I wouldn’t have imagined, in a million years, that walking up the red staircase adorned with the history of the French since 1914 in this iconic pub in Soho, I would find this small–yes, very small–Italian eatery Polpetto, the little brother of Russell Norman’s bacaro-style restaurant Polpo on Beak Street, led by Tom Oldroyd, ex-Head Chef of Bocca di Lupo. The dining room was stark and small–the size of my living room, really!–could seat 28 diners–they operate a first-come-first-serve, no-reservation policy at dinner. And it got packed very quickly!
It didn’t take long for the food I ordered to fly onto my table. These, however, were not massive plates. Polpetto, like Polpo, specialised in small portion dishes called osteria, traditional of Italian wine bars. My dishes of Polpetti (Baby Octopus in Vinegar) and Pork&Porcini Meatball were alright. I found the pickled octupi a little too vinegar-y and thought I should have been informed by the server that there was only one piece of meat ball per order! The meatball, on their defence, was tender and very meaty with adequate aroma of the porcini coming through.
Next I had this Pizzetta Bianca, a mini-pizza with a thin layer of cheese and finely sliced red onion toppings on a crispy base. It was pleasant, more like a bread dish than a pizza dish.
The “main” courses of Cuttlefish in its Ink, Gremolata and Rabbit, Apricot & Sage Terrina were hit and miss. I loved the devilish-looking cuttlefish cut into thick strips, very bold in flavours, and the texture of these cooked-to-perfection cuttlefish strips was out of this world. The gremolata of zesty lime and chopped parsley made this dish intriguingly refreshing
The rabbit, on the other hand, did not do much for me. Though I found the meat tender and the sweetness of the apricot piercing through nicely, the terrine itself was far from being well-proportioned. There was too much gelatin, actually almost as much as the meat, which took away the gamy taste of the rabbit itself. Also when eaten with the mini-gherkins, I could hardly taste the rabbit.
Moving on to my dessert of Flourless Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake, I began to stir. The chocolate cake was so dark and moist. The chopping hazelnut added crunch to this decadent gooey-ness. It was definitely the dish I would love to come back for.
The bill came down at about £35 pounds, inclusive of service, though I didn’t get any wine. I must say, I found the meal lacking in satisfaction. I would probably pay the same amount of money at Barrafina, felt fed and a lot happier. Also, once Polpetto got packed, I found myself reluctant to eat. Let’s say, if my belly expanded over the course of the meal, I wouldn’t be able to squeeze myself through the clustered chairs and tables to make my exit!
My head rating says, “7 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “5 out of 10″.
First Floor at the French House
49 Dean Street
Tel. 0207 734 1969
NOTE: Is it not against the health and safety regulation to have these many people tucked into this very tiny dining room?