Despite the fact that I have, for several years now, eaten Sunday brunch at the Providores about once a month (Turkish eggs changa with a side of chorizo, I love you), when Peter Gordon’s name comes up, I think immediately of Muzede Changa, a restaurant in Istanbul where Gordon is consulting chef. I remember initially being skeptical that a London-based Kiwi chef serving as a consultant to an Istanbul restaurant could result in anything worthwhile, but the food was delicious, and the easy blend of Turkish and other cuisines left me a life-long fan of Peter Gordon’s.
Fellow resto bloggers Gourmet Chick and Greedy Diva proposed Gordon’s latest venture, Kopapa, as the meeting spot for our days-before-Christmas catch up, and I didn’t need any persuading. Gourmet Chick’s writeup is here, and I’m pleased to report that Greedy Diva appears to be as big a procrastinator as I am and still hasn’t posted yet about our dinner there! (For an anonymous pro opinion, see the review in this week’s TimeOut).
Overall, I liked Kopapa. The service was friendly and attentive, and the dining room is casual and welcoming. Most of the dishes we tried were good, with just a small minority of forgettable, “skip it” clunkers. For sure, it’d be a great place to drop by for coffee and dessert, and it was a perfect spot for a friendly catch-up.
It took the three of us a while to scan the menu, partly because three food bloggers tend to talk a lot about what to order, and partly because the dish descriptions are so long. Also, because most of the dishes are small, you end up having to make a lot more decisions than if you’d just gone with a starter-main-dessert structure.
The three of us shared 7 small plates, 1 main, and 2 desserts, and that was just the right amount of food.
The five tasty dishes:
“Sesame infused tuna tartare with soy and wasabi tapioca, crispy lotus root and shiso” – that’s the menu description, and it’s long, yes? This was the sort of dish that characterized much of what we tried on the Kopapa menu. Boring, safe tuna tartare well prepared with just enough “twist” to lift it out of boring land. Here, we had firm chunks of raw tuna served in a refreshing and well-balanced dressing with nut, citrus and salty flavors. I didn’t taste much heat from the wasabi, but the texture and prettiness of the lotus root was a nice touch.
“Indonesian marinated magret duck breast, goats curd, beetroot confit and pickled pineapple” – you have to admire Kopapa for bucking the current fashion of over-simplifying descriptions to the point of unhelpfulness (e.g., a restaurant’s labeling an elaborate salad as just “greens”). But there really is such a thing as TMI. Anyway, similar to the tuna tartare, the rare duck breast was good but boring on its own, however, it was livened up by the sweet-and-sour pickled pineapple and creamy-tangy goats curd.
“Coconut sticky pork ribs” were crowd-pleasingly sweet, sticky and fall-off-the-bone tender.
“Grilled duck liver parfait with tamarind raisin chutney and grilled flat bread” — loved that there was no shortage of flatbread to accompany the creamy liver parfait. And the caramelized sugar crust was clever, complementing the liver with its texture and sweetness.
“Parmesan and bone marrow on toast with horseradish” – Gourmet Chick noted that this distinguished itself from the bone marrow at St. John, which I agree with, but strangely, was thinking at the time that the flavors brought to mind St. John’s welsh rarebit. In any case, as you’d expect, this dish was rich and comforting, and I wish there’d been more horseradish. I crave spicy kick, apparently.
And now for the three “skip it” dishes:
“Grilled aubergine with tamarind caramel, coriander, pickled ginger and za’atar” – I found this whole dish bland despite all the flavor-packed-sounding accompaniments. Normally, I love anything aubergine. But this dish was just mush with occasional and imbalanced flashes of sweetness and ginger.
“Five spice and cumin crumbed butternut with coconut cucumber raita” – Breaded and deep fried. I thought it’d be right up my alley. But again, oddly bland and still-too-firm butternut squash. Maybe if the squash had been boiled longer before frying so that it was softer and sweeter?
“Cripsy pork belly on almond skordalia and buttered kale with moromi miso & tarragon dressing” – It just tasted like pork belly. Well-prepared pork belly with a good, shatter-with-a-fork crispy crackling. But when you read the menu description, you expect something more spectacular than plain old pork belly.
Desserts – simple and delicious. A good ending.
“Boiled-orange and almond cake with passionfruit custard” – we wondered if it was the orange that was boiled, or the whole cake. Gourmet Chick did some digging around and tells me it’s steamed. I’ll go with that. Incredibly moist and infused with citrus, complemented by the tartness of passionfruit.
“Double-chocolate and macadamia nut brownie with Golden Crunch ice cream” – sure, it was a lame-sounding choice, but sometimes you just want a brownie with ice cream. And the ice cream with its honeyed crunch was outstanding.
Total spend: £109, including service and a modest bottle of wine, meaning we paid £36 each for a generally-tasty, relaxed evening out. I look forward to going back.
Kopapa Restaurant, 32 – 34 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, WC2H 9HA; closest tube stations: Leicester Square or Covent Garden, though I hoofed it over from Tottenham Court Road, and the walk didn’t take much more than 10 minutes.