Great review - and before the restaurant has even properly opened, too!
Covent Garden, London
6 Maiden Lane, London WC2E 7NW
- Covent Garden Tube Station (0.3 km)
- Charing Cross Tube Station (0.3 km)
- Contact us:
020 7836 8448
270 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 2UQ
“We are handily located in the boutique end of Upper St near Highbury Tube station. The area is a perfect fit for us with lots of independent shops full of character such as Montes Deli, Sefton & the Wine Sampler. There is a real community spirit here...” more...
5 reviews of da Polpo in English
Da Polpo is the fourth outpost from restaurateur Russell Norman and closer to the Beak Street original in size and atmosphere than the middle, smaller two. The bare walls, industrially salvaged furniture and fittings and dim lighting remain a common theme. I’m beginnning to think that Norman has shares in one of the reclaimation companies, or alternatively is manufacturing former industrial shabby chic from scratch, extruding it out by the roomful in a dark pit of indentured workers somewhere in a former Soviet state.
The service is bright, funky and considerably more tattooed than yours truly, the sparse and snacky drinks and food menus appears on clipboards and as artfully recycled placemats and even at 9:30 on a wet and windy Wednesday they still having trouble seating you. So far, so fair for another Norman conquest.
We arrived and grabbed a seat at the downstairs bar which meant we got to eat sooner, though did leave us feeling like we were in an East German factory canteen. The lighting is low, the murmur was loud but the smell from the kitchen was divine… Perched at the battered zinc bar (another division in the owner’s manufacturing empire no doubt) we kicked back with an Aperol spritz and perused the familiar menu.
We went on recommendation in the end, a selection from the different sharing plates littering the list, happy enough to chat and take the suggestions of the cool but knowledgable staff. Starting and finishing with rounds of arrancia, little hot shotputts of risotto rice round a molten mozzarella core, fried with a crisp toothsome breadcrumb crust. Textbook examples of a relatively simple bar snack, you’d be slightly pissed if you queued an hour for one, but better than a rather plain chicken liver crostini, too much pate with that drying sensation of the meat left it a little cloying in the mouth, less would have been more here.
The nearest to a main in size was a shared plate of Frito Misto, seafood selection (in reality 95% of it was prawns, calamari and whitebait) competently deep fried, maintaining the integrity of the fish without being doused in oil, though oddly served without an aoili to cut through the crumb. It may be authentic, but the lemon wedge didn’t do enough to lift it from dryness. Better still was the pork shoulder pizzette, one of 6 or 7 baby pizzas, a smear of rich pasata covering the small, crisp base with thin slices of smoky marbled shoulder, all cut through with piquant peppers. Having eaten similar recently, cooked by a local Italian mama from a pizza oven facing the open air, I can attest to the authenticity of these little plate shaped platters of goodness.
Like the other branches, the meatballs are excellent. Not afraid to bring up the accompanying herbs, fennel in the case of the ones we went for, they’re punchy cannonballs of well seasoned meat. the seasoned tomato sauce a great accompaniment and, after another round of those arrancia (OK, maybe they are worth waiting for when served hot and fresh, dripping with mozz) we stumbled off into the night.
So is anything really different to the other branches of the ‘chain’? And does it matter when the quality is high enough? While there’s an element of Norman by Numbers about Da Polpo, for the neighbourhood (deepest, darkest touristic Covent Garden) it’s nice to have another option in the area, though by the time you’ve waited for a table, there’ll be another one along to take the crowd.
no queue like spuntino as there’s loads of space and delicious menu of small pizzas, meatballs and other things. ordered an assortment of meatballs but my fave were chickpea spinach ones. ended up here cos i couldn’t be bothered queuing up for the other restaurants in the polpo family and loved it m8
Da Polpo in Covent Garden is the newest addition to the Polpo, Polpetto and Spuntino family of small/sharing plate eateries founded by the restaurateur Russell Norman. The concept is ingenious and has taken London by storm. No booking, bustling atmosphere, well prized small dishes to share and a different theme to each of the restaurants. While Spuntino serves fun and delicious American food, Polpo and Polpetto specialize on Venetian dishes. While there is overlap between the menus, Da Polpo has a clear focus on meatballs. I mean a restaurant for meatballs? How cool is this?
While I enjoyed the food, it was not a culinary epiphany. What makes da Polpo special and certainly will make me return, is the atmosphere. You wouldn’t go there for a romantic date but I don’t think there is a better place to catch up with your girlfriends while sisterly sharing the plates as they arrive one after the other and getting comfortably tipsy on aperol spritz, cocktails or the cheap but very decent house wine.
Not everything went absolutely smoothly at da Polpo on my visit, but considering that it has just opened these things are easy to forgive and will probably iron out over time.
For example I don’t like being served French baguette and having it presented as ‘focaccia’. But well, it was free and I really enjoyed the creamy ricotta dip it came with.
We tried 2 dishes of the ‘Cicheti‘ (small dishes) section. I thought the Arancini (2.5), fried rice balls, were excellent, fluffy and light with the aromatic flavour of thyme. The other cicheto we tried was a joke actually, one little piece of fennel with a tiny sardine for 2 pounds seemed really bad value for money, especially considering that it didn’t convince tastewise either.
Grilled Fennel and White Anchovy (2)
The there came the meatballs. I have to admit I am not terribly keen on meatballs in general, but the da Polpo ones were very good. The Lamb and Mint Meatballs (5) were excellent while the Chickpea, Spinach and Ricotta (4.5) ones were drowned in so much tomato sauce that I have no idea how they actually tasted. I would have preferred them with a lighter sauce, maybe just with some butter or olive oil and some parmesan.
Superb was the Zucchini, Chili and Mint Pizzetta (6). The thin, light and crusty base was covered by thin slices of zucchini and generously sprinkled with olive oil, mint and loads of fresh chili. The hot not the decorative sort. I would go back for this dish alone. The Chili and Garlic Prawns (6.5) which we ordered as da Polpo had run out of the highly praised fritto misto were totally indistinct and forgettable.
Lamb and Mint (5) and Chickpea, Spinach and Ricotto (4.5) Meatballs
Zucchini, Chili and Mint Pizzetta (6)
Garlic and Chili Prawns (6.5)
The dessert menu didn’t read terribly exciting but there was one dish that just screamed ‘Try me, Try me’ and this was the Nutella Pizzetta (5.5). Nutella is one of my all time guilty pleasure and just please never leave me alone with a full jar of it! The base was the same as for the savoury pizzette and the slightly salty taste went heavenly with the sweet and chocolaty nutella. Finished off with some hazelnuts on top this was a very moreish dessert indeed. Disappointing was the other dessert we tried. The tiramisu (4.5) was just bland.
Most people whose da Polpo reviews or comment I read complaint about the loud music and so did my dinner companions. I loved it though and for me the music certainly contributed to how much I enjoyed my evening there. But of course not everyone might be equally pleased with e.g. a rarely played David Bowie song…
Overall I preferred the food at Spuntino, it was certainly more ‘special’, but da Polpo is the place you want to spend a whole evening at. Ordering and eating and drinking and ordering more until you leave, happy and drunk.
For photos please refer to
I haven't even made it to Russell Norman's third baby when in a blink of an eye, the fourth sibling is born. I finally made it to the third baby Spuntino and the next day it was Da Polpo.
It was a catch up with some food bloggers and we found ourselves heading to Da Polpo on the second day of its soft opening for lunch. I had such a great time that I dragged my workmate with me back for lunch again the next day. Below is a combination of what was eaten in the two lunches.
Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper £6
I like the contrast of the pork with the pickled pepper. The base was thin and crispy which sits well and you won't feel weighed down eating this.
Spinach, parmesan and soft egg £5.5
One of the highlights for me. This is served in Polpo as well and made its way into Da Polpo too. Since I have not been to Polpo, this was my virgin experience and I absolutely love it. The softness of the spinach went really well with the barely-there texture of the egg, with the parmesan rounding out the balance nicely. I could not help gushing about this to Russell when he passed by.
Spaghettini & meatballs £7
We got a mix of the lamb and mint and pork meatballs. Freshly made meatballs, the lamb has a heavier and heartier taste. The spaghettini was chewy and springy on the first day I had it, on the second day it was overcooked and a tad too soft.
Piadina meatball smash £8
I prefer the pork meatball in this as it was lighter in flavour which allowed the sauce and thin crispy xxx to shine through as well. I almost wished that the piadina was thicker as it seems to have lost its presence between the sauce and meatballs.
Chilli & garlic prawns £6.5
This was good but unassuming.
Grilled asparagus, buttered eggs & parmesan £7.50
I like this one. Nice crunchy asparagus that tasted of fresh spring, the creaminess of the buttered eggs complemented it well with a savoury hint from the Parmesan.
Fritto Misto £8
Nicely fried with no aftertaste of oil or greasiness. This was enjoyed very much.
Grilled thin cut sirloin £8.5
Thin cut it may be but tender and juicy it was.
Mozarella & Broad Beans £9
This had a fresh and clean taste.
Tiramisu pot £4.5
I am really particular with tiramisu and Da Polpo's version may not be the best but still good nonetheless. Only critic I had was the sponge fingers at the bottom was too soggy.
Black cherry Gelato cone £4
Being served a scoop of gelato in a cone and presented in a glass brought a smile to my face. It instantly brought me back to feeling like a kid. With the sun rays glistening against my black cherry gelato, I took my cone and happily ate it. Apparently this and the coconut flavours are popular.
A great addition to have in Covent Garden, this is hearty food set against a rustic decor which allows the sun to shine in. Much more lovely and definitely a great place to soak in the scarce sunshine in summer.
And if you’re looking for something refreshing and zingy, try the MGM.
For pictures, please go to http://chopstix2steaknives.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-havent-...
Another restaurant from Russell Norman, the man behind Polpo, Polpetto and Spuntino, this time in Covent Garden.
Having found out that they were going to open 3 days earlier than planned and offer 50% on those days I quickly booked a table for a late lunch. Lunch requires a booking but if you're going for dinner no reservation is required but be prepared that it might be completely packed.
Seating 70 da Polpo feels a lot bigger than its cousins. Spread across two floors it has two counters to sit around in addition to the tables. Interior wise it reminds me of Polpo a lot. Light and airy interior.
The menu is mostly about pizzettas and meatballs. The pizzettas are recognisable from the other restaurants. I decided to try the bianca, this was probably the highlight for me, lovely thinly sliced onion on a thin very well made mini pizza and the pork shoulder and pickled pepper one which had some really nice tender pork and pieces of chilli peppers with a mere hint of spiciness.
In the meatball section were a few different flavours such as the classic beef and pork, spicy pork and fennel and lamb and mint. There is also the piadina option which can be served with any of the meatballs that you want. Deciding on the classic beef and pork ones the piadina came out nicely crispy but not too hard or dry with a filling of meatballs and tomato sauce. This could easily had been heavy or soggy but was very nice and light.
Next dishes were from the plates section. The grilled asparagus with buttered eggs and parmesan had a wonderful grilled flavour with a bit of saltiness coming from the parmesan. This is a dish I will definitely have again without hesitation. The thin-cut sirloin on the other hand was the let down of the meal. Very tender, it seemed to lack seasoning and really needed something extra, perhaps some sauce, to really bring it together.
The fennel, curly endive and almond salad was very light but just slightly oily. Nice as a contrast to the other dishes though.
Remembering the 50% off it felt necessary to squeeze in one last dish before moving on to dessert. Feeling finished with the meatballs, greens and pizzettas it was time to have some seafood. Garlic and chilli prawn it was. Within a few minutes came a small bowl with prawns on top of a few leaves of green with lots of garlic and a chilli heat to the oil it was cooked in. One of the better dishes if you like seafood.
The desserts includes the excellent tiramisu and a very nice but too small affogato.
In conclusion, da Polpo may not bring much new to the formula but it does it very well so I can't really complain.
alexsheppard, 31 May 2011:
raistlyn, 31 May 2011:
Ha! Beat me to it. I'm a tad upset now. I was their first paying customer! Would have been nice to be the first Qype reviewer too. :P
ErikME, 31 May 2011:
@raistlyn You can have the next one ;)
sarahdrinkwater, 2 June 2011:
Wow!! Erik, I love your reviews - you have me drooling at my desk...
Write your review of da Polpo
Places nearby da Polpo
Your bookmark has been removed
Your bookmark has been saved
Did you know?
You can access your bookmarks from our mobile apps!
From now on, we'll make sure you get updates about this place.