Sunday, 29th August 2016 – Polpo, Duke of York’s Square, London
After failing to get any breakfast at all and spending the early part of the afternoon engaged in viewing Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones at the Saatchi Gallery we were very hungry and for that matter thirsty. Emerging blinking into a somewhat grey afternoon we headed towards Duke of York’s Square where we’d seen several restaurants on the way in.
We opted for Polpo on the grounds that I’d heard good things about them in recent years. It seemed a good time to try them out. We were soon settled at an outside table after the waiter insisted he’d seen the weather forecast and all would be fine. A glass of prosecco arrived, served in a tumbler as all their wine seemed to be. It was slightly sweeter than I prefer, but that’s a minor quibble. We ordered a portion of grilled focaccia, which arrived drizzled in olive oil, three thick, fresh grill slices that tore apart beautifully but that would also serve for mopping up purposes if the meal proceeded as planned.
We accompanied it with a portion of coppa and peperonata crostini, the coppa meltingly soft and the peperonata providing a juicy contrast.
A bottle of Trebbiano (Poderi dal Nespoli) arrived, along with a carafe of tap water and we had a think about what to order next. This being a restaurant that specialises in tapas-sized portions of food, along the lines of the chicheti you find in Venetian bars, they suggest you order 3 or 4 plates per person. After we’d finished I’d suggest that for most people 3 would be enough.
Next we decided to try the meatballs, opting for the lamb and pistachio version. They come with a thick tomato sauce and were the first dish we used the focaccia for mopping up. They were very tasty, the meat quite smooth and shot through with small pieces of pistachio nut, the green a contrast to the red of the meat.
We also ordered the octopus carpaccio as this is a great test of a kitchen. Octopus, squid, calamari can all come out with a texture like rubber if not treated carefully. This, served with fennel, was soft, tender, tasty and thoroughly enjoyable.
A further pause and we went for the last round, this time ordering the pappardelle with a rabbit ragu, a thing of beauty in taste terms though it looked no prettier than this sort of food ever does. It looks solid, satisfying and altogether the sort of dish you might want to eat on a cold day with a glass of some big, red wine.
We added a smoked duck, orange and fennel salad to the mix. The duck was just right, with the correct degree of pinkness to it, soft, tender and very tasty. And a lot better than the last smoked duck I’d had (at the Crooked Billet in Newton Longville, a tea-smoked duck that was somehow seriously ill-conceived and executed in an otherwise very good meal but more of that later). We just about managed to finish it all and then sat back to finish the wine.
In conclusion, the food was very good indeed, the service friendly and attentive, and the experience one I’d be happy to repeat (though for preference without the family that came and sat at the next table with young Master Entitled, little Miss Drama Queen and their seriously ill-equipped and useless parents). I gather that Polpo have now expanded out of London to Brighton and Bristol. Any chance of one in Milton Keynes soonest please?