Review by Gabriella
I’m a little late to the party when it comes to covering Exeter’s newest restaurant Polpo; mostly because this award-winning Venetian restaurant has been the talk of the town since it opened in Queen Street over a month ago. Having heard many good things about the restaurants’ multiple London branches, I was keen to try their food for myself and see if it lived up to the hype. So, armed with my brand new camera, I set off to see what all the fuss was about…
Without a doubt, Polpo stands out as one of the trendiest looking joints in town. As you step inside, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked right into one of their stylish London branches. There’s the option to take a seat at the bar – if you just fancy some snacks and a cocktail – and there are also comfy booths along the wall, if you’re keen to sit back and relax.
After taking our seats in a booth at the very back of the restaurant it was time to take a look at Polpo’s very promising menu. Immediately, I was drawn to the section entitled ‘Venetian Snacks’. Many of the dishes read excellently and the prospect of stuffed fried olives and marinated baby octopuses were both far too good to resist…
I wasn’t wrong. The stuffed olives were delicious. Crispy on the outside and filled with tangy anchovies and parmesan on the inside. They’re certainly an acquired taste but if you like the sounds of that description then I guarantee you’ll enjoy them. Meanwhile, we all agreed that we could quite happily have eaten more of those delectable baby octopus. They had a sweet, almost aniseed taste to them and they ticked all the right boxes for a seafood lover such as myself.
* I should note that the Venetian snacks are not starters per se. They come in fairly small portions and I’d definitely recommend sharing a few of them in place of individual starters.
We were keen to try as much variety on the menu as possible, so for one of our main dishes we opted to share some classic meatballs. These were each a decent side (though arguably a little steep at £6.30 for 3) and the tomato sauce was excellent.
Crab & Chilli Linguine
Since Polpo is an award winning Italian restaurant, we thought we better try their pasta too; so we also opted to get a bowl of their Crab & Chilli Linguine. Wow – this dish was absolutely divine. There was plenty of crab meat in the creamy sauce and just the right kick of chilli. This was by far the stand out dish of the meal for me and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again.
We also ordered a Cured Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper Pizzette. Sadly, I felt that this was ruined by the addition of overpowering jalapeno chilli peppers. While the pork was delicious, the peppers were incredibly hot and left us all reaching for our drinks! It’s a shame, because the base of the pizzette was wonderfully crispy. However, at £7.50 a pop I wouldn’t be ordering one of those again.
Tiramisu Pot, Chocolate Salami, Ricotta & Raisin Donuts.
When it came to dessert we all unanimously agreed that the tiramisu was fantastic. The portion size was just right for one person and if you’re a fan of coffee you’re going to love this particular dish. Equally, I really enjoyed the Ricotta & Raisin donuts. They’re a cross between churros on the outside and bread & butter pudding on the inside! It’s a really unique flavour and I’d recommend giving them a try. However, the chocolate salami was not something to write home about. The salami was far too dry and frankly lacked flavour (something we should have gathered by the fact our waiter actually grimaced when we ordered it…).
Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at Polpo and I think that it’s adding real value to the Exeter food scene. Much of the food stood out as spectacular and as for the couple of dishes that didn’t quite hit the mark, I’d pen this down to personal preference and the standard teething problems associated with new restaurants. The feedback I’ve heard from many of my foodie friends has been overwhelmingly positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to enjoy that crab linguine again!
18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street
Tel: 01392 422439