There was a lot of excited chatter on the interweb about Polpo taking over Yo!Sushi’s spot in Harvey Nichols. Having never lived down south their existence had passed me by. It was those who are frequent enjoyers (or previous enjoyers) of the London food scene who brought them to the forefront of my consciousness.
With my curiosity peaked I took it upon myself to do some ‘research’, I like what I saw. Venetian style tapas, or bacaro to be precise, with some interesting dishes popping up on their Instagram it seemed to be my type of place. I tried to be sneaky and pre-book a table prior to their opening but I was pushed back and told I would need to wait until they opened. Okay I could be patient.
Then we decided to buy a house and it all went tits up as all our money drained in to a money sewer called ‘solicitor/mortgage/survey fees’ followed shortly by needing all our dosh to for things to sit on in and sleep on in said house.
Therefore it was until recently that I managed to sneak out of the money pit we now call home and visit with two friends to have a pre-birthday celebration. By this point it is worth noting that I had spoken to several food lovers (bloggers and non-bloggers) who had given me a bit of a mixed review, but still I needed to judge it for myself.
We popped in straight from work about 5.50pm on a Thursday evening. It was dead. There was literally no one but the staff in there. I thought Thursday was the new Friday? Where was everyone? Although a few more people turned in around 6.30pm it was still pretty scant for one of Leeds’s newest restaurants, had it not have been for the party of 8 also dining I doubt they would have covered the costs to be open.
The menu is laid out on sheets of paper, not very original and often replicated in many tapas restaurants with the reasoning that should you want more you the menu is there with you throughout the meal being your place mat. The menu is split in to cicheti, meat, pizzetta (mini pizza to you and me), breads, meatballs, salads and fish. The descriptions of the choices are sparse and often what we ordered came with much more than advertised, it led to very hit and miss menu choices and I didn’t feel very informed to make the right decisions.
I ordered the pork and fennel meatballs, the arancini and the pork and pickled peppers pizzetta. I wasn't planning on blogging about this meal therefore the pictures are of lower quality than normal as they were taking with my humble iPhone.
Who knew what the arancini was with so little description on the menu (literally just said 'arancini') I took the gamble and ordered it as I've never had an arancini I didn't like. The arancini arrived split, it was relatively dry and not packed with as much flavour as I'm used to in the likes of Bottega, but then again their arancini is ten times the size too.
The pork and fennel meatballs were fine as far as meatballs go, I could taste the fennel and the pork and the sauce was nice too. Whether the meatballs were marinated in the sauce as they were cooked, well I'd hazard a guess and say they're not as there was no seeping of sauce through to the insides of the meatball. It’s likely to be personal preference but this is how I make my own meatballs I find them much less dry this way.
The pizzetta was described as pork and pickle peppers, in reality it was salami and jalapenos, I don’t know why they couldn’t just call it this? It was good with some nicely cured meat, the base was thin and crispy but again it wasn’t much to rave about.
My fellow diners also opted for meatballs including the lamb and pistachio; the classic meatballs. In addition to this they also had the zucchini salad, chilli prawns and flank steak. Plates were brought to the table as and when ready, unfortunately this meant I got all my dishes first and J all his dishes last.
J’s food looked the best out of all of our meals, the flank steak and the chilli prawns clearly being winning options (sorry no pictures!) and if I was to return I’d be inclined to try them myself.
We shared a bottle of red between the three of us, with the house red (the wine isn’t cheap, don’t judge us too harshly) out of stock they kindly let us have the next one ‘up’ for the same price. It was lovely but I would have preferred a wine glass to a beaker in which to drink it.
We weren’t left feeling overly full and so dessert was on the cards. Dreaming back to Venice and the beautiful Gelato D and I had tried there I was excited to have more of the same in Polpo. When we enquired about which flavours were available my excitement suddenly dwindled, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate. Surely they could have sourced more exotic flavours than this? Perhaps a limoncello flavour such as the one I had in the Jewish ghetto which was the highlight of all the gelato I ate in Venice, Croatia and Slovenia… I was even more disappointed when my chosen gelato of strawberry arrived in a cone slotted in to a glass. Is this the best they could do?
There’s something not quite right about it being located in Harvey Nic’s and I suspect that might be half the problem. You literally step from polished department store to rustic (replica) restaurant with fake brick work with a less polished feel. It’s almost as if it needs to find its own listed building to create the feel it’s trying to achieve. You’re easily snapped out of the rustic feel when you pop to the loo Harvey Nic’s loos and back in to department store land (although granted the loos are much nicer than those you’ll find in the likes of Debenhams and House of Fraser). I’ve heard rumours they are to move soon; personally I think it is probably best and best done sooner rather than later.
If they’re going to remain being elusive with their menu items I’d hope they invest in some staff training too, help me choose, describe what I can have, let me know what the best dishes are, don’t leave me to be disappointed… or perhaps another idea is to make all of your dishes outstanding, you’re paying a premium price to dine here after all.
The meal for the three of us, four dishes each including dessert and a bottle of wine to share, was just under £100.