A beautiful cover can lead to buy a book. That proves the Polpo cookbook. After purchase, I still have not cooked from this book. Staring at the cover design, however, I did many times because its beauty makes me happy. I was attracted by the curling beast between the gold letters on the mint green background. I still feel that attraction today. The beast is an octopus with eight arms, illustrated by the French naturalist Alcide d’Orbigny (1802-1867), and although very edible, it looks nothing like a cookbook.
The culinary book came out in 2012 and refers to the Venetian restaurant Polpo in London’s Soho, and in the Netherlands it was named cookbook of the year 2013. Three years after the publication of the book and six years after the opening of Polpo, there are now 6 branches in the capital of England. So it was time to have a taste when I was in London again. Polpo was created after owner Russell Norman visited wine bars in the backstreets of Venice. These are so-called bacari where Venetian snacks, cicchetti, are served. In the narrow street Maiden Lane in Covent Garden I was happy to try the cicchetti of Polpo.
Polpo advises to order between 2 and 3 dishes per person to share the small plates with each other. We ordered the swordfish tartare with carta di musica (music paper), pork belly with apple, crab and chilli linguine, and a pizzetta spinach, parmesan and soft egg. That’ll teach the fun I thought. All the dishes were fresh and served simply. Swordfish with horseradish cream was nice and fresh but a bit bland, the linguine had a subtle heat, the pizzetta was thin and crispy with a soft yolk that creamed the spinach deliciously. The pork belly was the best player of the lunch. With a little nibble of pork rind and stewed apple this dish offered everything my taste buds had in mind.
Russell Norman designates in his culinary book Venetian snacks as “basic, simple, unpretentious and honest” in a setting of “simplicity and humility.” During the lunch I saw the salad with zucchini, rocket and Parmesan cheese, served a few times which made me curious. “One of the most ordered dishes at Polpo” it says in the book. This will be the first recipe from the cookbook I’m going to make . Polpo invites you to walk in. The dishes are not particularly special, but in the simplicity of the commonly-known dishes you may find a hint of surprise. That’s more than enough.