Cichetti are the Venetian take on small plates introduced to the UK by Polpo's founder Russell Norman. Nowadays they are ubiquitous and rarely imaginative. These, however, are exceptional – showcasing superlative North Italian ingredients, served thick and fast (admittedly perhaps a little too fast, whilst the waiting staff's knowledge of the produce could be better...). The stand out dish was ox tongue, sliced ultra thinly and served with punchy salsa verde, roast pumpkin, toasted wet walnuts and sheep ricotta. Pasta is superb too: expect beautiful silky house-made tagliatelle with girolle mushroom and thyme, perfectly cooked. Only a larger plate of osso buco was disappointing, with tough veal seemingly cooked for too long and oddly lacking in depth. A glitch more than compensated for by a wondrous warm chocolate tart, perfectly molten and finished with fennel seeds and sea salt, giving it a pleasing savoury frisson. Saffron pannacotta has musky honey richness – a simple, yet dream dessert offering.
Anthea is equally passionate about wine and the new list reflects her interest in biodynamic, low-intervention and natural wines that are properly delicious. Polpetto's classic, vermouth focussed, cocktail list remains too.
The long narrow dining room has feeling of a Venetian barcaro with cosy booths, covetable burnt orange upholstery, and the walls are crammed with charming black and white vintage photos. Downstairs, there's a chef’s table seating up to sixteen guests who will have the privilege of scrutinising Anthea and her team's talent.
Dinner for two: £80 including drinks
|What||Why Polpetto in Soho now has River Cafe elan|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
10 Oct 18 – 04 Nov 19, Open 11,30am-11pm daily