We’ve eaten regularly at Polpo founder Russell Norman’s Soho staple since it launched back in 2010.
At the time it was a truly pioneering no-name hole-in-the-wall on Rupert Street, with its distressed tiles, bare bricks, pendant lighting, tattooed staff, eardrum-popping rock and flawless Italian-American Brooklyn diner comfort food: sliders, pizzette, grills.
And the good news is, if you’ve previously been put off by the queues, they’re way shorter these days.
On our last Friday night visit, while the more desirable central counter was all taken by about 7pm, we were able to bag a couple of back spots without waiting. Which we considered a result.
The food is arguably better than ever. In this case, it was the vegetarian dishes that surprised most, just beating the meaty ones in what was in fact a tightly fought contest.A petite zucchini pizzette was a low-rise affair striated with summer mint and the heat of chilli; while a salad of pea and (more mint) yielded the crumbling creaminess of feta.
Best of all was kohlrabi, pecorino, toasted hazelnut and apple – bitter, creamy, crunchy and crisp by turns. Meat-lovers can also get stuck into more-than-decent creamy steak tartare, or melt-in-the-mouth pork belly sliders. And of course the famous truffled egg toast is still on the menu, if you want to get down and dirty. Don’t forget the signature courgette fries.
The dishes are reasonably enough priced too at mostly between £5-7. So, unlike some sharing plates places, you’re not slapped with an eye-watering bill at the end of it all.
Oh, and there’s even a helpful neon sign outside now, should you be planning a visit for the first time. Now that’s progress.