Polpo is the Italian word for octopus. On a visit to Venice in 2008, Russell Norman was eating an octopus salad and thinking it would be a fun name for a restaurant. It was in this moment he decided to open his own restaurant in London: Venetian cicchetti (small snacks) adapted for metropolitan sensibilities. He got a tattoo of an octopus on his back, and POLPO was born.
Throughout the two years I lived in London I never came across of POLPO. I first heard this name when I was living in San Francisco – browsing the markets at the Ferry Building (as I often did), I spotted the most beautifully bound hardcover book. Clay in colour, with a gold embossed title and a stonewashed octopus on the front, I was enamored.
With no hesitation I added it to my ever-growing book collection and spent the weekend scrolling through the recipes – it’s a pastime of mine to spend hour on hour admiring the meals, yet I rarely take the plunge into chef-mode myself.
Fast-forward a year, and I was finally back in London. POLPO was on the top of my list of spots to visit, and it didn’t disappoint. Nowadays there are nine restaurants now throughout (and close-to) London – I tried the one in Chelsea which is located on Duke of York Square. Sitting outside was lovely, modestly buzzing and the service was great.
Italian food is my achilles, and here it is exceptionally tasty and fresh. As Norman describes it, the menu at POLPO is made with minimal ingredients – there is no show-off cooking or complex technical artistry.
Potato & Parmesan crocchette 4
Artichoke & speck crostini 4
Spinach, Parmesan & soft egg 8
Green olive, white anchovy & basil 7
Fennel salami & ricotta 8
Classic beef & pork 6
Spicy pork & fennel 6
Lamb & pistachio 7
Octopus carpaccio, fennel, chilli & dill 8
Crab & chilli linguine 8
Cuttlefish, ink risotto & gremolata 8
Milan style chicken 7
Warm duck salad, beetroot & pickled walnuts 9
Lamb neck, white beans & mint 9
VEGETABLES & SALADS
Fennel, almond & curly endive salad 5
Asparagus, lemon dressing & Grana Padano 7
Zucchini, Parmesan & basil 5
Tiramisù pot 5
Nutella pizzetta 6
Aperol sorbet 4
Panna cotta, Campari & rhubarb 5