Polpo, Whiteladies Road: Review

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There’s no doubt that the arrival of Polpo this year was hotly anticipated by many, keen to experience the Venetian bacaro-style restaurant co-owned by Russell Norman and his business partner, Richard Beatty. The 10th restaurant in the Polpo empire to have opened, it’s located in the former home of Entelia on Whiteladies Road, offering seating for 60, plus an additional 20 on the terrace out the front.

On the night of our visit, we dined inside in what truly is a beautiful space: deep red leather banquettes run down one side of the restaurant, while the other is taken over by the bar, which features seating for more casual dining or drinks. On the left, exposed red brick walls; on the right, white brick-shaped tiles which, if we’re completely honest, looked a little dirty. The kitchen’s visible to diners through a hatch at the back, and the lightshades, covering in what appear to be white napkins, are certainly a talking point.

We were showed through to our table and left to peruse the one page menu, which is consistent across every Polpo restaurant, and which sorts dishes into sections based on their primary ingredient. There are no starters and mains here: dishes are designed to be shared so diners can enjoy a greater taste of the dishes that are on offer. We placed our order – including a couple of recommendations from our waitress – and were told that each dish would arrive as and when it was ready.




We began the meal with the stuffed fried olives (£3): two cocktail sticks each skewered with three fantastically meaty green olives. Stuffed with richly flavoured anchovies and deep fried in breadcrumbs, these salty, juicy nibbles certainly whetted our appetite for things to come.




From the cicheti menu, we ordered just one dish: the arancini (£4), their breaded coating flecked through with herbs, and breaking to reveal perfectly cooked rice and a lovely gooey cheese centre.




From the fish menu, the fritto misto (£9) was a little hit and miss. While the prawns, calamari and octopus (and courgette) were all cooked beautifully (there’s nothing worse than rubbery rings of squid), the batter was lacking something – it was incredibly light and nicely crisp, but had very little flavour.




We also ordered the fish cakes (£8) from this section of the menu, with a bowl of wonderfully pungent caper & dill aioli served on the side. While they looked a little overdone, they were lovely: packed full of flaked firm, white fish and with plenty of flavour.




From the pizzette menu we chose the white anchovy and smoked mozzarella option (£7) to share – definitely one of our highlights of the evening. The dough itself was perfect, light and fluffy, while the contrast of the fresh flavour of the anchovies and the smokiness of the cheese worked well.




As there’s a whole section of the menu for meatballs, we couldn’t pass them up – we opted for the lamb and pistachio (£7). We were presented with three huge meatballs in a lovely tangy tomato sauce – the meatballs themselves were beautifully cooked, but the pistachios had disintegrated somewhat while cooking and lost a lot of their flavour.




From the meat menu, we ordered the Milan style chicken (£8): two thin pieces of chicken breast that had been coated in herby breadcrumbs before deep frying and being served with a pungent garlic mayonnaise. While they were lovely – not oily at all – we’re not sure they warranted the price tag.




We decided that we still had space for dessert, and Chris went for the ricotta doughnuts and cinnamon sugar (£3) – they weren’t quite what he expected but he thoroughly enjoyed them. The doughnut batter around the outside was soft and fluffy, and inside, more of a creamy centre flecked through with dried fruit. Combined with the cinnamon sugar on the outside, they tasted just like Christmas.




I’m a sucker for a tiramisu, and wasn’t disappointed by the Polpo version (£5). Served in a small glass, it was everything it should be: the perfect ratio of creaminess to coffee to booze to sponge, with a healthy dusting of cocoa powder dusting the top.




Our desserts were both fantastic, but in all honesty, the rest of the meal was a little too hit and miss for us to want to rush back. The pizzette, stuffed olives, fish cakes and arancini were all fantastic, but the other dishes could have done with some work – especially for the prices that Polpo charge.

If you’ve visited, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.



One Response to Polpo, Whiteladies Road: Review

  1. I went with a friend last week, and I’d agree with you on the dishes we had in common, which luckily for me were the ones you liked! In particular, I’d never had a deep-fried olive before, and I didn’t know my life had been missing up until that point. I agree with you on the excellence of the anchovy pizza and the tiramisu, too. We plumped for the fennel meatballs, which were fab, just enough fennel to shine but not enough to overpower.

    On the whole, I enjoyed the food, but I’m not sure I’d go again, just because it was so hard to hear what my friend was saying. It seems to be one of those places, like The Stable, where harsh acoustics and the way people are crowded in together means I have a real problem making out the conversation. I guess that’s just Polpo’s style—it’s clearly a deliberate choice—and I’m sure most people don’t have my apparent hearing issues, but it’s a definite disadvantage for me. Know anywhere quieter that still does deep-fried olives? 😀

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