Food profile - Polpo, Harvey Nichols, Leeds

Spinach and egg pizzetta

Spinach and egg pizzetta - Credit: Archant

We try tapas-style food located on the fourth floor of Harvey Nichols in Leeds

Fritto misto

Fritto misto - Credit: Archant

Russell Norman has a knack of finding the right kind of place to serve straight forward, delicious food. His new Polpo restaurant in Leeds is no bigger than, well, a very large room yet it promises and delivers big on atmosphere, service and simple dining. I shared my table with wine expert Gary Smulders and his partner Ashley Johnson and between us we demolished almost a dozen different dishes from a tapas-style menu.

Russell Norman’s food, inspired by Venice’s bustling wine bars, has already won admiration and success in London and Brighton and his latest venture is his first restaurant in the North of England, on the fourth floor of Harvey Nichols in Leeds. Many would have expected the restaurateur to choose Manchester or even Liverpool but he said he was impressed with the food scene in Leeds, introduced to him by his son Ollie who attended university there.

He’s excited by the likes of Michael O’Hare who won a Michelin star within a year of opening his restaurant Man Behind the Curtain, just a short walk from Harvey Nichols, and the city’s changing dining scene. Timing too, was everything, he said. He mentions Anthony Flynn, one of Yorkshire’s most talented chefs, who failed in Leeds, he believes, because the time was wrong for his offering. He says places such as Friends of Ham (serious purveyors of charcuterie and cheese) are an indication of what people want today and that suits him fine. ‘Our food is very simple,’ says Norman ‘with rarely more than three ingredients on a dish. It’s all about simplicity.’ Simplicity and the growing informal dining scene adds up to perfect timing for Polpo in Leeds.

I have to say the brown paper menu lying flat on our table rather distracted us from conversation. We were ready to order or rather Smulders did most of the choosing and I risked my very first taste of baby octopus (polpo is Italian for octopus) and although perfectly cooked and presented I can’t say it would head the list of my favourite foods. But the spicy pork and fennel meatballs would, along with duck ragu, black olives and gnocchi.

Classic meatballs

Classic meatballs - Credit: Photo: Paul Winch-Furness

I even had the chance to take home a taste of Polpo with a copy of Norman’s new cookery book ‘Polpo A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts)’ published by Bloomsbury price £25.

Polpo Leeds, Fourth Floor, Harvey Nichols, 107-111 Briggate, Leeds LS1 6AZ

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