I was delighted when I got a table for the opening weekend of Polpetto. Despite recommending it to many people, I'd never actually made it to sister restaurant Polpo (queues were always too long on the few occasions I tried), but had heard so many good things about it, that I was genuinely excited to get a table.
We turned up promptly at noon and my expectation levels were high, possibly too high, as the meal that followed although good, never hit the heights that I hoped for.
Two of the friends I was dining with had been to Polpo the week before and had this to say about Polpetto:
"After having been blown away by Polpo the weekend before, we were both really looking forward to being amongst the first to try Polpetto. The menu was as varied and authentic as Polpo, and the service was of the same relaxed, but high standard.
"However, there was something missing and I am struggling to put my finger on what that something was. Maybe it was the fact that some of our favourite dishes from the week before were missing, maybe it was the small room that lacked atmosphere. Whatever that magic ingredient is, Polpo has it and Polpetto is still searching for it"
On to the food and rather than reviewing every dish, I've chosen some of the highs and lows from the menu.
My favourite dishes:
My favourite dish by far was the pigeon saltimbocca. Two beautifully plump pigeon breast wrapped in prosciutto. The pigeon was cooked perfectly and it was a carnivores delight.
Ham hock and parsley terrine was very moreish. It was bound with wholegrain mustard and the salty ham hock worked well with it. It was served with an egg mayonnaise, which I didn't try (I'm not an egg lover), but Marie (dining companion) raved about.
Stracchino (the white creamy cheese in the picture), fennel salami and fig bruschetta was simple, but delicious. The bruschetta hadn't been toasted (which was a good thing) and the sweet figs, mild creamy cheese and salami worked really well together.
The not so good ones:
To be fair to Polpetto it was the soft opening and pictures I've seen elsewhere seems to back my view up that we didn't see the best of the following dishes:
The sliced flank steak was very disappointing. It had been cut too thinly and the pieces were dry and overcooked with little flavour. I'm putting this down to an opening error as when you compare our dish to this photo on Greedy Diva's review, then you can see the difference.
The tomatoes in the panzanella were lovely, but there was a distinct lack of bread - the main component of the dish. You can see all three pieces in the photo above! Again, check out the photo at Gourmet Chick to see how it is meant to look.
Desserts were pretty good. I enjoyed my creamy, rich pannacotta. The vanilla really came through and the tang from the berries cut through the sweetness.
Grace enjoyed her cherry and almond tart though she didn't think it was as good as the one she'd had at Fish & Grill recently.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable lunch. Service was informal, but attentive and with the 50% off it was a bargain. As I said at the beginning, I had such high expectations that perhaps Polpetto was never going to wow me, but the food is undeniably good. It's the sort of informal, casual restaurant that should be the norm in London, but sadly isn't.
Would I go back? Yes, but I'd want to try Polpo first and I couldn't see myself queueing an hour for a table!