Artichoke, farro and pecorino
Marinated heirloom tomatoes
Burrata, agretti and chilli
Beetroot, goats cheese
Rhubarb with yoghurt sorbet
Italian food, the sort of pure and rustic fare you envision eating al fresco in a vineyard in the Italian countryside somewhere is so hard to find. I never found myself in such a situation whilst travelling around Italy itself, where tourist-traps were in abundance, let alone in Auckland. But that sort of Italian dream was easily found in London’s Polpetto on Berwick Street.
One cool Friday night in April, Emma (my only bona fide Italian friend) and I pitched up early to Polpetto in the hopes of acquiring two seats in a place that takes no bookings but have the public beating at the doors for a chance to eat there. We snapped up two of the last spots in the house, at the marble apertivo bar.
The lighting at Polpetto is low and the decor leaning more towards the shabby side of chic, with gingham hankies for lamp shades and worn stucco walls. To sate my obsession with rhubarb we started with a glass of the rhubarb and rose bellini, wonderfully tart and the perfect tint of just-tickled pink.
The menu, with its focus on fresh and seasonal produce, is coy with the descriptions. Simply ‘burrata, agretti, chilli’ or ‘artichoke, farro, pecorino’. All the plates are small and intended to be shared; after Emma and I had been done ordering, we’d surprised ourselves, having ordered only vegetarian dishes.
Every dish that arrived was spectacular, from the light but nutty artichoke and farro, sharpened with slivers of pecorino, to the unexpected puree of beetroot which was comforting and earthly but made lively by the smattering of salty goat’s cheese. One would imagine that to serve a plate of simply tomatoes, these would have to be the best damn tomatoes one could find. And they were.
We both ordered dessert, to the protestation of our already rather full tummies, and what a good choice it was. I had the stewed rhubarb (again!), a deconstructed crumble topped with a scoop of yoghurt sorbet which was a little bit of tangy genius. Emma’s maple tart was silken and aromatic with that unique tree resin.
There are a number of other restaurants that fall within the Polpetto family (their original restaurant Polpo is famous enough to have a cookbook put out by it) that each have a slightly different take on Italian, so there are options available to you if Polpetto is full.
11 Berwick Street
London W1F 0PL
Ph. +44 20 7439 8627