“This is the most complicated thing I have ever read” whispered the girl sitting next to me at Kopapa to her boyfriend. They were reading the menu at Peter Gordon’s newly opened restaurant in Covent Garden. They hunched over the lengthy descriptions of each of the dishes and tried to decipher what some of the more obscure ingredients referred to were. I have to admit Kopapa’s menu is a little overwhelming but it is also exciting. You have to expect a few unusual words from a restaurant which serves “fusion food” so often a dirty word but not in the hands of Gordon.
As a fan of Gordon’s other restaurant, Providores, I was keen to try out Kopapa and so visited there on a freezing December night with Greedy Diva and American in London. The restaurant only takes a limited amount of bookings and most of the space is reserved for walk-ins, however the place was pretty deserted on our visit so we need not have worried so much about getting a booking. I am not sure whether the empty seats were a virtue of the restaurant being so new or the arctic conditions outdoors.
Wedges of butternut squash
Kopapa certainly deserves to be more popular even if it is still early days. The food is genuinely exciting. From the tapas section of the menu the duck liver parfait (£5.60) is silky smooth and served caramalised on top almost like a meaty cremé brulee. Grilled aubergine (£4.80) shows why it is truly the king of vegetables gussied up with sticky tamarind caramel, coriander, and shavings of pickled ginger and za’tar. Wedges of butternut squash (£4.20) are slow roasted to a point of sweetness and then crumbed in crispy spices and cumin and served with a refreshing raita sauce.
Fresh tuna (£6) is served finely diced as a tartare and infused with sesame with a soy wasabi tapioca and then topped with a fried lotus root. Duck breast (£6) is served chilled and thinly sliced across a jumble of goats curd, beetroot confit and pineapple like a light, Asian style salad. Coconut pork ribs (£5.80) are more caramalised than coconut but we still savour their sticky sweetness and tender meat. Bone marrow on toast (£5.20) is for once not a complete rip-off of the famous St John’s dish but instead combines the marrow with parmesan in a sauce.
Although we planned to stick to the sharing plates we can’t resist trying out one main meal from the menu, the pork belly (£15.80) to share. It’s good pork belly, with crisp crackling and an accompaniment of almond skordalia and broccolini but it isn’t quite as spectacular or intriguing as the smaller plates. From the sweeter side of things the orange and almond cake (£5.80) is deliciously moist from being steamed and the macademia and chocolate brownie (£5.80) is served warm and gooey with a “golden crunch” honeycomb rich ice-cream which has the three of us diving for our spoons.
Coconut pork ribs
The wine list features quite a few New Zealand and Australian wines but we settle on a bottle of the 2008 Callejo from the Duoro region of Spain. It is robust enough to stand up to the zany flavours we are eating and the freezing cold weather outside.
Eating at Kopapa is fun and feels adventurous with some really interesting combinations of flavours and ingredients. Importantly though, this is fusion cooking which actually works and where each taste, texture or aroma compliments the others in the dish. Don’t worry about all the strange words on the menu just order a few dishes and get ready to discover some new and interesting things.
Details: Kopapa, 32 -34 Monmouth street, Seven Dials, Covent Garden WC2H 9HA (Ph 020 7240 6076) Tube: Covent Garden
Damage: Reasonable. Our bill for three came to £109 with one bottle of wine.