Polpo has the kind of menu that makes ordering very difficult: everything is just too tempting. Humming and hawing, we start with Bellinis and cicheti (Venetian small snacks). Salty marinated baby octopus works well alongside the sweet and surprisingly strong cocktails.
We order five small plates to share between two, which was recommended by our waiter (and which turned out to be one too many perhaps). They come out at exactly the right speed: one to two at a time, with a small break between each ‘course’, so neither you, nor the tiny table you’re eating at, become overwhelmed.
A heritage tomato salad arrives with a tower of fritto misto, piled high with calamari, courgette and whole prawns. The glossy tomatoes, a rainbow of reds, greens and yellows, are simply dressed and scattered with capers. Clean and fresh, they work beautifully alongside the fried seafood.
Next up is the spinach, parmesan and soft egg pizette. The crispy base shatters as it’s cut, a lovely contrast in textures next to the softest soft egg you can imagine.
And finally: crab and chilli linguine, followed by pork and fennel meatballs. The crab is deliciously creamy and silky with a good strong kick of spice, the meatballs fall apart and melt in the mouth.
While everything we ate was delicious, for me the atmosphere at Polpo is the real selling point. It manages to hit that sweet spot of feeling just special enough to make you feel like you’re really out to dinner, but not so fancy that you’d feel uncomfortable walking in off the street impromptu. Glowy low-level lighting and candles on each table makes the restaurant feel cosy and intimate. Polpo is a real treat and a welcome addition to the Brighton food scene.