The press have been going mad for a tiny restaurant with just 28 seats. Today’s fourth most-viewed restaurant on Time Out London, and arguably this year’s most talked-about new eating place, Polpetto opened in August to an impatient crowd of media bods, foodies and tweeters, all eager to squeeze inside and feast on Venetian tapas.
This is the follow-up to Polpo, which has established itself as a Venetian-style bacaro in Soho, and whose website displays an incredible roll-call of praise, including huge compliments from Jay Rayner and A.A Gill. So far Polpetto looks set to replicate every ounce of its big sister’s success.
Having not yet tried Polpo, perhaps that’s where I should have started, but who could resist the description of Polpetto as ‘a tiny, jewel-box version’? Also lured in by a promising review in Stylist magazine and the clamour coming from Twitter, I wanted to get straight to the treasure.
Situated above The French House on Dean Street, Polpetto is reached by a narrow staircase that leads up into a small space cluttered with wooden furniture. A dark red banquette along the back is shared by four adjacent tables beneath a wall of exposed brickwork and three mock windows, shaped like openings onto the outside world but tiled with mirrors that reflect the inside of the room. With its wood floor, panelled ceiling, worn paintwork and naked pendant bulbs dangling from their wires, the simple, timeless decor might trick you into believing Polpetto has resided here for two centuries, rather than just two months.
The tableware is quirky and classic – miniature wine and water glasses in various shapes and styles; wine that arrives in darling half-carafes, patterned vintage dishes, and wide-format parchment menus printed with an old-fashioned serif type. The menu consists of ‘cicheti, small plates and classic Venetian osteria dishes.’ This basically means small snacks, which you can mix and match as you choose. We matched Duck & porcini meatballs with Chopped chicken liver crostino, Smoked swordfish, lemon and dill ricotta, Stracchino, fennel, salami & fig bruschetta, Cured pork shoulder & pickled pepper pizzetta and Zucchini fries (which were phenomenal; I’d go back just for those). The general approach seems to be just to keep on ordering until you’re full. The young, friendly staff didn’t mind at all when we flagged them down for the sixth time. Plates are small, prices are small, the place itself is small, but taste is big. Desserts (Pannacotta with blackberries and salted hazelnut praline; Tiramisu pot) were just a mouthful, but a delicious one.
This tiny place fills up fast. We were smart enough to stop by at 6.30pm on a weekday; by 8pm there was a snaking queue. Once inside, nobody wants to leave. Believe all the hype and definitely pay Polpetto a visit, but pick your time wisely: on a Friday or Saturday night not even those zucchini fries would convince me to bother.