There's much to get excited about too. The restaurant, while compact, is 'buzzy' and for this Monday lunch service, totally full. What's more, they offer small plates that suggest to us an Italian version of St John Bread & Wine. Put another way, we're pretty excited to be there and the place starts off with big pot of goodwill; we're meeting friends and want to enjoy it.
We ordered widely across the menu though worth noting for anyone that does go there, the small plates are often not that small so you might not need as many plates as you might think. Swelled in number, we were tempted across many plates, ordered a number of them and were let down by almost all.
It would be an entirely dull review to go plate by plate pointing out problems in each but rather, we highlight here a handful of the dishes ordered that provide a sufficient picture to judge the meal by. The Mackerel tartare with horseradish, the first picture below, was essentially a tartare of cucumber and dill with strong vinegar flavours but almost nothing of mackerel. Mackerel is hardly Dover sole when it comes to cost so the lack of fish here was simply strange.
The cured pork shoulder & peperonata panino shown in the second picture is visibly burnt on the outside and on biting, the taste of charcoal remained in the mouth till washed away with water or wine. The pork though even without the distraction of char held little merit.
The prawns and agretti risotto (picture 3) seemed less of a risotto and more like ordinary rice in a prawn broth but none of this mattered because this dish was so salty none of our party was able to proceed beyond a single mouthful. It left you with the same thirsting feeling that you get when you unexpectedly swallow a mouth of seawater while swimming in the sea. This was not the only dish to suffer this problem and most dishes were significantly oversalted. We often complain in this blog that seasoning is seldom bold enough but what we ate here bordered on salt poisoning.
Our dining companion @CityJohn went so far as to describe the risotto as rice shape salt floating in a salt soup with salt reduction and a dusting of salt. It accurately reflects what we all felt.
Finally for commentary, the grilled sliced flank steak with porcini cream (picture 5) could hardly be broken down with knife and fork or teeth, it was tough and chewy in the extreme with little or no flavour compensation. Again, a table of enthusiastic carnivores took no more than two bites each (one in shock, one to confirm the first was not just bad luck).
So disappointing. The food was admittedly not expensive but failed to pass the threshold anywhere of being sufficiently good for us to want to eat it. Service was excellent we must say but while this can compensate for a limited shortfall on the plate, this meal was sadly beyond salvage. So many good reviews of Polpo, we can only assume that this was a very, very bad day for them.
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