Down in Clerkenwell last week for Design Week ’14, we tried out a few of the local eateries which had been on my radar from a food and also design perspective. I enjoyed expert restauranteur Russell Norman in BBC2’s recent The Restaurant Man series and hadn’t yet nibbled at his empire, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out the Venetian bàcaro styled Polpo as there’s one just a few mins from the Farringdon tube as we left CDW2014, starving after a long day.
Capturing the whole industrial vibe rife at the moment, I liked it and suspect he was one of the first to go for a look which is now almost ubiquitous. Rough edged cream ceramic tiles, black and white geometric floor tiles and reclaimed timber tables create a relaxed atmosphere with tin tiles on the ceiling reflecting the teeny amount of light pooled from blown glass wall lights. My favourites were the napkin lights over the bar area, a clever and inexpensive twist on the original Ingo Maurer Delights. Apparently Norman likes the French phrase “jolie laide” which literally means pretty ugly, and this fits his ethos, the delicate fabric and glass provide prettiness in what’s a fairly dark and chipped away at interior. Very relaxed, we didn’t feel at all like we’d just stepped off a busy London street.
The food was good. Simple but effective and authentically Venetian. We’d the broad bean, Ricotta and mint bruschetta which was absolutely delicious & had us both not wanting it to end, determined to recreate it at home. The stuffed olives were a tad pricey at £3 for 4 olives, maybe that’s just the tight Northerner in me. The braised scallops, pancetta and pea dish was excellent, both delicate and hearty & well worth a try, we fought over the last bit of this. The only dish we found wanting & quite bland was the octopus & potato salad, though couldn’t fault the perfectly cooked chunks of meat. Without a blink the waitress offered to change it for another dish & we chose the prawn & artichoke linguine, much preferring it’s juicy moreish flavour. I didn’t get a pic of the ham hock & split pea risotto but it went down so well I’m now under instruction to try that at home too. With a couple of beers and 2 Limoncello martinis, the bills was circa £60 – great value for a lovely atmosphere, friendly staff, top food and lemony cocktails. It was fairly obvious Russell knew what he was on about on’t’telly but great to have it proven in such an enjoyable way.