Russel Norman is praised a lot for his ever growing empire of small restaurants with big food. The original Polpo located in Soho proved popular and expanded into Covent Garden before his most recent escape into the area of which I live. Pretty much opposite in fact. I remember the opening very well because loud music and swarms of people came to the opening where I feared I may need to sleep regularly with earplugs other than the days that the club, Fabric around the corner, had some popular DJs in town.
As you can see from one of the opening evenings it was pretty packed with a long queue and waiting list. I think we waited about an hour and half before being seated. Not really a problem as we downed a few bottles of beer and I caught up with a friend, Tom, before he set off to relocate to the other side of the world. He was pretty excited as well at a recommendation because he’s a big foodie (we both ate at Noma together before it was ranked number one in the San Pelligrino Top 50 restaurants in the world list).
The menu is pretty simple, inspired by the small plates found in the Venetian backstreets of Italy and enjoyed with gusto by the locals. We tried a mix of various small dishes although many of the photos turned out poorly with a combination of being shot only with my iPhone and very dim lighting that doesn’t really reflect off the brick-bare walls.
I remember ordering the veal and porcini meatballs (£6.5) as I’d heard all of the meatballs were really good. Though meaty, dripping in juices and pretty good, I didn’t find the porcini flavour shining through as much as the meat.
The mackerel tartare, horseradish and carte de musica (£7.5) didn’t have the bite that we were hoping for and the Fennel, almonds & curly endive salad (£5) quite under-dressed and not much else.
Unfortunately they ran out of the dessert I wanted to try (a flourless orange and almond-cake) and I ended up settling for a small tiramisu pot (£5) a bit steep at the price despite hearing Russel Norman talk about the way that he crafts them on a BBC podcast.
On a good note, I’m pleased that the popularity and noise of Polpo Smithfield has calmed down. I’m also pleased, in a certain way, the food wasn’t as good as the hype everyone made it out to be. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice for a couple of small plates but it’s not going to be a substitute for a nice, home cooked meal or the many other alternatives in area.
Name: Polpo Smithfield
Found at: 3 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6DR