“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” – Sophia Loren


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’.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Tube: Covent Garden

Bread & olive oil at polpo
Bread & olive oil
Chopped liver crostini, potato & parmesan crocchete at polpo
Chopped liver crostini, potato & parmesan crocchete
Arancini at polpo
Rabbit ragu, black olives & gnocchi at polpo
Rabbit ragu, black olives & gnocchi
Braised octopus, treviso & borlotti beans at polpo
Braised octopus, treviso & borlotti beans
Lamb & mint meatballs at polpo
Lamb & mint meatballs
Flank steak, rocket, parmesan at polpo
Flank steak, rocket, parmesan
Flank steak, rocket, parmesan at polpo
Flank steak, rocket, parmesan
Cured buffalo meats & mozzarella at polpo
Cured buffalo meats & mozzarella
Spinach, parmesan & soft egg pizzette at polpo
Spinach, parmesan & soft egg pizzette
Duck, blood orange & fennel salad at polpo
Duck, blood orange & fennel salad
Prawn & artichoke linguine, bottarga at polpo
Prawn & artichoke linguine, bottarga
Tiramisu pot at polpo
Tiramisu pot
Flourless orange & almond cake at polpo
Flourless orange & almond cake
Cucumber and basil cocktails at polpo
Cucumber and basil cocktails
Rum cocktail at polpo
Rum cocktail

Polpo on Urbanspoon

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  1. Paula

    I’ve been to Venice and although the food was nice, London really does Italian food so much better! I’ve been wanting to go to Polpo, but never had the chance to grab a table :(! Great little review and love the photos.

    • Mehreen A

      Thanks :) I’d love to do a food-centric trip around Italy, will deffo have to plan something which includes Venice. I went to Polpo at around 3pm for late lunch on a Friday, it was really easy getting a table. You might have the some luck doing the late lunch thing on a weekend if you can’t during the week :)

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