da Polpo, Maiden Lane – Covent Garden

Bacaro number three from the Norman and Beatty juggernaught follows right behind Polpo and Polpetto in serving food you really want to eat on small plates at reasonable prices. Yet again urban brick-chic wins the day, all cagey lights and wooden chairs, A big skylight floods the room in a warm glow and the sun reflects off a shiny red meat slicer on the bar.

A classic shirley temple came complete with glacee cherry, top marks. Wine is served in caraffes and drunk from thimbles.

The menu is laid out the same as at Polpo/Polpetto/Spuntino on a paper place mat and here the food is divided into little things, pizza things, sidey things, bally things, platey things and then sweet things. The bally things and the pizza things are the more exciting and unique things, there is some crossover of  dishes from the other places. 

Ciccheti - potato and parmesan, fishy and fennel

We had a couple of the small things each and at £2ish each a bite they are the most extravagant thing on the menu, and if you are a penny pincher you’d be best avoiding them. A potato and parmesan croccheta was well seasoned and just slightly cheesy, nice but unremarkable. A grilled hunk of fennel and anchovy worked very well, the char bringing out a sweetness in the fennel that complimented the salty anchovy.

Pizzete Bianco

A pizetta bianco was crisp and light and boldly seasoned. Strong molten cheese  held thyme and garlic and onion in place. An intensely moreish six inches.

Asparagus, egg and parmesan

Asparagus with egg and parmesan was a generous portion of fluffy egg on a pile of perfectly roasted spears, finished with plenty of cheese. It could have done with a little more salt and a few twists of pepper. A solid, simple and effective plate of food that dissappeared fast.

Prawns with chilli and garlic (and a squeeze of lemon)

Prawns with chilli and garlic were served on a bed of rocket slowly wilting in the flavoured oil.  It was once again perfectly good food, the prawns heads kindly left in the bowl for those among us who appreciate the flavour of shrimp brain.

Classic meatballs

Classic meatballs were just classic but still better than any other meatball I have had recently. Big and round and meaty, a bit tight on the sauce, it’s really nice and I wanted more.

Not meat - chickpea, spinach and ricotta balls.

Amazingly the spinach, chick pea and risotto balls – ordered for the non meat eating blonde – were excellent. Well balanced, well seasoned and livened up with a gentle finish of lemon. These had more tomato sauce dolloped on top. I would have ordered more but by this time it was 8pm and I fancied getting home to Croydon before midnight.

Cheese, toast, and peas -meh

Deserts seem to be a bit of an afterthought, which is fine by me, the blonde had a vanilla gelato cone which was served in a cone in a glass. I had cheese, something goaty from Neal’s Yard. It was a little bit cold but the accompanying peas in pods were a fun little way to finish.

As mentioned earlier the whole thing took a little bit too long and dishes came a little bit too randomly. We ate on the last night of the soft opening so these little things will I am sure be easily ironed out over the next couple of days.

If you have been to either Polpo or Polpetto then the food at da Polpo will be neither surprising nor remarkable, it is just as good and delivers exactly what the menu suggests. Compared to the other offerings on Maiden Lane, Rules excepted, da Polpo really is the balls.

The nitty-gritty:

Distance from Croydon: 12 miles, a quick cycle really.

A decent feed a large glass of wine and a soft drink set us back £35 but this was a soft opening. Paying full prices you’d be looking at £30 a head. 

No bookings in the evening but you can reserve a spot for lunch.

da Polpo on Urbanspoon


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