Polpo – A Little Bit Of Venice Comes To Exeter

Polpo - Exeter

I can’t tell you how excited I was when I heard that Polpo, a humble Venetian bàcaro had set its sights on Exeter for it’s eighth restaurant. Many moons ago I had visited the original Da Polpo on Maiden Lane. A short walk from Covent Garden and The Royal Opera House. It was a perfect pre-theatre hang out before I witnessed my favourite ballet company, the Bolshoi, perform a double bill of Firebird and Scheherazade. An evening I remember fondly because of the amazing food and scintillating ballet. Those memories stayed with me and I can tell you in all honesty that the exact same fond foodie memories were rekindled last Wednesday evening when I visited Polpo in the Queen Street Dining complex.

Greeted with a smile, Steve and I were ushered to the central bar area whilst our table was readied. Cocktails ordered (mine a Negroni Spagliato) and menus in hand, it was time to choose our dishes. Polpo offer tasty small plates that are perfect for sharing. A Venetian tapas if you will. We asked our helpful server Becky what was ‘the norm’ when it came to ordering. She suggested two or three plates per person so we made our choices. To start we had stuffed fried olives plus marinated baby octopus to have alongside our drinks. The olives are heaven on a plate by the way. Beautifully oval, anchovy stuffed olives covered in breadcrumbs and then deep fried. A delightful moreish treat which is an absolute must!

We asked to stagger our dishes to come out in twos to get the real authentic feel of the place. Fritto misto and whipped smoked mackerel, pickled cucumber and carta di musica followed. It was at this point we decided to remain seated at the bar. It just felt right to us to enjoy our dishes at the counter amongst the throng of the restaurant. The fritto misto was a favourite of mine here. I am a sucker for octopus and calamari!

Next was the mushroom and taleggio piadina which was a stuffed flatbread. The flavours were outstanding here. Alongside and equally delicious we devoured the zucchini and Parmesan salad.

Desserts were offered and recommendations requested. The tiramisu and orange polenta cake came up trumps but I was hankering for an affogatto al caffè. Creamy vanilla ice cream with a shot of hot espresso to pour over the top. I added a frangelico liqueur to turn up the volume a little and I wasn’t disappointed. Steve opted for the tiramisu and we decided to share a bite of the polenta cake. Up until this point everything that had passed my lips was top notch but I found the orange polenta cake lacking a little. To be honest I think my own is better. Sorry!

I can’t thank the team at Polpo enough for sharing a little bit of Venice with me. I left feeling like Exeter has a new dining spot that I actually want to return to. Yes, it’s a restaurant group but it’s a good restaurant group and the service was second to none. I was also lucky enough to chat to the founder Russell Norman who happened to be dining there himself. It made an already great evening a special one. Just like my first taste of Russell’s Polpo’s empire all those years ago.

You can find Polpo at 18, Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter, EX4 3FB. Call 01392 422439 to make a reservation. 

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to Polpo to experience a taste of Venice. I was not paid for the post and all views are my own as always.

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