When I tweeted that I was in London and needed restaurant recommendations during a travel chat, many great options were suggested. As I was staying at The Rosewood London in Holborn, one option suggested, Polpo Covent Garden, a short walk away. I did a quick read of the restaurant’s menu online and deciding that the small plate concept, intimate space and dessert options seemed perfect, I set out to find Polpo.
Walking through the courtyard filled with people dining at the many restaurants, I wasn’t quite sure which exit to take and had to stop to ask. Luckily, I was pointed in the right direction and with a quick right found the street – Maiden Lane. There isn’t much to see outside – a small sign, lace curtains in the windows surrounded by green and a menu- it’s easy to miss on a walk by.
This is the point that most solo diners dread (at least I do), opening the door and standing there alone waiting for the host/hostess to greet you. It is during this time, I scan the restaurant to get a lay of the land as they say. It was small and packed with people on a Tuesday night which surprised me. I was quickly scooped up by an energetic server and led to the bar as it was a busy night and the bar was the only option at the time (no reservations for dinner and the bar is first come, first serve). I could have waited for a table or counter space but I was hungry and the bar was my only option.
The bartender was kept busy throughout with drink orders and handles the bar patrons (about ten seats). The menu is printed on the placemat and is served in small plates. They suggest two small plates per person to start as you can always order more.
The restaurant is Italian, serving simple foods and young wines per the website. If this is “simple” food sign me up! The varied options are sure to make any foodie (or picky eater) happy. I ordered Meatballs (you get a choice of beef, & pork or spicy pork with fennel) & Spaghettini (£9) with a side of focaccia bread (£3) with olive oil. The wine choice was a bit tricky as I was torn between two – the bartender gave me samples of both to help me decide (nice touch!), I chose the House Red (£6). Wine is served in little rocks glasses so no swirling your wine here.
My bread came out first and I inhaled it as it was dusted with sea salt (and I was pretty hungry). As you can see, it is three nice sized pieces.
The spaghettini/meatball portion was actually a good size in my opinion (no sharing required) and I’m glad I made it my entree. As I’m picky about meatballs – these were the right blend of beef & pork with spices.
Of course, I had to have dessert – again I was torn between panna cotta (my favorite) and the flourless orange & almond cake. Sadly this time no free samples. I despise (yes, harsh) basil on my pizza so I couldn’t imagine it in my dessert so I chose the cake (£6).
Polpo, Covent Garden, was very friendly to the solo diner, offering a few seating options – bar, counter, table – all depends on how long you want to wait. It is a popular restaurant as it was busy on both nights I visited – Tuesday & Thursday. The decor and vibe of the restaurant are modern and comfortable albeit a bit noisy with a full house. Despite the touristy nature of Covent Garden (hello Shake Shack!), the folks I spoke with at the bar were local Londoners. The service was attentive and the food served quickly – since it is small plates, they come out when ready so be prepared to graze all the yummy foods. It really doesn’t matter how it is served, you will probably eat it all like I did anyway.
The total bill including service was £27 and at my 1.71 fx rate came to be about $46 which, for London, is a fantastic dinner deal in my opinion. With so many options starting at £3, you can mix and match your way to a fantastic meal even on a budget. This was an expense account dinner but I would return on my own dime two weeks later with my niece as I liked it that much. Polpo is now added to my favorite restaurants list for London and should be added to your favorites as well. Polpo has four restaurants in London – Covent Garden, Soho, Notting Hill and Smithfields – so hopefully you get to dine at one and enjoy your dinner as much as I did.