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Friday, 30 September 2016

Tuesday Night Testing Polpo

This month we were invited, along with other bloggers and food enthusiasts to sample the newly opened Polpo restaurant on Whiteladies. Situated where Entelia used to be, Polpo describes itself as a bacaro, a Venetian word for a humble restaurant serving simple food and young Italian wines. Basically I think it is quite hard to describe yourself as humble it's for other people to decide really, and to be honest I am not sure whether this fits the brief of the description, for reasons I shall explain shortly.

Polpo opened its first branch in Soho in 2009 and has expanded over the years to eight restaurants, mostly in London but now also one each in Brighton and Bristol. Polpo is the Italian word for octopus and you can get a few dishes of the eight armed creature to sample. The menu is one of small plates to share or keep to yourself depending on how territorial you are about your food choices. I still don't really like small plates but if the food is good I can warm to them, it is a case by case basis for me. Rich and I were welcomed by owner Russell Norman, which was a nice touch. We chose an Aperol spritz to start which is a favourite after honeymooning in Venice in April. We were brought some of their stuffed fried olives to munch on whilst we perused the menu.

The menu is set out in sections such as pizzette, meat, fish, vegetables and also cicheti. Cicheti bars can be found all over Venice serving bite sized snacks to accompany an after work drink or quick lunch. We chose a few more cicheti, more olives, arancini, potato and parmesan crocchette and coppa and peperonata crostini. Polpo have a section for just meatballs so seeing this as a sign we opted for the pork and fennel ones with spaghetti. We also went for a gorgonzola & prosciutto pizzette, some fried gnocchi with rainbow chard pesto and peccorino. 
deep fried olives

With more dishes than arms arriving in front of us we started off with the cicheti. For me the most enjoyable elements of the whole meal were in some of the little snacks we started with. The deep fried olives are something I've never seen before. They are stuffed with anchovy, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, and they are incredible. Easily the best thing Polpo do. I also really enjoyed the arancini - creamy, crunchy and light. The crostini were crisp and topped with roasted pepper, prosciutto, capers and I think ricotta, very tasty indeed. I wasn't totally sold on the crocchette it was a bit like a hash brown with more finely grated potato.
Polpo dishes

On the the 'main' dishes. For £9 you can have three fairly large meatballs of your choice with spaghetti, not exactly a bargain. But I thought for a place that has five varieties of meatballs these have got to be worth it. They weren't. Fennel overpowered the meat I could barely taste any meat flavour at all and the tomato sauce was fairly bland as well. The pizzette had some tasty toppings but the base lacked salt. 
Polpo dishes

Polpo Meatballs

Polpo dishes
Lastly the gnocchi with rainbow chard pesto and pecorino, the gnocchi were soft and potatoey but the pesto was just too oily and flavourless to make the dish stand out. All in all a bit disappointed with the dishes we chose. We decided to finish with a coffee and ricotta doughnuts with cinnamon sugar to share. These were almost raw and doughy inside with a floury taste. It was a shame about how the rest of the meal went because the cicheti were really delicious. In fact I would welcome having a cicheti and drinks bar in Bristol. As it is I find Polpo a little expensive for what you get and the taste isn't quite there. Humble makes me think of homely food at a low price such as your mama used to make and I am not sure that describes Polpo to me.

I think despite this Polpo will be quite popular. It is a fairly well known brand and the location will catch some great after work traffic. Our meal was free of charge but did not impact my opinion. To find out more about Polpo check out their website.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Lucy's 30th Birthday Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

Recently my sister turned 30. To me that is strange to behold. No matter how old she gets I think there will always be that instinct to look after her, that's what older sisters are for right? Anyway Lucy decided that a week long celebration was in order, a series of treats which included; roller disco, home made pizzas and stall seats at Phantom of the Opera.  Before going to the show however Lucy had booked in afternoon tea for two at the Ritz. Intending to take her friend the night before I got a message saying that unfortunately her friend was still recovering and could I jump on a train to London the next day? For my sister, anything. That and tea at the Ritz is one of those things you have to cross off the list, and Phantom is my favourite show.

The Ritz requires dressing up a bit so we scrubbed our faces extra hard and put on a nice dress each. It is as you would imagine inside, lots of gold accents and the tea room has a lot of mirrors, so the light is rather wonderful. Seated at a table for two we browsed the tea menu and once the smartly dressed waiter came round we ordered a pot of chai and a  Russian caravan for me. Dietary requirements discussed, Lu is a vegetarian, we waited for our food to arrive and spent the next few moments marvelling at the surroundings.

The Ritz

Devouring all the sandwiches, which were generously filled. We eyed up which cake to tackle first and got stuck in. Afternoon tea is always more filling than you remember so soon we were almost stuffed to the gills and ready to throw in the towel. However as I plunged my fork into the last cake, the white chocolate coated one in the photo, I realised that this was something special. A hidden passion fruit centre and the softest most delicious dessert I've had in a long time. I urged my sister to sample hers, despite being full.  Happiness ensued from both sides of the table for several minutes. By the time the waiters brought round the cake trolley to offer a slice of one of their specials we had to decline.

Full to the rafters with cake this had certainly been an experience and it was wonderful to have shared it with Lucy. At £50 per person this is probably one of the most expensive afternoon teas out there. But it is one to tick off the list and a happy memory of sisterly time well spent. It is advised to book well in advance for afternoon tea at The Ritz although weekdays are obviously easier to get a slot for than weekends. To find out more visit The Ritz site.