For four years (until 2012), I worked in Notting Hill, walking every day down the high street. Now when I return to that area, I notice all the little changes, shops that have closed and new restaurants that have opened. So when Jorge and I took a walk on Sunday, we were excited to see that a brand new Polpo had opened the last weekend in May in the place of an old All Bar One chain.
We had both been to the Soho branch on separate occasions and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere there, so I guess we had high hopes. Unfortunately, though the staff were lovely, this branch didn’t quite live up to our expectations.
The decor had a down-to-earth, industrial chic vibe which worked in some ways. The quirky lamps hanging over the bar and the cool distressed ceiling stood out, but it was a bit too dark on the end far from the windows, the tables are tiny for a restaurant that recommends sharing three tapas per person. Perhaps because of the previous use of the building, it maintained a tad bit of that chain atmosphere that can’t be helped in a big open space. The Soho branch is much more intimate.
We both ordered drinks with elderflower. Jorge’s was really tasty (elderflower, ginger beer, lemon). Mine was too sour and a bit watered down (green tea, mint, apple, elderflower).
Then came the food. Both of us were impressed by the first dish – heritage tomato panzanella. It was like a solid version of gazpacho with a great mix of textures and flavours, big chunks of fresh tomatoes and bits of bread.
Maybe it was because we ate something so flavourful first, but what came next – the zucchini, parmesan and basil salad – tasted a bit bland. It was good, and healthy, just a bit boring.
The third one we actually sent back to the kitchen. It’s the first time we’ve ever sent something back to the kitchen. It was grilled lamb, caponata and basil. It was a shame because it looked delicious when it arrived, but cutting into it, the meat was nearly all fat and inedible.
Last, we tried the veal and porcini meatballs. The sauce was tasty, but the texture of the meatballs themselves were an odd mix of airy and mushy and were a bit too reminiscent of a school lunch.
As always, we finished with dessert. I ordered the strawberry and basil panna cotta which was a nice mix and end to the meal.
Jorge ordered the chocolate salami, but they accidentally brought him raspberry and ricotta cannoli instead. He let them know, they apologised and kindly said to keep it while they brought the chocolate as well. Both were okay.
Likes: The friendly, good-natured staff, some of the industrial decor details, the elderflower, ginger beer, lemon drink and the heritage tomato panzanella.
Dislikes: Most of the food. The green tea, mint, apple, elderflower drink. The fact that we sent something back to the kitchen for the first time ever. The lack of intimacy that makes the Soho branch appealing.
The Verdict: Disappointing. It’s a shame as we would recommend the Soho branch based on previous experiences. Perhaps this one is experiencing growing pains as it’s so new?