Saturday, 18 December 2010

Italy (Venice)

41 Beak Street
020 7734 4479

Polpo is popular. We arrived at 6.20pm and waited at the bar for seats. Peeking into the restaurant, I wondered if they were hosting a speed dating event. There's a long row of tables for two, with the teeniest of gaps between each one. Every woman faced the restaurant and every man faced the wall. We were a boy and a girl not on a date, and I felt the itch to upset the collective chivalry. I sat facing the wall. I'm a sheep.

Polpo is popular because it knows what it's doing. Service is friendly and informal, the décor is dimly-lit and moody, the food is bite-sized and perfect for sharing. Date service, date décor and date food. They played pre-Teen Dream Beach House. I can't help but be impressed.

We started with cicheti, bites of crostini, croquettes and polenta mixed with chicken liver, anchovies, cheeses, figs, cured meats and various pestos. There are ten chiceti on the menu. Ten boys, ten girls, ten plates of cicheti. Sorry, I keep thinking this is a speed dating event.

Polpo is popular but its portions are small. That's how we managed to eat a plate of taleggio cheese, a fennel and endive salad, a platter of cold meats and, the star of the show, a cuttlefish risotto - and still leave a little peckish having spent £25-30 per head. But it's hard to find fault with any of the cooking.

They handed me the bill. My friend took it and paid with her card. I must have looked like a terrible, terrible man.

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