Popolo, Shoreditch

I first heard about Popolo (Italian for ‘people’) when it was given a Bib Gourmand in the 2018 Michelin Guide. Say what you want about the Michelin Twitter account but the guide has rarely let me down for solid restaurant recommendations.

Their award coincided with an invite from the restaurant’s PR to dine there, so I accepted. Its a small space with a downstairs counter overlooking the kitchen (thoroughly recommended) or an upstairs dining room which lacks the drama of the floor below.

Chef wise, there are just two in the kitchen, which makes the food (Italian small plates with a Middle Eastern/Moorish nod) all the more impressive.

From the fryer, fried olives atop a silky labne (£6) are the sort of thing you can’t stop eating. They are as addictive as the ones served with a Martini at Ralph’s Coffee & Bar.

Burrata (£10) is of the highest quality. Its firm exterior gives way to an oozy, creamy centre which works perfectly with the figs, walnuts and orange blossom honey. Crab and bottarga (£15.50), bottarga being grey mullet roe, provides a seafood wallop – a real taste of the sea.

Grilled bavette (£13.50) is the sort of simple cooking I long for these days. The beef is ruby red and aggressively seasoned. It’s all about flavour and solid cooking of great quality ingredients, which is evident in all the dishes. Bruschetta (£5), using datterino tomatoes, is yet more evidence of this.

Pasta doesn’t let the side down either. Ravioli is filled with delica squash and “artisan” ricotta (£10.50), which marries perfectly with the butter sauce. The pasta is incredibly delicate. Far more robust is agnolotti (£12.50); pasta parcels filled with soft and fatty pork cheek swimming in porcini butter.

For dessert we share the burnt honey pannacotta (£7) which tastes of a spoon dipped in honey. The slightly acrid flavour comes through which is impressive and the texture is luxurious (not too much setting agent which is nice to see) but it’s a little too sweet for me.

Popolo is a really exciting place to have dinner. The drama of a busy kitchen ensures we’re entertained throughout, service is warm and friendly and the chef is confident enough to let of the quality of ingredients do the talking. My kind of food entirely.

Would we go back? Yes

We dined as guests of the restaurant

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