I have a theory that tapas is the new main course in summer. We were treated to a spectacularly scorching weekend in the capital, the type that makes the English strip down, blaze themselves and end up looking like spicy chorizo. Hot weather equals longer days, equals more drinking outside, and equals the need to nibble to counter the drinking without committing to full-on meals.
Which is why Polpo will drag the crowds in. I had been to this cosy and rustic Soho joint in December, and was again standing for a table as the Friday rush began. It's an Italian bacaro, serving Venetian tapas and a concise, well selected list of Italian wines. Let the picnic begin.
Fritti Di Mare (in the background) and a Selection of Meats: I could have been transported back to the Amalfi Coast with that plate of fried seafood. Fresh prawns, calamari and anchovies, it was perfectly battered without being heavy or too oily. The Selection of Meat consisted of Bresaola, Parma Ham, Chorizo and Ham, topped with Fennel, Rocket and Mozzarella.
CuttleFish in Squid Ink: Seafood-on-Seafood Action. Thick, viscous and mysterious, I can't resist squid ink when I see it. The flavour was rich, garlicky and well seasoned. I loved dipping my bread in that black sauce.
Pork Belly (in the background) and Flank Steak in a Cream Truffle Sauce: Pork Belly was nothing but deep, unctuous and crispy on the edges, with hazelnuts to contrast with the heavy taste. Truffle cream on Flank steak was just dreamy, that pungent, intense and hypnotic mushroom aroma hits your nose before anything else, making you dive into each marbled and tender beef strip.
Asparagus with Parmesan: Rather girly, though in season. I could eat those green tips anyday, so am completely biased. Oh, and I got a clear shot of the medium bodied Italian vino we got hold of.
Lamb chump on White Beans: possibly the most mediocre of all dishes, and even then still good. I adore pulses, but perhaps too heavy on a sweaty day.
Galani Pick-Me-Up: Deconstructed TiraMiSu. It is not ice cream you see, but a cream whipped with vanilla seeds and coffee. The slight savoury cracker replaced sponge fingers and was the perfect vehicle for transporting the cream and chocolate sauce (laced with booze) into my mouth. Muchos likey.
Orange Semolina Cake: Despite it's dry appearance, this cake was moist and flavoured perfectly with orange, with adequate sandy bite from the semolina.
Let's pretend yet again that these days will stay long, bright and dry. If we can't stay outside, at least we've go the indoor picnic food. 3 bottles of wine, and lots of tapas amongst 5 people was £38 per head.