Polenta is versatile, delicious and nutritious and – in chip form (fries to US readers) – has recently become a firm favourite in foodie capitals around the world.
So, for the health-conscious who don’t want to give up the good things in life, here are the very best places to enjoy some crispy, golden brown and fantastically-moreish polenta fries.
Polenta chips with gorgonzola sauce at Ladro restaurant in Fitzroy
Always ahead of the foodie curve, Melbourne has been championing polenta for years. Ladro is a homely Italian on Gertrude Street, where a glass of crisp white wine and their crispy, parmesan polenta fries couldn’t be nicer on a balmy Melbourne evening. Popular brunch spot the Grain Store offers a truffled pecorino version, while Fitzrovia’s combines truffled parsley with parmesan (particularly melt-in-your-mouth when combined with the braised lamb shoulder). Pizza Farro in Thornbury cooks their chips with Grana Padano cheese and serves them up with a creamy garlic and lemon aioli, while San Telmo has a strong reputation for its polenta and basil chips. Just a short walk from Ladro and overlooking the gorgeous Fitzroy Gardens, the Art Deco Quest East Melbourne is perfect for polenta fans.
The clean interiors of Nopi, London
Ottolenghi, the Israeli-British chef who has enjoyed stratospheric success for his innovative and unpretentious food (largely vegetarian), was one of the first in the industry to tap into the polenta fry’s potential. At his London Soho restaurant, Nopi, polenta fries are served with a dip so good you could lick the pot clean, while the fries themselves are thickly-cut and blissfully soft. Rivalling Nopi’s polenta expertise, the chips at Jamie’s Italian are also very soft and sprinkled with rosemary and have become one of the most popular options on the menu. Elsewhere, you’ll find polenta chips in many vegetarian restaurants around the city, at food festivals, food trucks and markets. A 5-minute walk from Nopi, this Soho apartment is superbly-located for exploring central London in between chip binges.
New York City, USA
The delectable, truffle-infused polenta fries at The Bowery Hotel, New York. Photo by: Annie Schlechter
NYC’s most popular incarnation of the polenta fry is truffle-infused, indulgent and vegan-friendly. Of course, each eatery does it very differently; the truffle fries at Gemma – the restaurant at the Bowery Hotel – are thickly-cut and golden brown, crispy yet tender and fluffy, without the greasiness usually associated with fried food. At Harry’s Café & Steak, the truffle polenta fries are known for being super crispy on the outside and light and creamy on the inside. You’ll find yet more versions of the truffle polenta fry all over the city, often served with equally delectable dips like homemade aioli. Treat yourself to a stay at The Bowery Hotel and you’ll be able to have polenta chips every minute of the day.
San Francisco, USA
Polenta chips with parmesan are a popular menu fixture in San Francisco
While polenta fries aren’t yet ubiquitous in San Francisco, it’s still one of the world’s best foodie cities and when you find them on the menu, they’ll be done well. At Pi Bar, the relatively long and thin polenta fries are particularly crispy and come with shaved parmesan melting temptingly on top. At Sociale, a Northern Italian eatery not far from the Golden Gate Park, the polenta fries are sprinkled with parsley and parmigiano-reggiano, and are also fantastically crunchy. Other restaurants offer them with vinaigrettes, truffle, dips and various other tasty condiments; you’ll just have to try them all to find your favourite. Just around the corner from Pi Bar, Noe’s is a characterful B&B in a beautiful Victorian house.
Try the polenta chips at Marmalade Restaurant in Barcelona
The organic food movement is gaining popularity in Barcelona, with a swathe of restaurants and cafés opening up to cater to the health-conscious crowd. One such establishment is Teresa’s, run by chef Teresa Carles and serving fast (and healthy) food for casual flexitarians (meaning vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and fish), including thick and crispy polenta fries that are delicious and filling. At Marmalade Barcelona, the Bourbon Pulled Pork Sandwich served with polenta fries is practically an out-of-body experience and will make you a true polenta fry convert. Stay at H10 Port Vell, a fashionable hotel next to Port Vell Harbour, a short walk from Teresa’s, and with a divine rooftop terrace.