Cookbook of the week:‘Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook of Sorts’, by Russell Norman, published by Bloomsbury (£25)
It’s fair to say that this has been one of the most eagerly awaited cookbooks of the year, especially if you’ve ever queued for a seat in one of author Russell Norman’s hugely popular London restaurants. Polpo, a faithful rendition of a Venetian bàcaro on a Soho street, was the first of what are now six restaurants in Norman’s portfolio, with further expansion on the cards. Venetian bar snacks, or cichèti, are the cornerstone of Polpo’s no-reservations, casual dining, sharing-plates ethos, and they’re some of the tastiest, best-value morsels you’ll find in the city.
Like the decor of the premises, the cooking at Polpo is stripped back.“We have a rule that a dish is ready to put on the menu only when we have taken out as many ingredients as possible,” Norman says, before quoting Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
So how do the Polpo chefs make their dishes so damned flavoursome then? The answer seems to lie in judicious selection of only the best ingredients, and spot-on seasoning. The cookbook provides the key to replicating some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, including four different varieties of polpette (meatballs); the restrained pizzette bianco with cheese, red onion and thyme leaves, and the menu staple of pork belly with radicchio and hazelnuts that provokes customer outcry each time it’s taken off the menu.
Production values are sky-high with this one, but it remains to be seen if the quirky “spineless” design will stand up to the rigorous use that this lovely book deserves.
Richard Gleeson, who recently returned to Dublin having worked as a chef at the Ottolenghi cafes in London, is joining forces with Ross Staunton at Foodgame in Ringsend, Dublin 4, to offer a sharing plates menu, based on Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern-inspired food, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, starting next Wednesday. “We are pricing each plate around €9-€11 and anticipate a couple perhaps sharing five plates,” says Staunton. Reservations can be made at email@example.com and there’ll be walk-in tables too.
Top food tweets...
Frank Bruni @FrankBruni: Dublin. The Winding Stair. Potted Dingle Bay crab with soda bread. Heaven.
Eamonn O’Reilly @_EamonnOReilly: I am looking to buy or let a restaurant in D2. Min 2,000 sq ft new or existing. Replies in Strictest Confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomasina Miers @thomasinamiers: A story of British economic success: 2 yrs ago @MEATLiquor in Brit street food awards. Now on way to opening fourth site
Tim Hayward @timhayward: Just had my own miso soup for lunch. Fresh primary dashi etc. Bugger me, its a whole different bowl-game made from scratch!
Saucy numbers the buzz
The first thing that is noticeable about the new chimichurri sauces produced in Dublin under the Tully B’s label, is that they’re made with extra virgin olive oil, rather than a blend of cheaper oils. Flat leaf parsley, garlic, oregano, salt, red wine vinegar and chillies are the other ingredients in this versatile Argentinian condiment that was originally created as a sauce for barbecued meats, but works equally well as a marinade, dressing or dip. Having run out of mayo, I used it to dress a pasta salad, with great results. It comes in three strengths – Easy Going, With a Kick, and Blazin’ Sun, and the rrp is €3.99-€4.30. For stockists, see tullybs.ie.