Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Kopapa, Covent Garden

Coconut sticky pork ribs

I absolutely love The Providores - its flat whites and sweet corn fritters have saved my life on many a (slightly hungover) Sunday morning. I love Peter Gordon's creativity and his skillful ability to show why "fusion" food, in the right hands, is anything but a dirty word. So I was sure I would be equally enamoured with his newest restaurant, Kopapa, in Covent Garden.

Kopapa is an all day cafe and restaurant, specialising in small dishes and sharing plates, but with some mains thrown in. And Kopapa is interesting and different. And good value. I quite liked it. But more in a slightly-luke-warm-and-lacking-in-the-expected-raptures way, at least for dinner. For me, Kopapa's brunches hold more appeal.

At dinner, I was certainly in fabulous company. I visited on a blisteringly cold winter's evening last month with Gourmet Chick and An American in London - both of whom have beaten me to the punch with their reviews. [Star Award for the biggest holiday period lazy-arse goes to the GD. On the other hand, I was extremely efficient at sleeping in and reading recipe books on the couch with a constant supply of chocolate at hand - thanks again, Mum for the Haighs.]

The menu is extensive - not only does each item sound exotic and enticing (sometimes more than it actually is), but there are so many pages of items to consider that it took us some time to focus our thoughts. 

The duck liver parfait - although
for some reason, I've focussed on the flat bread

Butternut squash

Duck breast

We start with a dense, creamy duck liver parfait, cleverly caramelised on top, with sweet and sour chutney and billowy sheets of grilled flat bread (£5.00). Wedges of butternut squash are crumbed in spices and cumin, deep fried and topped with a generous splodge of coconut cucumber raita (£4.20). A slightly bland smoked magret duck breast was saved by some tangy goats curd, beetroot confit and diced pickled pineapple (£6.50).

Exotic aubergine

If you weren't told what the above dish was, you'd never guess it was plain old aubergine. Here it's chargrilled and turned into exotica with tamarind caramel, coriander, pickled ginger & za'atar (£4.80). It looks the part, but the fact I can barely remember what it tasted like exemplifies some of my reservations about Kopapa - I love the sound of everything, but I'm not sure all the effort is coming through in the taste and textures in any memorable way.

Tuna tartare

Parmesan & bone marrow on toast

A delicate arrangement of sesame infused tuna tartare is livened up with soy wasabi tapioca, crispy lotus root and shiso (£6) - it's lovely. Parmesan and bone marrow sauce on toast with horseradish (£5.20) was also good - indulgent and rich, with a neat little punch. Glistening, tender coconut pork ribs are sticky and gloriously messy - one of my favourite dishes, and the most gluttonous.

Pork belly

Although our waiter wondered whether we'd get through it all (are you kidding?) we decided to share one main dish and, if you're only having one, of course you make it the crispy pork belly, right? (£15.80). It comes with a smooth, thick almond skordalia and buttered kale with salty moromi miso and a tarragon dressing. Keh? Never mind - the pork belly is pleasingly fatty with crispy - to the point of hard as marble - crackling, but nothing extraordinary.

Chocolate brownie

Orange and almond cake

The desserts were, for once, contenders for my favourite dishes of the evening. A warm chocolate brownie with "golden crunch" ice-cream is decadently creamy with crispy honeycomb bits (£5.80). And if you ever doubted our enthusiasm, see An American In London's fork diving for the pud before the photo shoot has commenced - a delectable, uber moist orange and almond cake with passionfruit custard is a cheeky mix of tart and sweet (£5.80).

Like at Providores, there's a good wine list to work through. With a bottle of red wine, our bill for 3 came to £109 (or £36 each) - a very reasonable price for the quality and volume consumed. And the "small plates" bear decent portion sizes too.

Soft boiled eggs with Vegemite soldiers

I felt the Kopapa love a lot more when I visited for a lazy Sunday brunch this weekend with friends Mr and Mrs P. The breakfast/brunch menus are very similar to those at The Providores - including such famed staples as the Turkish eggs from changa restaurant in Istanbul - 2 poached eggs with whipped yoghurt and hot chilli butter (£6.50), as well as the interesting sounding chorizo hash and rocket with fried egg and salsa verde (£7.80).  The fry ups look and smell terrific - and Mr P claimed it was some of the best scrambled eggs, bacon and tomato he's had in the UK.

My oozey, soft boiled eggs with long, buttery Vegemite soldiers (£5.20) were the perfect salty remedy for a big night previously. So simple, but they do it perfectly. However, TPG and Mrs P, who thought they were going for a healthy option with the porridge, blueberry compote and creme fraiche (£5.00) were disappointed. So creamy and sweet, this was more like a buttery pudding with all the creme fraiche already mixed in (and there was loads of it), and too much sugary compote on top. They would have preferred the compote and creme fraiche were on the side to add to taste.

While this could have been a downer, the Kopapa staff quickly turned the situation around completely by impressing with their perfect handling of the issue - when they noticed these dishes had barely been touched and enquired if all was ok, TPG and Mrs P explained politely why the dish wasn't what they had been expecting and the Kopapa staff promptly took it off our bill (which we didn't ask for) and said they really appreciated the feedback. Faultless customer service in a week when this has been a hot topic in restaurant circles (thanks to a thoughtful article by restauranteur Russell Norman, of Polpo and Polpetto) - and for that alone I feel all loved up and more likely to return. Oh, and for the terrific Monmouth coffees - my flat white was just as good as at The Providores (high praise) - and you don't have to queue for it! (yet).

The fit out at Kopapa is simple, but certainly held more charm when it was buzzing over our Sunday brunch than it was over dinner in earlier days when it was still drawing in customers and battling grizzly weather. Hopefully, Kopapa benefitted from being one of the few decent places open for a casual bite over the Christmas period and picked up some extra custom. I have a feeling it will be popular, and will probably only improve with time.

I love Providores and the work of Peter Gordon so much, that I lament writing anything that's not completely raving mad about this new venture. I may not be in a huge rush to go back for dinner just yet, but for breakfast or brunch, it's a great addition to the neighbourhood and I welcome another well made Monmouth coffee to fold.

Kopapa, 32 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9HA (Tel: 020 724 06076)

Kopapa on Urbanspoon

You can see my earlier review of Providores here.


  1. Oooh Kopapa! I love going to Providores for brunch... being from NZ, it feels like a little piece of home in London.

    Must try to venture out to Kopapa someday - sadly when I crave brunch the most, I struggle to get beyond 3 miles of my house!

  2. Good review GD! YOur comments sound very fair, great service is always a good and it helps us forgive the less than perfect dishes!

  3. I went to Kopapa for brunch on the weekend and loved it, and am going for dinner this Friday - damn your review has made me a little hesitant though but I think I'll still go through with it. Sad to hear it lacks lustre because you're right, the brunch is great!

  4. Yeebot - I too struggle to make it to brunches outside of my neighbourhood! But it's worth it for that taste of home.

    Gourmet Butcher - Thanks! And totally agree on the service issue.

    Catty - Yes, I think you had that chorizo hash and I'm dying to hear what it's like.

  5. Great write up. I think fusion food is such a difficult one to get right because, as you've intimated, with out real care and attention to detail it can really fall flat, especially if you are trying to keep it on message with a sibling place like Providores.

    I think that only a few people (like Peter Gordon) really get it right - not just the ideas, but the pinpoint execution and so, if they're not there keeping an eye on things, it can all be a bit hit and miss.

    That said, a lot of the food above does look (and sound) great. But to make an aubergine bland? That's one of the biggest culinary crimes in my book - right up there with overcooking meat and over salting veg.

    Sounds like the service is spot on though, and that brunch does sound very tasty. So lets hope it's just teething issues.

  6. Not for me, unlike the Providores. Tight tables, unromantic decor, difficult dishes. And there was Peter Gordon in the corner with a film crew. He should have been helping his chef (and his woefully undertrained waiting staff).

  7. Great review. I'm dying to get there, and might drag the 7 month old into town to try it out later this month. Good to know what's hot and not so. Do you have a pic of the fry-up by any chance? I'm amazing how hard it is to get a good cooked breakfast in London.

  8. The Grubworm - The Providores does set high expectations, but hopefully they improve some of the misses and Kopapa might get better with time.

    Douglas - Sounds like you had a disappointing visit.

    Laura - I didn't take a photo of the other dishes at breakfast (just a quick one of my own when no-one was looking!). For cooked breakfasts, this was great, as is Milk Bar (good scrambled eggs, but more limited fry up options), Lantana, Provs and, a bit further east, Bistrotheque and Hawksmoor in Shoreditch are absolute favourites. But I totally agree - the gems are few and far between.

  9. Great that you followed up with a visit for breakfast/brunch! Given the queues at Providores on Sunday, it's nice to have Kopapa as an alternative, esp if you are a lover of those eggs changa (card carrying member here).

  10. Now I want to try it out for brunch! And ditto for the egg changa.

  11. An American in London - While I was writing my review of dinner I looked more closely at the brunch menu and started having cravings!

    Gourmet Chick - mmmm egg changa...

  12. Interesting. I am not the biggest fat of Providores, but this place might still be worth a try.

  13. Going tonight so wanted to check out a few decent piccies and comments, and yours, as always, are excellent! It's been open a couple of months now so I'm keen to see whether the early teething issues I heard about have settled down and what, if anything, has changed on the eclectic menu!

    The Grumbling Gourmet


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