3 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6DR
Dinner for two with wine and service: around £100
020 7250 0034
Polpo is Venetian and serves Italian style tapas – it has a wide menu with a focus on their homemade meatballs. Like all new London hipster joints, they do not accept bookings and are extremely popular so expect a wait, but I would recommend heading downstairs to their funky little bar for a pre-dinner drink (it looks a bit like the kill room in a Victorian butchers but somehow manages to maintain a great atmosphere). The cocktails are on traditional lines (manhattans, whisky sours etc.) but have an Italian twist because they make use of Polpo’s great selection of Italian spirits.
The dining area is small, dark, noisy and crowded, with quite a few high seats directly at the bar. A knowledge of Italian wine would be useful for tackling the wine list – we could not make head nor tail of it, but managed to pick a great bottle by sheer luck. Our starters were small and pretty uninteresting – anchovy and chickpea crostino (£1) and pickled artichokes (£3). However, our selection of mains was really fantastic – melt in the mouth pork and fennel meatballs (£6.50), succulent cod cheeks with firm, earthy lentils (£8), a rich pork belly with great crackling (£9) and an unfortunately overpriced but very fresh selection of home cured meats with creamy buffalo mozzarella (£14).
My memory may have been somewhat hazed by the cocktails and wine, but I thought these dishes were absolutely outstanding – the meatballs were by far the best I have ever tasted. I left no room for dessert, but the ricotta and cherry cannolis looked very good.
The food at Polpo is simple but very well executed – it is well worth a visit. I recommend arriving early in the evening to beat the queues and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail.