1.5 £25

Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

We went to see what all the fuss is about... and we're none the wiser

“Polpo is a bàcaro. This is a Venetian word to describe a humble restaurant serving simple food and good, young local wines.”

Kat and I had arranged to go to Polpo a few weeks a go, but decided to cancel the booking and go to Pitt Cue Co. instead, which turned out to be a great call. We arranged another lunch and this time the reservation at Polpo stood. It’s had lots of rave reviews, from very critical people and is one of London’s hottest restaurants, with branches in Soho, Covent Garden and Smithfield, which is the one we went to.

Our table was booked for 14:00 and it was pretty packed out when we arrived, a mix of business lunches and other groups filling the dining space. It looks nothing from the outside, almost like a cheap café that you probably wouldn’t bother going in to and the interior is full of peeling paintwork and exposed brickwork, but that’s cool right…?

We both ordered a cocktail while we looked over the menu, Kat had a Negroni Sbagliato (Campari, sweet vermouth, Prosecco) and I had a Dark & Stormy (Havana Club, lime juice, ginger beer), which were £7.50 and £7.00 respectively. There’s a decent sized wine menu, with bottles starting from a reasonable £18.

We made our choices from the menu and waited with anticipation. The first thing to arrive was Eggplant & Parmesan involtini (£4), essentially a grilled slice of Aubergine wrapped around a block of Parmesan, which was OK but a bit too salty for me. Next came the Fritto misto, which I was really looking forward to – I love seafood and the idea of a plate of it, deep fried makes my mouth water. It was all pretty well cooked, the squid was nice and tender but as the colour of it will tell you, the batter could have been crisper.

The menu had three delicious sounding bread options, we went for the Prosciutto, artichoke & ricotta bruschetta, which came as a big slab to tear apart. The bread itself had been spread with the ricotta, then the prosciutto and artichokes were laid on top. The meat, cheese and bread were good but the artichokes still had their stalks, which I couldn’t see the point of. Obviously the hearts were soft and delicate, but the stalks were tough, woody and unwelcome.

Of the meatball selection we had the Piadina meatball smash, which is your choice of meatballs, wrapped in a thin bread with some cabbage slaw. We chose the Spicy pork & fennel meatballs. The meat wasn’t exactly packed with flavour, the bread was a bit crispy round the edges and it was just a bit boring. I didn’t rate the slaw either.

They have a few specials on a chalkboard, one of which was a Amarena Cherry & Pistachio Semifreddo, which we shared. It came with a dollop of cream on top and a scattering of smashed pistachios and was actually pretty good, compared to the rest of the meal anyway…

  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1


  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

    Eggplant & Parmesan involtini

  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

    Fritto Misto

  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

    Piadina meatball smash

  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

    Prosciutto, artichoke & ricotta bruschetta

  • Polpo (Smithfield), EC1

    Amarena Cherry & Pistachio Semifreddo

Very disappointing experience I’m afraid. None of the dishes impressed me and if I’m going to pay £30 for 4 tapas dishes (excluding dessert) they better be superb. Polpo seems to have a lot of gushing reviews to it’s name but despite wanting to like it I came away feeling that it’s just overpriced, overhyped and uninspired.

Posted in: 1 Star, Central London, Italian, Lunch, Restaurants, Tapas

The Bill

2 Diners
Eggplant & Parmesan Involtini £4.00
Prosciutto, Artichoke & Ricotta Bruschetta £7.00
Piadina Meatball Smash £9.50
Fritto Misto £9.50
Amarena Cherry & Pistachio Semifreddo £5.00
Dark & Stormy £7.00
Negroni Sbagliato £7.50
Total £49.50
Per person £24.75

Contact Info

3 Cowcross Street,
London EC1M 6DR

020 7250 0034

Square Meal
Polpo on Urbanspoon

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The Author

Gary Simmons
87 reviews

Founder of Scoff London, co-founder of Eat My World and in to all things foodie, Gary has eaten 13 meals in one day, a tarantula, a scorpion, the world's hottest chilli and most expensive soup.

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