Circolo Popolare has been billed as bringing authentic Sicilian cuisine to the heart of Fitzrovia, so we headed off hoping to tantalize the taste buds whilst checking out what all the fuss was about.
We’d heard the walk-in only policy (they do take bookings for 8+ groups) had punters queuing around the block, so a little put off by this we took the opportunity to head for a late late Saturday lunch, and were relieved to find no queue and a half full ‘buzzy’ restaurant given the later eating hour.
The first thing that hits you about Circolo Popolare is the decor, designed to give the illusion of alfresco trattoria dining on the Amalfi coast circa 1983, but indoors. The walls are adorned with over 20,000 bottles of spirits and liquors from every corner of the globe, with the gaps between shelves covered with framed pictures, paintings or vines reaching skyward to provide thick foliage across the entire ceiling, interspersed with hundreds of fairy lights…it’s like a Hollywood set, the team at Circolo Popolare have managed to pull it off, we were transported!
We kicked off our lunch with some delicious cocktails, smiling at the ‘Look me in the Eyes’ blend of three rums, almond hibiscus syrup, Triple Sec, lime and maracuja, served in a ‘titty’ themed mug. The house white, a Sicilian Vermentino was, as they say on the menu, ‘Light and easy like a Sunday morning’…and possibly went down too quickly. Adding to the fun vibe, the staff really know how to take care of you…they actually seemed to be enjoying the job, which is a great treat for everyone involved and meant exceptional service.
A bursting menu covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. We left the pizza’s for another visit and tried the ‘Make Bruschetta Red Again’ with Cuore del Vesuvio tomatoes and smoky heart of burrata. A taste sensation and up there with one of the best bruschetta’s we’ve had! The ‘San Daniele Ham’, aged for 19 months, melted on the palate and was full of flavour. For mains we craved authentic pasta, so we ordered the ‘Sfoglia al Ragu’ for two; giant silky handkerchief pasta served with Tuscan Cinta Senese pork ragu, aubergines, fresh basil and parmigiana. Talk about mouth-wateringly delicious! The combination of fresh ingredients, respected and served on colourful Sicilian inspired crockery, totally immersed us into Circolo Popolare.
When it came to dessert there was no sharing (that means we ordered two dishes and shared). We went with our servers’ recommendations and tried the ‘Peach Face’; fresh peaches with a lemon verbena syrup served with a biscotti. Light, tangy and refreshing, the dish complemented our second dessert, a special (name lost to us), consisting of a massive wedge of meringue drizzled with salted caramel syrup and popcorn. We later learnt that the special was meant to be served with a cream sauce poured from the mouth of a chicken shaped urn. It had felt like something was missing with this dish, we weren’t wowed by it, so a shame about that little hiccup, the cream may have made it perfect.
Everything about Circolo Popolare just worked. We commented on how refreshing it was to have this type of restaurant in London and we seriously can’t wait to go back. NB: Please avoid at all costs so we don’t have to queue! Joking!
40-41 Rathbone Pl, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1HX