La Polenteria, London
‘Exceedingly tasty, fabulous for a cold day’ said friend, adding as an afterthought, ‘rustic and wholesome’. Friend was referring to our lunch at La Polenteria, a lunch based entirely around polenta, but more specifically in that instance to her main course.
‘Rustic and wholesome’ very much sums up polenta. For this comforting dish of cornmeal, was once very much the basis of an Italian peasant-type diet. But no longer; today it is super trendy.
We had started with a tasting trio of three tiny polenta cushions – one with a vegan topping, a cheesy vegetarian version and the third topped with salami for we meat eaters. For mains friend had chosen Tuscanic sausages with borlotti beans, whilst I had ordered the black Baccala’alla Vicentina both served on a generous portion of soft polenta. Polenta is a bland base and needs toppings punching with flavour. Ours certainly did; though I would add a warning, whilst I loved it, my black squid ink sauce was very powerful.
After a suitably decent interval, our terrific waiter, Baldassarre, suggested a dessert. Ever a choco-fan, friend chose a polenta-ball take on a Ferrero Rocher, a dense chocolate, nutty creation. Her sigh of contentment could probably be heard all along Soho’s Old Compton St. Mind you it was echoed by my sigh of happiness with a slice of the blood orange polenta cake.
There is a small, good wine list, the coffee is organic and the staff utterly charming. The décor is unfussy with wooden floors and plain wood tables. On one wall is a blackboard summing up the credentials of polenta and how it is made and cooked. This useful grain which can be cooked in several different ways is also high in fibre, with no cholesterol and gluten-free.
We waddled contentedly back into Old Compton St to continue our shopping, envying the local office workers who could pop in whenever they wished.
La Polenteria, 64 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4UQ. Tel: 020 7434 3617. www.lapolenteria.com