Annoyingly, the folk behind Polpo (Russell Norman, ex-operations director at Caprice Holdings, and Tom Oldroyd, ex-Bocca di Lupo chef) have got it so right with this no-frills, Venetian-style tapas bar (or bacaro) – with bar-dining, sharing plates, and authenticity and democracy over ostentation and ego – that dining out in London at this place can involve a two-hour wait at the bar (there’s no booking for dinner). Though that in itself is genius. Why does everybody rate Polpo so highly? Probably because they drank much more (Italian) wine than intended while waiting for their table. The lightheadedness lends an easy joy to the cosy 18th-century townhouse where Canaletto once lived and painted, now transformed into a neighbourhood institution (white-gloss subway tiles, exposed brickwork, manila menus doubling as tablemats) with a relaxed, downtown New York vibe. Its numerous regulars have even changed their feeding routine to arrive before 7 or after 9 to get their hands on the excellent cicchetti (tiny plates of meat, fish and cheese), crostini and saucers of regional Italian specialities (a visit is incomplete without the polpette, or meatballs). Norman’s best idea is yet to come: two secondary outposts, Spuntino and Polpetto, always in Soho to catch the spillover.