Bread & olive oil at polpo


Venetian Bacaro in Covent Garden



Polpo is one of the first restaurants to popularise the concept of Italian tapas. Instead of being assualted with bottomless volumes of carbs and deep fried meat, Polpo instead takes inspiration from the bacaro of Venice. These relaxed bars serve rounds of tapas with glasses of liquor, a concept which is wholly agreeable. The authenticity of Polpo is buoyed by its insistence to use the correct terminology, and so these tapas are elevated with the frilly titles of ‘cicchetti’, ‘crostini’ and ‘crocchette’.


Arancini at polpo


Having never been to Venice I could not speak to the legitimacy of the food, but provenance aside, there is much to be delighted by. Here you will find thick-skinned pops of hot-cheesed arancini, or stout potato and parmesan croquettes the size of a fat man’s index. There is chewy crostini smeared with chopped liver, and a feasting plate of all things buffalo – from the milky cheese to the cured meats.


Cucumber and basil cocktails at polpo

Chopped liver crostini, potato & parmesan crocchete at polpo


Spinach, parmesan & soft egg pizzette at polpo


For the diehard pizza fiends there are crisp rounds of pizzette topped with such things as spinach, parmesan and runny egg. Meatballs are also well represented with a selection of half a dozen – ranging from the classics to chickpea and ricotta. Our lamb and mint ones are fist-sized bad boys glossed with a sauce of heritage tomatoes and aromatic herbs.


Rum cocktail at polpo

Lamb & mint meatballs at polpo

Rabbit ragu, black olives & gnocchi at polpo


When the meat isn’t ground and balled, it finds itself served as slices of flank steak. Atop these juicy slabs is a flurry of rocket and shaved parmesan, which compliments the meat with a manner in keeping with everything thus far. That is, letting a select few ingredients come together with an unfussy kind of enjoyment.


Flank steak, rocket, parmesan at polpo


Alas, this higher standard escapes the namesake dish of Polpo – braised octopus with beans. This firstborn of our Poplo is resolutely underwhelming – a featureless sea of borlotti beans are peppered here and there with the pallid tentacles of our eight-limbed mascot. Another dish to avoid would be a salad of duck, blood orange and fennel, which tastes like luke-warm leftovers saved from the compost heap.


Cured buffalo meats & mozzarella at polpo

Braised octopus, treviso & borlotti beans at polpo


Barring the few inconsistencies, the homely goodness and lack of sniffy grandeur make Polpo a comforting spot to eat in. Most of our food has been exceptional in this regard, and we leave flush-cheeked and fortified. Mamma mia!


Tiramisu pot at polpo

Flourless orange & almond cake at polpo

Tube: Covent Garden

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