3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Finding a sense of place: Polpo in Exeter

PUBLISHED: 12:03 05 June 2017 | UPDATED: 12:03 05 June 2017




Catherine Courtenay slips into holiday mode with a visit to Polpo

However fleeting his relationship with Exeter, it is a measure of his affection for the city that Russell Norman opened one of his Polpo restaurants here.

The restaurateur has achieved both commercial success and culinary accolades for the Venetian restaurant chain. Modelled on the city’s back street bars, or bacaro, four of his London venues have received Michelin Bib Gourmand awards for quality and good value. Subsequent openings have been in Brighton and Bristol and now Exeter, where Norman once spent time pondering the option of studying for a degree in drama at the university.

As it happens, he didn’t, but the city made an impression and on Polpo’s opening night he said he was thrilled to have returned and be staying in Exeter again.

Using a mix of old and new materials (in Exeter’s case you’ll find salvaged wall tiles and maple parquet flooring) shows that creating a sense of place is important and part of Polpo’s success is down to Norman’s fascination and long term association with Venice, his adopted city.

Has he succeeded in recreating a backstreet bacaro in the heart of Exeter’s new Queen St. Dining Quarter? No one can say the remodelled, modern surroundings are conducive, but step inside and there are definite echoes of the “faded elegance”, as he calls it, of his beloved city in the use of dark wood, time-worn tiles, subdued lighting and cosy but functional booths.

A large central bar dominates and, along with the open plan kitchen, is a focal point for all the activity. Perch on a stool, select from the impressive Italian wine list and choose a bite to eat, or cicheti, one of Polpo’s famed small plates. Crostini, arancini and delicacies like marinated baby octopus or stuffed fried olives start from around £3. This is where Polpo scores, serving high quality, simply cooked food; these are authentic Venetian dishes, with more unusual flavours like chicory, fennel and almond, and you can choose to eat as little or as much as you need.

And yes, there are pizzas, or rather pizzette, smaller portions with generous toppings like spinach and egg or cured pork shoulder and pickled pepper.

End with an affogato al caffe, three little servings of espresso, gelato and a liqueur, for a sensory experience which is pure Italian perfection.


Polpo ExeterPolpo Exeter

‘Chef’s fave’

Pork chop, white beans and wild garlic

Jason Wass, group executive chef says this is his favourite spring menu dish. “The white beans make this a hearty dish and wild garlic in season is at its very best.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Food & Drink

Yesterday, 11:24

The inaugural England’s Seafood FEAST will see events happening across the South Devon area known as the English Riviera, which includes Torquay, Cockington, Paignton, Brixham and Babbacombe.

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

South Hams local MARC COWLING deliberates the increasing fascination with lure fishing for sea bass, and how a passion has become his full-time occupation

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

This salad can be served as a main or a starter. The wild duck, celeriac and game hollandaise are delicious together

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

After an overwhelming response to last month’s competition, Devon Life has teamed up with Food Drink Devon and its members for the second time to create another delectable foodie prize

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

As the winter begins to close in, there’s nowhere better to take refuge than one of Devon’s many cosy pubs. Here are 9 you should look for when needing to escape the nippy British weather

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The owners of a famous Devon ice cream company have launched a new foodie venture, as Catherine Courtenay discovers

Read more
Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Whether you have strawberry or raspberry jam on your scones, or prefer Earl Grey to English breakfast tea, we’ve found 12 of the best tearooms that Devon has to offer

Read more
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Verity Hesketh is enchanted by Devon’s renowned floating restaurant

Read more
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Public Houses are a cornerstone of life here in Britain, dating back as far as the Roman invasion in 43 AD. Devon is no different and its humble establishments are steeped in history and nostalgia. We’ve taken a look at 11 of the county’s most historical pubs

Read more
Friday, August 10, 2018

Having two distinctly different and unconnected coastlines, Devon boasts some very fine, and very varied, beach and coastal cafés that really come into their own during the outdoorsy days of summer. Simone Stanbrook-Byrne picks 7 heavenly Devon beach and coastal cafés

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

With views of the coast, the countryside and our towns and cities, Devon’s eateries are home to some of the best views the county has to offer. Here are 23 places that are a treat for the tongue and the eyes

Read more
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Sunday lunch is an enduring British institution that’s incredibly important to get right. We’ve chosen 12 places in Devon that will guarantee sublime stuffing, mouth-watering meats and Yorkshire pudding perfection.

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

There’s nowhere better to make the most of the glorious summer sun in Devon than in one of our many delightful beer gardens. From north to south, we pick 9 of the best pubs to visit

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

For most of us, the difficulty of having a cream tea is deciding whether to put the jam or cream on first (cream first, obviously). But for coeliacs and the gluten intolerant, finding a place that caters for your dietary needs can be far harder. To help you out, we’ve picked 8 places for gluten-free cream tea in Devon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search