My TV watching seems to fall into two camps: 1) subtitled crime drama 2) food/restaurant programmes. I’m sure these both age me about 30 years in terms of TV profiling. Anyway, the joy of not actually having a working aerial means I am very selective. One of my favourite shows at the moment (falling into the 2nd group), is The Restaurant Man on BBC2.
This features Russell Norman of Polpo/Spuntino/Mishkin’s/The Ape & Bird, giving budding restaurateurs advice. Unsurprisingly many think they (stupidly) know best. Definitely give it a watch – Norman is great, and his knack for opening buzzy, inexpensive and trend-setting places in London is testament to his know-how.
I liked the tale he regaled of his research and obsession into the perfect bar and bar stool height. At the recently re-opened Polpetto (in its new Berwick Street Home), they have natty fold-down metal stools, which I’m sure are his 75cm tall (this kind of attention to detail is definitely key to making great restaurants/bars). The bar area at the front is lovely, with sweet napkin lightshades over the bar top.
There’s a lot more covers on the tables behind than at the tiny original location above The French House (still one of the best pubs in Soho, maybe London, and definitely an institution). Florence Knight is still in the kitchen – do also check out her book published year, One: A Cook and her Cupboard.
Polpetto shares the look and small plate set-up of Polpo, with its own menu. The scallops (£12) were plump and perfectly cooked, on a silky cauliflower puree with a little lardo draped across the top (I think it needs to be used pretty sparingly like this). My favourite dish was written as cavalo nero, anchovy and burnt bread (£7), and was essentially a much better Caesar salad. I love cavalo nero, but have always it cooked more – it’s brilliant way to use, retaining more of its bite.
Whitty pear was new to me - the whitty pear butter with the bacon chop (£9) came as more of a sticky jam, which worked with the smoky meat and walnuts. The game faggot (like a solitary offally meatball), came nestled in celeriac and leeks (£11), and was especially good alongside the bowl of nubbly, earthy lentils (£3.50).
The hare pappardelle (£8) was rich and melting - I am currently compiling my top 5 places for pasta in London, if you have any other suggestions (this bowl could maybe edge its way in). More meat with the bowl of veal cheeks (£10), slow cooked and tender, with white wine and fennel.
We didn’t have any desserts – the waitress said the best (a Maple Tart) had finished, but there’s also fried pecorino (fried cheese will always be extremely tempting). I instead finished with another of the pretty blush rhubarb and rose bellini (£6), which they have on the menu at the moment.
A welcome return for the little (albeit bigger then before) sister of the Polpo family, and I’d like to return at night when it’s more busy. There’s a downstairs too, which you can hire out (good to know if you need a room for 12 or so).