I forgot to tell you about Polpetto.
I squirrelled away the photos knowing I’d tell you all about my lovely lunch date, and then one thing led to another and now we’re here. But never mind, a little food porn and you’ll easily forgive me. Won’t you?
I met up with hugely talented, fellow foodie of food blog Rachel Phipps at 5pm. That’s right all you late dining Europeans, we ate dinner at the ungodly hour of 5pm. Not ones for queuing and both having Polpetto secured highly on our FBL’s, we agreed to meet at a time surely no sane Briton would arrive for dinner.
And we were right.
We entered Polpetto to find beautifully designed tiled ceilings, worn wooden floors and deep red banquettes encompassing the bacaro, peaceful and undisturbed, save for a few servers chatting around the measured bar top. I say measured because restaurateur and Polpetto owner, Russell Norman, is famously known to measure bars and barstools for optimum height. This fun fact makes my future restaurateur heart flutter.
Polpetto’s kitchen is run by young and seriously talented Head Chef Florence Knight, who obsesses over good quality food and suppliers. Having outgrown their initial space due to popular demand, they shut down shop and regrouped. After a year of hunting for a new location, researching the market and what I can only imagine to be an incredible amount of eating, they chose Polpetto’s new home nestled behind the food market on Berwick Street.
Rachel and I were seated in our own private restaurant and soon greeted with a big glug of beautiful, Italian olive oil to be soaked up with fluffy pieces of focaccia. The good thing about dining with fellow foodies is that no one will dig in before all obligatory food photos have been snapped.
Silent nod to all of you that have indulged my snap happy dining rituals and patiently waited before starting to eat
One last thing before we get to the food. A little disclaimer, if you will.
Chef Knight’s menu focuses on the simplicity of good quality ingredients. If you don’t bare this in mind, you will be underwhelmed and leave thinking you could have whipped up something more exciting at home. Think of Polpetto as providing a thoughtful, simplistic combination of quality ingredients reminiscent to those you would enjoy stumbling upon a hidden cicchetti bar in the backstreets of Venice.
With this said, we started with a tomato.
A perfectly ripe, Sicilian tomato with a glug of that beautiful olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt to really bring out the flavour.
This was followed by a bowl of clams with wild garlic. One of my favourite dishes and another perfect representation of the simplicity that is Italian cooking. I could’ve easily ordered five more portions of this, but instead happily slurped the white wine and garlic sauce with my clam shell whilst waiting for our next dish. A dish I feel I need to prepare you for as it is what the term ‘foodporn’ was made for.
Are you ready?
A beautiful, glistening mound of burrata topped with agretti and finely chopped chilli. Burrata, in case you haven’t met, is mozzarella’s cooler, sexier cousin that captures the room’s attention with style and ease, breaks the boys hearts with a single glance and has everyone at the party laughing at her subtly inappropriate jokes. With the italian name of ‘buttered’, burrata has an exterior shell of mozzarella guarding a luscious centre of mozzarella mixed with cream. The addition of agretti, a mediterranean succulent and chilli cut through the richness of the cheese and left me in a genuine state of bliss. Although this doesn’t enlist much culinary talent, to source such fabulous quality burrata is a skill in its own in my book. Photo opp pre savagery: trying my best to act civilised in front of Rachel and not lift the whole thing with my fork and take a bite.
The scallops with cauliflower purée and slices of lardo was last and I’m sad to say, least. It was good, but that’s about it. The very small scallops were sweet and well cooked, but I wanted more flavour from the cauliflower. The subtlety of the purée and lardo left me wanting more. It was a great dish texturally and I do admire the delicate flavour combination, but it needed just a bit more oomph.
Rachel and I then had a bit of a debate amongst ourselves, deciding whether or not to order all of the desserts on the menu. Don’t give me that look, there were only five. When our server arrived, we composed ourselves with adult-like restraint and instead ordered two desserts to share between us.
This didn’t stop me from being incredibly naughty immediately after, but I’ll tell you about that later.
I initially shied away from the chocolate flan, having had my fair share of it growing up so close to the Mexican border. But my chocolate addiction and some prompting from Rachel drew me in last minute and I couldn’t have been more pleased to succumb to my vice. This was nothing like traditional, gelatine-like flan soaked in booze. This was more like a silky chocolate ganache with a deep chocolatey flavouring cut by tart, cold spoonfuls of créme fraîche. Our other sweet treat was green apple sorbet served with green apple cubes and sultanas soaked in mead. This is the kind of treat you want served poolside on a hot summer’s day scooped high in a gigantic cone. It was smooth and tart with candy-like sweetness, which was balanced by the tangy mead.
At the end of our meal, I snuck downstairs to the open kitchen and other dining room. Chef Knight was there prepping for the night’s service with the rest of her team. I thanked her and the team for a beautifully prepared meal and told her how much I admired such a simplistic, but meaningful menu.
I wonder if you enjoy dining this way as much as I do? A leisurely meal of dishes, presented one after the other to share with a friend or loved one. It’s as if you’re waiting for a surprise that you get to experience together, both visually and in the edible sense. Commenting on flavours, textures and ingredients intermittently between musings. I’d take this form of entertainment over the theatre or afternoon in the park or a festival any day. Combine all four and maybe we’ll talk.
But maybe this is just me! Maybe you’re more the ‘eat to live’ kinda guy/girl. In which case, you’ve probably left the blog in search of some sustenance.
I know, I know. But it says guilt-free? That makes my post dinner, post dessert frozen yogurt piled high with brownies and berries perfectly excusable, right?
I thoroughly recommend a dinner date at Polpetto. I will definitely be back and have since heard I’ve missed out on the genius that is the bacon chop, whitty pear butter and walnuts. If you get there before me, promise you’ll tell me how it is? Pop your thoughts in the comments or send me a tweet @Alessandra_LDN. I don’t bite, I promise.