Bacari have been the inspiration for the recently opened Polpo in London's Soho. The premises have been home to many restaurants over the years and I had a sense of déjà vu when I recently met up with a friend to try it out. She was slightly delayed and I was very comfortable sitting, waiting for her with a newspaper, bread and olive oil and some refreshing Trebbiano-Garganega from their selection of mainly northern Italian wines. About half the wines are also available in quarter-litre and half-litre carafes to allow for some experimentation.
Once my friend arrived we homed in on the tasty selection of crostini and cicheti before sharing a couple of main courses and some vegetable dishes. These were all very tasty, but the melt-in-the-mouth octopus salad really stood out (as it should, given the name of the place). Even with a couple of puddings and more wine, our bill came to about £30 per head. There were a couple of problems: the noise level is high, particularly as they have unnecessary background music. There was also too much thickly sliced toasted ciabatta bread. They helpfully found me something more delicate to accompany my pear and gorgonzola, as my gums had started to get quite sore by the end of the meal. Gripes aside, Polpo is well worth a visit for a great value, buzzy evening in the heart of London. Perfect pre- or post-theatre as long as you don't have to wait too long as bookings aren't taken.
Back to Venice – good examples of the real thing can be found in little backstreets behind the Rialto market in the San Polo district and near the Ca' d'Oro (Cannaregio). Al Bottegon (Dorsoduro), with its pretty location overlooking the San Trovaso canal, stands out in my mind as it doubles as a wine shop. Happy memories.
41 Beak Street
London W1F 9SB