Spicy pork and fennel meatballs at Polpo

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There’s something deeply comforting and homely about meatballs. But I wasn’t sure whether they could be truly gourmet food. One of the criteria we’re using to judge is the ‘daydream test’. I.e. do we find ourselves dreaming about eating the dish again, in that deeply evocative way that tastes and smells can be. I was, quite simply, wrong. I’ve daydreamed about these several times.

“Whatever it is, I’m in heaven”

These meatballs were a cut above. In fact, they were several cuts above. These are effectively skinless spicy Italian sausages – but you can tell immediately that no horror pig-parts feature here. They managed to be light, and almost fluffy, not leaden lumps of gristle or solid meat. But they achieved this whilst also managing to avoid floury stodginess – these were no pork dumplings.

Presented in their threes simply in a bowl of the freshest, like-your-Italian-momma-used-to-make tomato sauce, this dish is intended to be shared (as the waitress was at pains to point out when we ordered three portions). But the dish, remarkably, stands up well on its own – not just in terms of portion size, which was just right (at least, after a day of remorseless eating), but also in terms of mix of flavours. Not one bite became boring.

“I’ll be back for these again. And again”

Perhaps it’s the chilli-warmth, that’s like sitting in front of a wood-burning stove. Or maybe the hint of aniseedy fennel. The pairing with the crisp, tart sauce. Or maybe it’s the sheer comforting indulgence of eating what feels a little like it belong on the kids menu, or out of a can. Whatever it is, I’m in heaven. I’ll be back for these again. And again.

12/100 best dishes in London

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