Saturday 9 April 2011
Dylan Jones: 'I'd think twice about coming to Polpetto if you’re having an affair'
Russell Norman and Richard Beatty's restaurant empire is growing at an impressive rate. Last month they opened Spuntino ("Little snack" in Italian) in Soho's Rupert Street, yet another take on the Venetian bacaro, but this time with a New York flourish.
Normally I hate the idea of sharing my food. I remember taking particular exception to Gordon Ramsay's Maze, as the waitresses went to great lengths to tell you exactly how to order – "Now, every dish is meant to be shared, and some are actually quite small so you should make sure you order enough, OK?". The experience reminded me of the old television ad: "Hello, have you ever been to a Harvester before?" (which roughly translates as, "Hello, have you ever been to a restaurant before?").
But in Norman and Beatty's restaurants, the idea seems to work. They opened Polpo ("Octopus") in Soho's Beak Street in 2009, although my favourite is Polpetto ("Small octopus"), which sits precariously above The French House in Dean Street, and which opened last year. The room is fairly unprepossessing, the radiators never seem to work, and if you wear jeans you feel over-dressed. Also, the tables are so close together I'd think twice about coming here if you're having an affair, leaving your job or discussing trade secrets. Oh, and you can't book in the evening, which I've always found faintly ridiculous, like turning up at the airport without having booked a flight (although it's better than Spuntino, which doesn't even have a telephone number).
And yet, and yet... Polpetto serves some of the best food to be found anywhere in London. Lamb and pistachio meatballs, anchovy and chickpea crostini, tiny plates of swordfish, spicy sausages, pork and fennel polpette, pannacotta with grappa-roasted grapes, perhaps finished off with a single espresso and some bay leaf ice-cream. Also, this excellent food is almost unbelievably cheap.
So there we are. Put your shorts on, choose a softly spoken companion and book Polpetto for lunch. And don't say I never share.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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