“It was 1986. I got a cheap ticket on the Orient Express from Paris to Venice, and had to stand in a corridor for the entire journey. I had a half filled baguette and a bottle of water. I was happy.”

Russell Norman, Co-Founder

What fascinated me about Venice were the tiny wine bars, known locally as bacàri. They were packed with locals holding luminous orange drinks (spritz) in one hand and small Venetian titbits (cichèti) in the other. Here was real Venice. And I was hooked.

In April 2008 I was eating an octopus salad in a bàcaro. Whilst musing about how POLPO (the word for octopus) would be a fun name for a restaurant, the penny suddenly dropped. A bàcaro in London serving Venetian cichèti adapted for the London crowd in a relaxed, urban setting.


In late 2008 I stuffed recipes, ideas and sketches into a scrapbook, formed a business plan, got an octopus tattoo on my back and handed in my resignation.

Alongside my business partner and best friend Richard Beatty, POLPO was born in 2009. From day one we were packed. Full in fact. We opened another, and the same happened. And it kept happening.

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We now have a little family of restaurants. And our philosophy back then – one of humble, honest, unpretentious, stripped back beauty in everything we do – still holds true today.

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