When Polpetto originally opened in a tiny room above the French House on Dean Street in Soho, it was my favourite restaurant. I remember osso buco and a steak salad with truffle dressing; the food was always brilliant. When it closed I was rather shocked, as I thought it would be there forever. Luckily for me however, Russell Norman (he’s The Restaurant Man on BBC2, if you’ve been watching) has re-opened this Venetian restaurant serving small plates, round the corner on Berwick Street.
It was a small and fairly narrow space but beautifully done out. There was a bar with ingenious stool seats that pull out and tuck away (you’ll see what I mean) at the front and very tightly packed tables out the back, with a few more downstairs opposite the open kitchen. During our Saturday lunch time visit the atmosphere was very pleasant indeed – chilled and relaxed.
Some decent house focaccia kicked things off and our waitress poured some olive oil onto a plate for dunking. As the table was awfully small it would have made much more sense, and space, if there had been a smaller dish for it. It tasted really delicious though.
We started with some Camone tomatoes (Â£3.50) which looked a bit sparse on the plate – I think they should have been served in a small bowl. They were pleasant enough, if not a little unripe and chewy and although drizzled with more of that lovely olive oil, they could have done with some salt and pepper.
The ‘beetroot, Gorgonzola and poppy seeds’ (Â£6) was a nice blend of flavours but it would have tasted much better if the Gorgonzola was warm and gooey. The beetroot leaves tasted a bit gritty, like they hadn’t been cleaned properly, which wasn’t hugely pleasant.
The scallops, cauliflower and lardo (Â£12) were utterly divine and the best thing we ate in fact. The cauliflower purÃ©e was light and velvety and the lardo (pig fat) added richness. Twelve quid for two very small scallops seemed a little excessive though. In fact, very excessive.
The ‘burrata, agretti and chilli’ (Â£8) was another highlight and there was loads of it too. There’s something so comforting about creamy and gooey burrata and the quality of this one was top notch. Could have done with more of a chilli kick though, as I couldn’t really taste it.
The ‘cavolo nero, anchovy and burnt bread’ (Â£7) was reminiscent of a Pizza Express Caesar salad – in a very good way. The cavolo nero was dressed in a light and tangy sauce, the crunchy croutons added a garlicky punch and the anchovies provided a strong wallop of the sea. Delish.
The bacon chop (Â£9) was very good and cooked perfectly. The accompanying whitty pear butter was more a jam than a butter, but its sweetness worked really well with the smokiness of the pig.
As I’ve never tried it before, we opted for the wet polenta (Â£4) to go with the chop. It was quite unusual and certainly not my cup of tea; claggy, gloopy and tasteless. I guess wet polenta just ain’t my thing!
For dessert, we decided to share the chocolate flan with creme fraiche (Â£6.50). The slice looked a little thin, but as it was so rich, it was the perfect quantity and the much needed creme fraiche cut through the chocolate wonderfully.
After our lunch, we ended up moving to the bar area and drinking ourselves into a stupor; it was the sort of place we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. The staff were all so lovely and friendly and the atmosphere was brilliant – it’s just the food I wasn’t so keen on, which seemed such a shame. I found myself longing for the comforting, delicious food I remember from the old Polpetto. But hey, it wasn’t a disaster.