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Polpo and a Tate mistake

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I left it up to Joe to plan our bank holiday Monday’s activities. We’d originally toyed with the idea of going to the Notting Hill Carnival, but having been the last few years, and found it is much more fun with a big group of friends, neither of us could quite face it this year. So Joe suggested we went to see the new Lowry exhibition at the Tate Modern and then for a spot of lunch somewhere. Lovely. Except I arrived at the Tate Modern to find a sheepish looking Joe who admitted that the exhibition was actually at the Tate Britain (which, for non-Londoners, is rather far away). Ah. I told him that it was an easy enough mistake to make, they are after all both called Tate. What’s a a confusion of Modern and Britain between friends? It could happen to anyone (well maybe not to me… I probably would have checked…*cough*). Anyway, we ended up sticking around the Modern and exploring a temporary interactive exhibition there, Meschac Gaba: Museum of Contemporary African Art, an evolving number of rooms designed by the Benin artist to challenge Western preconceived ideas about the continent’s art. It was great fun, and I loved how photographs from the artist’s own wedding at a previous installation of the exhibition had been incorporated into the current one. We then proceeded to get rather confused, and slightly disconcerted in the Surrealist gallery. It had been a while since I had been there, and it was nice seeing all my favourite paintings again, although it is a shame the Turbine Hall is shut for the foreseeable future (until Spring 2014 I think). I love the cavernous space, and without it the Tate feels oddly cramped and conformist.

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Afterwards we walked across the Millennium bridge to St Paul’s, and then, after a bit of dithering (there really is no where decent to eat around the cathedral), decided to walk up to Polpo in Farringdon for lunch.

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I have a collection of about half a dozen restaurants that are always my first thoughts when I’m asked ‘where shall we go?': Dishoom, Spuntino’s, Koya, Bone Daddies, Bi Bim Bap and Polpo. But, Bone Daddies aside, I’ve never quite got around to writing about them on here, which is silly, as they are probably my favourite restaurants in London. I will make a concerted effort to do so over the next few weeks. I love all of Russell Norman’s restaurants, and from the chicken matzo ball soup at Mishkins to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich at Spuntino’s (it would be part of my last meal), I think I can genuinely say that I have never had a disappointing dish in any of them. However despite frequenting the Soho and Covent Garden branches regularly, this was my first time at their Farringdon outpost. We managed to grab a table outside in the sun on the relatively quiet street. It was delightful. Joe and I ordered five dishes to share between the two us.

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First to arrive was the chopped olive, white anchovy and basil pizzette (£7), and a plate of classic pork and beef meatballs (£6.50). The contrast between the sharp olives, salty anchovies and gooey melted cheese was excellent, and it went remarkably well with the rich tomato sauce of the meatballs.

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Once finished the empty plates were replaced with ones of flank steak, Parmesan, rocket and balsamic vinegar, market greens, and a bowl of linguine vongole. I love their massive greens, and the steak was beautifully cooked, but the real star was the pasta. As soon as the bowl was put set down we were treated to a waft of garlicy goodness. The strands were liberally coated in the fragrant sauce, the clams super fresh, and the tomatoes bursting with sweetness. It was testament to how good it was that I got it all over my dress, and didn’t care one iota.

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We finished off with an affrogato each, and then sat in the sun, unwilling to leave our lovely table. The food was, as always, delicious. But what I really love about Polpo (and the rest of the group) is how much fun I always have when I go. They all have such a relaxed atmosphere, the waiters and waitresses are always smiley and helpful but never pushy, and I love ordering a load of different things to try for the table. As far as I’m aware they were the pioneers of the now ubiquitous medium plate trend (NOT the same as tapas, Metro), and for that I will always be grateful. Who wants to have one dish when you can five?
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