Notting Hill’s Polpo has branched into breakfast. Would you swap a full English for Venetian small plates? Catherine McCabe gives it a try
When did breakfast surpass dinner as a social meal? A few years ago, breakfast was a time for eating Marmite on toast in your dressing gown in front of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond; now everyone wants to dress up for it, gossip over it and replace milky tea in a mug with a bellini. Dining culture has changed, and in this strange new landscape, we’re expected to fork out £20 to watch a chef do something whimsical with eggs. Nowhere in London is this breakfast phenomena more concentrated than Notting Hill, a place where crowds will queue for hours for ‘the best’ blueberry pancakes.
Given this morning-meal groupthink, I was surprised when I arrived at the Notting Hill Polpo to try their new weekend breakfast menu – and found the place largely deserted. Perhaps at the time of my visit, word had yet to travel to those pancake queues that W11’s own Venetian bàcaro had branched into brunch. But let me tell you, they are missing out. Polpo’s breakfasts are as affordable as they are appetising. With its dark New York bistro lighting dangling over the bar and candles flickering on the tables, it can feel like a strange environment to start the day in – a bit like asking for a bowl of granola in an underground Brooklyn poker bar. But I have to admit, I played right into it.
I’m not here to knock the value of a full English in a greasy spoon; it has its place in our society and our hearts. But for the £3 you’d spend in one on egg and chips, you can enjoy a thick slice of zuchinni frittata at Polpo and a decent Italian coffee for the same. The avocado and poached egg on toast served on hard-crust, porous sourdough bread has a welcome kick of chilli, and will set you back £6. The marginally lower pricing may seem trivial, but the difference of a few pounds means you feel free to try a few things on the menu, like the rich pancetta hash and poached egg for £7. And, if you must forego the milky tea, there’s a bellini at £6. This one is worth abandoning your dressing gown for.
126-128 Notting Hill Gate W11 3QG; polpo.co.uk