Going out for a meal with friends can sometimes be an exercise in compromise. Some friends may have dietary requirements, others dislike certain cuisines or foods, some may be on a budget. That's part of life, unless you enjoy being a "Billy-no-mates". I don't fancy going to restaurants alone, so it's something I have to live with.
If you love your food and have no boundaries on the cuisines you are prepared to try, and a wide scope of food cultures you love, sometimes that compromising can get a bit, well, dull. I like Pizza, but don't want it all the time, for example.
So it is always a treat to go out with a fellow broad minded food fan.
My friend and I exchanged a few emails to think through where we wanted to go. I happened to let it slip that many of the incredibly popular London restaurants which do not allow reservations I've wanted to visit for a long time, but no one else ever wanted to come with me. I gave her the list. Turns out, a few appealed and we were in business!
In the end, we settled on Polpetto. We had both heard good things about the food, the menu was varied and it was well located for both of us to get home, a real factor since we live at diametrically opposite sides of the city.
Because of the no reservations policy, we arrived at 6:25pm. We were shocked to find only 4 other diners. "Looks a bit dead", my friend said. We hoped it wasn't a sign of falling standards. A fall in popularity, we could take. We are not slaves to fashion.
One clear advantage of the place being pretty empty was we were shown to a very pleasant table with effectively our own little cubicle. Great for the long chinwag that we fully intended to have. Some of London's very contemporary restaurants have forgotten that conversation and company are massive elements of the dining out experience. Too many have music on too loud or where the sound of other people's voices bounce around creating a deafening, perpertually echoing cacophony.
We found that the place filled rapidly after our arrival. Within 20 minutes, the place was rammed. For early on a mid week evening, that's good going. We realised our fears may have been premature.
My foodie friends and I enjoy a communal experience when eating out and always share the spoils. None of this your dish/my dish divide.
We decided to begin with seafood flavours. The crab and purslane linguine (£8) was a diminutive plate, slightly smaller than starter size. The linguine was cook very al dente, perhaps the least "cooked" of any pasta dish I have ever had. For the type of pasta and its accompaniments, it worked well. The pasta was drizzled with a little olive oil and we enjoyed the combination of sweet crab, strong herb and gritty textured pasta.
The octopus and beans (£9) was a rustic and very pleasant combination of dressed beans and lightly grilled octopus. The herby dressing added flavour and subtlety to the beans. I would like to make further observations about the dish, but we scoffed it far too quickly! It went by in a very lovely blur.
We then moved on to the meatier dishes. The lamb pappardelle pasta (£9) had a light coating of sauce and garnish of good quality freshly grated parmesan. The pasta was al dente, but with a little more "give" than the linguine. The lamb was wonderfully slow cooked, yielding and tasty. Another piece of the lamb in the dish would have gone down a treat!
The plum pork belly (£9) had ultra crunchy crackling rolls, which we speculated may have been fried. The broth at the bottom was full of character. The pork, tender, and delicate. Sometimes pork belly can disappoint, particularly when the fat is too thick and slimy, but there was nothing of the sort here. We managed to share this dish equally, which I maintain is a sign of the strength of our friendship and decency, since it was a small dish both of us could easily have polished off alone.
Wine here at Polpetto can be a little pricey, but we found the carafe of house white (Garganega) was perfectly acceptable and a bargain at £12.
One small quibble would be the service. Don't get me wrong, our waiter was charming and kind. He had a smile like sunshine. The other two staff who also assisted us were polite and pleasant. But they seemed overwhelmed. As I have mentioned, the restaurant was full mid week. Cutlery was forgotten, used plates were slow in being replaced and there was an air of confusion. Given how young and beautiful the front of house staff were, we rather fancied that they were drama students and rock stars in waiting, paying their bills before being discovered. It didn't spoil our experience, given how completely polite and sweet everyone we dealt with had been, we took it in good humour, and we did receive apologies.
All in all we had an enjoyable time, Polpetto's food whilst unfussy is very good. We like the seasonal menu, which is changed regularly, Summer dishes being the order of the day on our visit. Polpetto, although a smallish restaurant has a buzzing and vibrant atmosphere.
Snigdha and her friend paid for their meal at Polpetto with a combination of plastic and cash.
11 Berwick Street
020 7439 8627
11 Berwick Street
020 7439 8627