10 January 2010

A Chilly Day in Soho

Regent's Park was very pretty in the snow--even the London mosque had a white frosting on top--and although the outside temperature was about minus five, after about 15 minutes of running, I began to warm up. we proceeded to Milkbar for a most excellent espresso. After some further wandering, we had a great macchiato and a quick sandwich at the cosy Fernandez and Wells on Beak Street. A successful coffee day, by all accounts!

I've been meaning to go to Polpo since it opened towards the end of last year. It has been touted as a stylish but reasonably priced, tapas-style Italian restaurant with assorted regional specialities. The restaurant was heaving at 8.30 (and even when we left, three hours later) and we had to wait 30 minutes for a table but it was worth it.

I'm no tapas expert and it was hard to know how much food we should order but the waitress assured me we had got it about right. In the past, tapas restaurants would never have worked for me--often, it's hard enough for me to find one thing I like on a menu, let alone several. Polpo had plenty of tasty dishes though. We ordered a pizzetta biancha (small and very thin pizza base with mozzarella and onion) and a couple of the chicheti to start (we each tried a potato and parmesan croquette and the prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella on a toasted bread base), and then ordered two meat dishes (a bresaola and rocket salad and pork belly with hazelnuts and radicchio) and two sides (roast potatoes with rosemary and pumpkin risotto). This proved to be just the right amount of food, although I didn't have room for pudding (I could have been tempted by a different selection of puddings). The wine was decent and reasonably priced too and most of the wines come in half-litre carafes.

When you are ordering lots of small dishes, it's easy to lose track of the total cost and so I was pleasantly surprised when the bill, including wine and service, only came to £45--not bad for a gourmet feast of yummy, small dishes that were rolled out over the course of about 45 minutes, prolonging the dining experience. Even though the restaurant was packed, the service was great too, particularly the maĆ®tre d' (seen in the door on the left of the photo), who kept coming to update us on the table progress every 10 minutes or so.

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