Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s Soho small-plate revolution marches on


Whether or not you ‘get’ Polpetto will probably come down to how you feel about the small-plate concept. Crammed into the first floor of The French House, the second of Russell Norman and Richard Beatty’s Soho bacari (for cicheti, think Venetian-style tapas) comes hot on the heels of the wildly successful Polpo and essentially offers more of the same thing. It’s tiny. Under 30 covers tiny (with the largest table seating four – and that a little squeezily). And it works on a first come first serve basis, which means you have to expect to queue. It’s not the worst thing in the world when you can have a drink and watch the assorted Soho types gather, but still...


Aesthetically Polpetto is fab: a mixture of exposed brickwork, modish filament pendant lamps, 19th-century French sconces hanging from the bare walls, polished parquet flooring and classic curved wooden bistro chairs. All very boho chic, in other words – and with the clientele and atmosphere to match. Perfect for a Soho lunch meeting or as a buzzy kick-start to a night out. Not so great for a romantic tryst.


But what about the food? On ELLEuk’s visit it was good and served, in an avalanche of small dishes, by passionate, knowledgeable staff. We went for zucchini fries (which were light and crispy not soggy), grilled sardines (washed down with a couple of glasses of Gavi di Gavi), duck and beetroot salad with walnuts (with deliciously crispy fat and a slightly chilled glass of Sangiovese) and beans and wild garlic. A standout was the warm octopus salad with potatoes – full of flavour and melt-in-the-mouth tender rather than tough as old tires as it can so often be. There was more, too... Only the buttered meatball on a bed of cabbage and capers was disappointing. A little salty after the mountains of food that had preceded it. (That said, if you’d given it to us earlier in the meal, we’d have wolfed it down...) And that’s a key point – despite the small-plate premise, many of the dishes actually do pretty well in the price to portion ratio, so it’s all too easy to over-order. Come full or don’t come at all.

For reservations (lunchtime only) call 020 7734 1969

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The ELLEuk Score

Food: 7

Ambience: 9

Service: 9

Value: 8

Good for: Quick bite after work; pre-theatre; work lunch/dinner

Style of food: Sophisticated French bistro

Prices and Other Details at Polpetto

Address: Upstairs at The French House, 49 Dean Street, London W1D 5BG

Opening times: Mon-Sat 12-3pm (Until 4pm on Saturday); 5.30-11pm

Average price per person for two-course meal without wine: £20

Price of bottle of house wine: £16.20 (or £10.80 for a carafe) – Barbera Volpi 2009 (red) and Cortese Volpi 2009 (white)

Price of glass of house wine: £5.40 (as above)

Price of glass of house champagne: £4.80 Prosecco Dal Bello NV (prosecco)

Price of bottle of house champagne: £28.00 (as above)

Private dining? No

Garden/al fresco dining? No

Bar? Yes. You can (must) have a drink downstairs in The French House while you wait for your table.

Best table? The furthest ones from the door – but you’ll get what you’re given.

Who goes? Food writers and bloggers and Soho media types.

Nearest tube: Leicester Square

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