A meal at Da Polpo, Covent Garden
After failed attempts at Spuntino and Polpetto, the day finally came that I managed to drag my other half to the 4th and most recent of Russell Norman’s London enterprises. On a rainy Friday evening, after experiencing the surgery-like atmosphere of the Apple Store ‘Genius bar’, we decided to check out the Maiden Lane establishment. Apart from the roadworks afflicting yet another London street, Da Polpo looked lovely from the outside. Green wooden frame, half window white curtains, much like the Italian trattorias (and trendy restaurants) back home.
And amazingly, as we walked in, they even had a table for us. It actually was only half full. The venue is nice, I found it quite interestingly furnished, half shabby chic half trendy foodie type world. The menus are printed on brown paper table mats, which is also nice and kind of rustic, and the glasses are tumblers. I had read fellow bloggers’ reviews critising these tumblers but if Norman is aiming at recreating a family trattoria, then the tumblers are spot on, even if they are a posher and smaller version than your average Italian trattoria’s.
We ordered two glasses of white wine (Cortese Volpi) and some individual dishes. Amongst the cicchetti (‘bites of food’ in Veneto) we ordered two arancini and two croquettes. I found the Potato and Parmesan croquettes quite nice.. Soft, and well flavoured but comparable to any local restaurant in Napoli. The arancini however were very disappointing. No salt at all, and an overpowering herby aroma. Again, in Napoli, you would find much better version in any restaurant (I had some great ones last month at Don Giovanni, in Vomero area).
After these, the ‘pizzetta‘ arrived. In my mind, I had pictured what we call pizzette: doughy, fluffy fried pizzette with toppings and that was what I was kind of expecting. Instead, what I got was a smaller version on Pizza Express’ La Reine. I have not been in a Pizza Express in ages, but a crispy thin pizza base topped with spinach, Parmesan and a soft egg is what I remember it like. Forgettable.
Next the best two dishes of the night. Lamb and mint meatballs felt light and minty and my Chickpeas ricotta and spinach polpette were good, with slightly crunchy chickpeas and melting cheese. Yet I found the sauce (same for both) quite heavy and not particularly original. We were served three slices of bread but only when we had finished the meatballs!
Frankly, we were disappointed by Da Polpo. Maybe we should have tried more dishes. Maybe we should go back to Polpo and try that one. Maybe I’m too focused on Italian traditional food. This unfortunately just seemed a pretentious attempt without any real soul.
I cannot help but thinking that in Southern Italy you can still eat a proper, simple meal with authentic flavours for a bunch of euros.
Even if the wine comes in common tumblers…