. I am totally mystified how this place can be popular enough to pay the rent, never mind for people to queue. Don't bother.
I visited Polpo Soho today - disappointed! I had quite high expectations from this place especially seeing the Restaurant manager where Russell goes on about customer service and how the waiting staff must know the menu off by heart. Well, tonight our waitress couldn't recommend anything from the menu, didn't know what ricotta was (definitely not soft cheese, she said), and put the bill in front of us before we asked for it which was quite rude! Food is very bland and average. The nicest thing was Piadina meatball smash.
Dreadful reheated overlooked potatoes , bland tiny starters, bland overall and tasteless - not even worth a star. One of the worst meals in london
There is nothing worse than going out for dinner with two notoriously fussy eaters. Which is the situation I found myself in a few weeks ago. I had to find a restaurant which would accommodate everyone, and was extremely pleased when the artisan paper menu was plonked in front of me. I was even more pleased with the very, very reasonable bill I was presented with at the end. There is the feel that Polpo, in comparison to other chains of Italians I have experienced, rustles up proper Italian food. Hardly any pasta or pizza on the menu, but a fab selection of seafood and rustic meatballs served in a rich tomato sauce. In a tapas style scenario, we had six dishes between three: rosemary roasted new potatoes, grilled ciabatta and a fresh runner bean salad as sharing sides, then I chose for myself some ricotta, spinach and chickpea "meatballs" in a rich ragu. I was delighted with the flavours, the sharing, the atmosphere it created on our table... and there was something for my fussy eating friends too. To top it all off, the nutella pizetta was one of the most divine and indulgent puddings I have ever eaten (and I am a pudding fanatic). It's not fancy, but it doesn't pretend to be. And for a similar price, it certainly beats the top high street Italian chains. Although irritating that you can't book a table for dinner in advance, and that you have to turn up and hope for the best, I knew this pre-arrival. And the divine peach bellini cocktail served from the bar downstairs definitely took the edge off the wait. And yes, it is small. But I kind of feel it adds to the charm. The drunken ladies next to me hardly had to lean over to show me the newborn baby Prince George's first pap shot. I, personally, liked the slightly chaotic, chattery atmosphere - but I'm not sure it would be for everyone.
After e very bad experience at the Covent Garden premises of Polpo, we tried the Soho restaurant. We found the staff very polite and the food was good. I would also like to add that after the shortcomings of the staff in Covent Garden, the management handled my complaint exceptionally well.
NOT worth the hype....the staff are strange and customer service is poor.. its a small place and they still forget you, then when you ask for things after finally getting their attention they act like your rude for asking.... OVERPRICED, the portions are small, the cost is stupid for what it is, I can make better food myself! Definately not worth going... suprised it was so busy.. wont be going again!
Professional reviews for this place have been consistently good, so I was expecting good things. However it was a great disappointment. The food was impressively average. Garlic mushrooms, pleasant yet no better than those that accompany a well cooked breakfast, steak that was well over cooked and covered in a creamy sauce that did it no favours, roast potatoes that weren't crispy and tasted like they had been sitting around for quite a while, olives that were tiny and tasted of little more than salt, etc. What's more it came to an eye watering £70 for two with only one drink each. Not at all impressed and will certainly not be returning. One thing I would offer in their defence is that, unlike the comments below, we did not receive poor service and our primary waitress was a very smiley Australian girl.
Disappointingly bland, tepid and dull
As a Londoner this is the sort of restaurant that makes me feel embarrassed.
We'd done our research and thought this an ideal post matinee dinner venue. For a double birthday celebration we couldn't have chosen worse!
Having eaten scrummy fluffy arancini in Sicily, I was hopeful that these and the meatballs would deliver the same rustic satisfaction. We were very disappointed.
If casual dining means that your pre dinner drinks arrive after 2/3rds of your starters, and it's OK if you have to wait 15 minutes for one of your dishes when three out of four of the starters have arrived, with no warning.
Or if it means it's acceptable that half the dishes are tepid, a quarter are served cold and the advertised 'special' misses half the advertised ingredients. If casual means flavourless and dull. If casual means small, mean and sloppily presented portions. If casual means overpriced - then Polpo delivers in bucketloads.
I have eaten well all over Italy, I love Italian food - I don't love the food here and have not found a single small plate worth returning for.
Polpo is always a joy to visit, step through the doors of any of the branches in London and you are transported to another world. Here wine is served un-fussily in tumblers, diners are invited to order lots of small plates and share and you are always surrounded by the distinctive buzz of people having a good time. It is a relaxed, welcoming world full of delicious food - sometimes dark and noisy, but always good fun. The Soho branch is no exception, serving up first class Italian small plates to large queues of hungry customers. The Wild Boar Pizzetta was a highlight of the last visit, with thin, cured strips of meat and fat, juicy wild mushrooms on a crisp base. The beetroot-cured smoked salmon was a little disappointing, as before it was served in fat rolls around a delicious horseradish cream - the cream was still there, although on the side and with rather too much dry crisp-bread. The Milan-style chicken and fresh pesto-covered gnocci were also worth ordering. I'll definitely be back for more!
In general, the food at Polpo is pretty high quality for what increasingly has a chain ring to its name (though maybe that's just me). Actually, when perched on a cute little stool in a small dimly lit space with a negroni in hand - it just feels like a very nice soho tapas bar! The polpette and pizzette were particularly tasty, though I would say that considering the portion size it was quite an pricy! It's fun for pre-show bite due to the quick turn around, though not being able to book means you may be left waiting!
Loved the pizzette and then the fried fish or fritto misto. Good wine and great prices. Service was cordial and attentive and the atmosphere was great for a Monday night.
Loved the pizzette and then the fried fish or fritto misto. Good wine and great prices. Service was cordial and attentive and the atmosphere was great for a Monday night.
I love this place and can't believe it only has 2 stars! I come here on a regular basis and absolutely love it.
The food is fantastic and is I guess Italian tapas is the best way to describe it. The cocktails are great also. Yes the place is busy and it can be difficult to get a table but its SOHO what do you expect!
Definitely get meatballs and some foccacia and dunk that bread in the sauce its amazing.
Polpos is a small restaurant located in Soho. Unfortunately you are unable to reserve a table however my friend and I did not have to wait long for a table. The food was excellent. The waitress advised to try four dish's. The mini pizzas and the giant meatballs were superb. We even asked for a spoon to lap up the gravey once we had finished the pork belly. I would describe Polpo as large tapas and you certainly do not come away feeling hungry. I hope to return again soon.
I've visited this restaurant once before with a group of friends and had quite a good time so thought I'd visit again with just one other person. The whole meal was an abomination. On a wednesday night we had to wait 1hr15mins for a table to be available, we ordered some snacks such as arancini, which didn't come for 30 minutes and the mozzarella in centre hadn't melted - so not off to a good start. The frito misto was chewy and not fresh, the slices of steak were cold, the roast potatoes were burnt and came after all of the food; so we were simply eating potatoes by themselves. The only saving grace was a bruschetta with artichoke and proscuitto; which was fresh and a nice hint of rosemary. To top it all off the waiter kept coming to our table to try and take our food away when we were still eating, however, whenever you did actually need some service every waiter/ waitress in sight would ignore you. Let's just say that I will never be eating there again.
I went here last week 24/1/2013 to celebrate a friend's b'day. Aware of the no booking policy I arrived around 5.50pm to make sure that we could get a decent table but to no avail as the management has a policy of not seating guests until all members of the party arrive. The food was good, it arrived in good time and the variety was also impressive. However unfortunately like other reviewers here I found that the service was quite poor. The staff were bickering amongst themselves which is actually quite embarrassing for the guests and we had to try to get their attention a number of times before we could get some service. What is very cheeky is that again service is included in the bill which puts the guest in an awkward position of having to explain why the service wasn't good. Although we enjoyed ourselves here I wouldn't recommend it given that for two people the bill came to £85.00 and we did not really get amazing food or service to justify it. Go to Barrafina in Soho instead!
so so... I would rather go to Polpo at Farringdon. Polpo at soho is not good as it's described here at Timeout. Average food, nice service and timid space.
Awful service. We were made to feel about as welcome as a Gary Glitter comeback tour. Does okay, cheapish food make up for that? No.
Always liked this place and I have to say after most recent visit it seems better than previous trips. New summer menu is tasty and reasonable. Staff always a bit cool for school but attentive. Why would they take off the pork belly? Crazy. But love the prosecco.
After a fantastic dinner at Polpo nine months ago, I was keen to take some friends along. We arrived and were told a table would be ready in 45 mins, so we waited in the downstairs bar and were treated very well by the bartender. More than two hours later we were taken to our table where we ordered wine and a round of food. The food arrived very quickly, which was a little disconcerting, however, we had to wait nearly half an hour for our wine after asking three times for it. Even getting the bill seemed like a challenge for the waitstaff, and we decided not to include the discretionary service charge as the service had been very poor. This decision was met with rudeness from the staff and they even openly heckled and shouted at us as we left the restaurant. Good luck to you, Polpo.
Foccia and olive oil was delicious (which shouldn't be hard) as were the meatballs and the bottle of Barbera, everything else was distinctly average. Service was pleasant but the overall experience did not merit the £70 bill.
Not worth over an hour and half wait. Okay food and would have been a good evening but for the wait. Seems like arrogance to expect customers to stand for that long waiting for a table. Time restaurants stopped the no booking trend.
Food is average although the steak was excellent. The night was ruined, however, by the loud and awful music coupled with a manager who was arrogant enough to tell me I should have gone somewhere else if I didn't like the atmosphere when I asked him to turn the music down. I really hope that people realise this pretentious place for what it is and stop going. Never again
If it hadn't been for the company it would have been an appalling night out. I have never been moved to write a review online before but I am so sorry that our group spent our hard-earned money here. Having been to Da Polpo I'd raved to my friends about the place and thought Polpo would be more of the same. The food was delicious, credit to the chefs but I wish the chefs had served us. Standard of cooking doesn't matter one bit if the service makes you so unhappy that you feel actually robbed of your money when you come to pay (and it's not cheap). The poor chefs should understand what a disservice is being done to them by at best complacent and at worst downright rude front of house staff. The general atmosphere created was that the waiting staff looked at us as pieces of dirt on the floor who they had to waste their valuable time serving. I understand that a front of house job is tough with tiring, antisocial hours when you would prefer to be the customer rather than the waiter, however, it is a job. I have been a waitress before and would never think to not treat my customers the way we were treated. In fact even when they were rude to me I would maintain a helpful, happy demeanour. Usually the customer was shamed into apologising as a result. The front of house team (if you can call them a team) so ruined our Friday night that we certainly won't be going back and are on a mission to tell as many people as possible to vote with their feet. The final straw was them getting our coffee order wrong and when we mentioned it to the maitre d she glared at us and said, 'well, I didn't take your order.' I should have said, 'Wrong answer!' I concur with one of the other reviewers below in the opinion that the one redeeming feature was the cheery barman downstairs who was the antithesis of the restaurant staff and made the 3 hour wait for a table bearable. There are so many better restaurants in London. Don't go here.
Poor service, arrogant staff, rude manager, very small portions of food and ridiculously overpriced. The table next to us sat an extra person (3 girls as opposed to 2), who was not in anyone's way (and definitely not in my way even tho we were the closest table to them). When the manager saw the arrangement, he rudely told the extra girl that she was "imposing" herself on others. He continued in this manner for at least 5 minutes, despite me stepping in to tell the manager that the girl was not in my way. The manager continued the ill treatment by also deliberately not giving her any plates/cutlery to force her out (i.e. he gave cutlery to her two friends, but not to her). I have never seen staff treat customers so terribly. Not only did it ruin the girl's experience but it also ruined mine. I personally didn't have a good experience of this restaurant (mainly due to the general rudeness of the staff). Would not go back as there are much better places out there in Central London. Not going to spend anymore hard earn money at this overrated place.
**RUDEST MANAGER IN LONDON. ** When the staff were making an effort I would have given it 5 starts. I take clients out all over Soho and West London. So eat out several times a week. Food is pretty good. I have never come across such unsubstantiated arrogance as I have with the female FOH manager (and I work in Music and Film which is saying something). I have had to go back there a few times (work obligation) and met with the same tilted-head, disinterested school-girl attitude each time. I can't describe enough how amazingly astringent she is. I thought it must be me she hates, so have sent others up to arrange a table with the same results. The last time my colleague's wife was left so infuriated we left (party of 6 if the owner is reading this) with no backup plan for dinner. Seriously, if the owner is reading this you could dramatically improve the fading reputation of your restaurant if you fix you front of house manager. I know a great psychotherapist who could possibly help her, possibly. J PS. The only saving grace is the unbelievably polite and gracious cocktail barman downstairs. Who described your FOH as a 'special character' and was able to placate our fuming guests. He's a huge asset.
We went to Polpo tonight and it was a mixed experience, massive highs and massive lows. Firstly I would highly recommend any of the small starter plates - each one we tried was simple but delicious. The purple sprouting broccoli was perfectly cooked and wonderfully flavoured with anchovy sauce that was not too overpowering. One of our waiters was well informed and provided good service when we needed, even though we clearly weren't in his section. Our 'actual' waitress however was dismissive, rude and had no idea about the menu. The major disappointment of the night was an extremely overcooked flank steak which was served with a porcini sauce. The steak was so overcooked that it completely ruined the delicious sauce it was with. My partner and I tried one slice of the steak and couldn't physically eat the rest of the dish. I politely informed the waiter that the reason why we didn't finish the dish was because the steak was inedible and the response I received was 'oh'. No apology was made and no deduction from the bill. It seemed like they were too busy to care about the quality. In the end it was a mixed evening and unfortunately I probably won't return. If you do go to Polpo, make sure you ask to wait downstairs in the cute little bar and order some snacks to tide you over!
Lovely inventive sharing plates of food, decent wine selection (Berbera from Piedmont was excellent) not bad value. But the raucous music is a huge problem unless you can do sign language. Would gladly have given 4 stars if it weren't for this. As it is, I can't see us coming back unless and until the music is turned down, or preferably off altogether. Which is a pity because London needs places like Pulpo.
Food was awful. Generally over cooked, swimming in oil, or salty. I had squid, calamari, and fried white bait, spinach and dessert Risotto and calamari was OK. Almond and orange cake was the only thing I'd give a decent rating too. Service was good don't but food bad. I won't be going back again.
Polpo is almost everything I like about a restaurant - informal, well-priced and portioned, unpretentious, rustic but refined at the same time. Get there early, we arrived before 6pm and still plenty of seats available but soon filled up, and people don't seem to move very quickly, we sat on the bar stools and didn't feel pressure to go, maybe that was why!
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