Review: Polpetto, Dean Street, W1

So, I got a bit confused about the name of this place.  I know that polpo means octopus in Italian.  So I thought Polpetto might mean small octopus, knowing that this was the baby sister restaurant to Polpo up the road in Beak Street.  The sign outside does in fact have  an octopus on it.  And therefore thought there might be a lot of seafood on the menu.  (You can see my logic, although it’s logic that formed after drinking a Great Wall, one of the Chinese New Year cocktails on offer at the Experimental Cocktail Club, containing plum wine and absinthe.)  Anyway, as you ALL know, polpetto actually means meatballs, which is much more my thing than octopus.

We went on 5 February.  What we liked:

1. Not having to queue, despite the fact they don’t take bookings, despite the hype.  Perhaps by 9.30pm on a Saturday night all their hipster customers had moved on to drink at the kind of bar where we started our night.  We were surprised enough by the lack of waiting time to think that the smokers outside the French House were people queueing up for the restaurant.  Luckily we didn’t spend too long standing behind them wondering why they weren’t moving.

2. The cosy/scruffy space.  Feels warmer and smells better than it ever did when being run by the French House. Maybe 20 covers, interesting light bulbs, smudgy walls, wooden seats, smiling young staff with tattoos and interesting hair.

3. When I asked which of the Italian wines cryptically described on the menu was closest in style to a super-tuscan, the waitress looked blank.  But instead of treating me like a pompous twit (which I would have accepted in the circumstances) she went to the bar, asked the barman’s advice, and brought back two tiny glasses of wines to sample and choose between.

In case you like both, here they are cosying up together.

4. Meatballs.  We’re a bit divided on that.  Cabe’s the bigger carnivore of us and I thought he’d love them.  Pork and fennel with tart tomato sauce, washed down with red wine that put up an equal fight.  In the event I liked them more, though maybe it was just my relief at realising I didn’t have to eat octopus.

5. Top marks to the Jerusalem artichoke salad with radicchio, rocket and truffle vinaigrette.  Such a rare treat to find it on the menu, and they were squidgily caramelised, perfectly complemented by the bitter leaves and naughty dressing.  We agreed on this one.

We were almost the last to leave, happy and chatty and well fed.  I suspect our enthusiasm would have been a little dimmed had we had to wait a long time to sit down, but we didn’t – so it wasn’t.

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