When you get hungry in-between “regular” meal times in Central London, the restaurant options get slightly scary. You will struggle to choose between below average pizzerias (Pizza Express, Pontis), chain takeaway favourites (Eat, Pret) and touristy all day diners (Garfunkel, La Tasca). Its 5pm, I am hungry and not willing to compromise. Polpo, a bocaro (Venetian wine bar) in the heart of Soho is a God-send.
It has been an exhilarating week – budget reviews, CEO in town, big promotion, an early 50th birthday party, shopping for a holiday – and in spite of all the excitement, the overriding emotion when I got home each night was “I miss hanging out with myself”! I started writing this blog 69 days ago and can hardly believe that my first post was about loneliness, and here I am craving some alone time.
Polpo is perfect. The large windows open into the pavement and the gentle breeze is a welcome intruder as I sit at the bar and start with the wine list. Even on the hottest day of the year I find I cannot bring myself to drink white wine anymore. I also cannot imagine an Italian meal without wine. Gorgeous bartender Kevin came to my rescue and suggested a chilled red wine. The Ponte del Diavolo Refosco del Friuli 2008 (£8 for ¼ ltr) is smooth and bursting with blackberries. The rest of my meal included a Spinach, Parmesan and Soft Egg Pizzetta (£4.50), Linguine Vongole (£6) and a slab of Taleggio (£4). The food at Polpo is testimony to the fact that ingredient is king. Nothing on the menu is fancy schmancy, in fact the entire menu is simply a list of ingredients instead of made up titles.
Polpo’s menu sort of reminds me of an online dating site my friends Matt and Erica have helped me register on: mysinglefriend.com. Once I log on the first thing I see is a menu of photos that match my age and area criteria. Alongside each photograph is a list of… uh, ingredients? For example:
Chris, London, 35, looking for a female 20-35, creative, terribly witty, a bit independent, a confident sort, a good listener, pretty sexy, thoughtful, an outdoors type, well travelled and a pub lover
Unlike the menu at Polpo though, the menu on this website has each dish sounding pretty much the same as the next. Even when I dig deeper (i.e. click on the photo to read the friend’s testimony followed by the dish’s repartee) based on purely superficial standards it turns out that almost all of them are, “…one of the best blokes I know and I’m amazed that he hasn’t been snapped up yet” who want a “fun, happy, intelligent woman who knows who she is”. Now how do I choose the exact combination of ingredients that will deliver me my perfect meal?
I have to quote a professor from hotel school, who said “cooking is about taste, while baking is about precision”.
Does this mean that I have to start by choosing between pasta and pastry.