New Restaurant Opening In Soho: la Polenteria

Polenta, the store cupboard staple most commonly associated with the peasant cuisine of Northern Italy, takes centre stage at La Polenteria, the new restaurant just opened in Soho's Old Compton Street.

La Polenteria aims to be a modern, different venue renown for rejuvenating polenta, by giving it a cosmopolitan and modern feel. It promotes and recreates polenta as an exciting, healthy, tasty, high quality dish loved by all, presented in a contemporary style.

Polenta, or cornmeal, is also popular in Eastern Europe, North America, Africa, Mexico and Brazil, where it is known by different local names. It is served as a substitute for bread, pasta, rice or potatoes, but it is a grain naturally gluten-free. It draws its flavour primarily from the foods served with it, and it is used for everything from starters to desserts. Thus the imagination and taste buds hold the key to a good polenta, as reflected in the menu at La Polenteria.

This is a mainstream restaurant, but because polenta is naturally gluten free, it offers a great dining out option for those who are gluten intolerant (see note for editors). What's more, some of the dishes are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, thus also appealing to that market.

Cristina Sparcaci, the European entrepreneur behind this new style of restaurant, comments: 'During market research we did appreciate that this soft style of polenta is not a taste the London public is overly familiar with. They may have tasted it as a firm, fried or grilled slice to accompany a main course, but just like pasta used to come out of a tin before starting to being freshly cooked al dente, this trend is bound to catch on'.

The fun and casual, laid-back atmosphere of a 'polenta party' - when families gather around the table to share a freshly made, hot, thick and creamy soft polenta with a range of accompaniments, is  recreated at La Polenteria every day.  The sage-green walls provide the perfect background for the bold blackboards, which pictorially display the polenta making process, from grinding the corn to the right coarseness, to making polenta the traditional way.  A drinks cooler inset into the bar counter houses wines and unusual soft drinks such as rose lemonade and chinotto. The counter is also used to display the dessert selection. High shelves with old books and 'paioli', the copper pots traditionally used to make polenta and its sauces, are a pleasant yet unobtrusive feature of the restaurant. Furnished with simple, comfortable plain wood tables and chairs and feature lighting, La Polenteria marries the modern and the rustic in a very pleasant way. 

Open seven days a week from 8 am to 11.00 pm, La Polenteria's offers breakfast items such as Polenta Muffins, really good Creamy Polenta with Blueberry & Maple Syrup, or Raspberry & Mascarpone, and Polenta Cupcakes. The coffee is one of Italy's best, the organic Chiaroscuro from Mokaflor, which combines the individual qualities of the best Arabicas in the world for a harmonious blend.

The easy-to-read menu clearly shows the vegan, vegetarian, fish and meat choices, and is printed on environmentally-friendly corn-paper. At lunch and dinner, La Polenteria offers dishes such as Polenta with Sicilian Caponata, Salt Cod, Gorgonzola & Walnuts, Wild Boar, Goulash and Tuscan Sausages with Borlotti Beans to quote a few of the choices, with an average spend of £15-£20 per head. It is worth pointing out that the sauces served with polenta are also gluten-free.  The menu is 'work in progress' with new main courses and starters added every week.

Moorish sweet treats include an indulgent Muffin Rocher and a light and tasty Polenta Cake, and the distinctive, deep-flavoured, gluten-free Venchi chocolate from Turin, with bars starting at £1.20 to eat in or take away.

Among the beverages, there is a gluten free Golden Ale, a selection of quality Italian wines, soft drinks which are truly different, and great coffee.

La Polenteria is at 64 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 4UD Tel: 020 7434 3617.  It is open seven days a week from 8 am to 11 pm and sits around 20 people in a mixture of tables and counter stools. La Polenteria operates a take-away facility for the fast-paced, high footfall area that is Soho. Its selection of freshly made paninis, and salads, are popular takeaway items.


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