Service maketh the restaurant
You can usually tell within a few minutes if you’re going to enjoy a meal or not. There’re a few indicators that prime you for either delight or disaster. An unsmiling host or hostess; the slightly disgruntled server; a warm glass of water that takes twenty minutes to arrive. While unrelated to the food, these small snubs can ruin an otherwise enjoyable meal.
None of these faux pas awaited us as we were greeted cordially by the hostess, before being seated and quickly served sparkling Peach Bellinis with Frito Misto (that’s calamari, to you and me). The Bellinis were fresh, fruity and awakened the tastebuds; the Frito Misto was delicately seasoned and perfectly crispy.
The menu is a welcome change to now ubiquitous Spanish tapas. With options including spinach, parmesan and soft egg pizzette, spicy pork and fennel meatballs, and Flank steak, Portobello and truffle cream, it’s a mouth-watering catalogue of Venetian delicacies.
A Venetian smorgasbord
We began our Italian feast with an iced Aperol Spritz and fried stuffed olives packed with anchovies. Crunchy on the outside, soft and salty inside, our only question was: why aren’t these served everywhere?
Following the olives, we ordered the chickpea, spinach and ricotta meatballs, coated in a rich and peppery pomodoro sauce. The meat-free meatballs were wonderful - light, moist, and flavourful, and we mopped up every last drop of the sauce with the cheesy bianca pizzette.
The duck ragu, black olives and gnocchi was subtly seasoned with an abundance of succulent duck; however, the sauce was underwhelmingly similar to the one served with the meatballs (hypothesis: sauce was the same, or as close as you can get).
To finish our mains, we were served the cod cheeks and salsa verde on a bed of lentils, along with the zucchini, parmesan and basil salad, which was the perfect accompaniment. The tart salsa verde made the fish dish refreshingly complex, and worked well with the crunchy zucchini.
Sharing the sweet
We ordered a tiramisu to share and each had a glass of Hungarian dessert wine Royal Tajaki, which was served with esse biscuits. The sweet wine was a light way to end the meal, not as heavy as a full dessert but still hitting the spot. Creamy and fluffy, the tiramisu pot was well presented but wasn’t doused in enough alcohol for my taste (which perhaps says more about me than the tiramisu).
Outstanding service and lovingly curated cuisine combined, Polpo is not to be missed. It’s easy to forget you’re in a department store (albeit the swishest in the north), and not tucked away in a Venetian side street. This attention to detail is what elevates a meal to an experience, and Polpo certainly does just that.